Echoic Re-Presencing
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media archaeology
Daphne Oram
Aura Satz


This paper considers listening as a method in media archaeology—a cluster of technology-oriented approaches to the past that attend to “dead end” inventions outside teleological narratives of progress. In particular, Wolfgang Ernst’s media-archaeological ear advances a materialist approach which favors listening to “the technical signifier rather than […] the acoustic or musical signified.” However, this perspective is subject to recurrent critiques from feminist scholars who highlight the lack of regard for the asymmetrical power structures that undergird technical objects and their exclusion from historical narratives. As a case study, and interrogation of the possibilities for a feminist media archaeology, this paper examines the work of Daphne Oram, a British composer whose contributions to electronic music have been routinely overlooked, and the excavation of her work in Oramics: Atlantis Anew (2011), a film by Aura Satz. The archival vestiges of Oram’s composition technique, in which visual notations on celluloid are sonified by her Oramics Machine, align with, and demand consideration beyond, Ernst’s “ascetic approach to signals.” Through a close reading of Satz’s film, I suggest that her simultaneous attention to the material processes of sound technologies and the erasure of women’s labor posits a necessary extension to this mode of enquiry. Considering recent feminist interventions in media archaeology, as well as critiques in sound studies that drawn on feminist STS to challenge the presumed universality of listening, this paper proposes a framework of media-archaeological listening as echoic re-presencing.  Oram’s work, and Satz’s re-prescencing of it, therefore open up possibilities for listening otherwise to the sonic past.
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