Rebecca Bruton

The Heard Surrounds

In the acoustic realm, systems of power and subjugation (which manifest bare life) are often both metaphorized and associated with the concept of techno-industrial "white noise," or uniformly dominant acoustic phenomena (Schafer 1977). While white noise, particularly in urban soundscapes, does in fact monopolize those facets of subjectivity accessible via the ear, noise-fields are comprised by multiple and complex assemblages of sounding bodies.

In my sound and text piece The Heard Surrounds, I have compared overriding, ambient noise with Rosi Braidotti’s analysis of advanced capitalism, or the "pluralistic proliferation of quantified and commodified differences," where "power functions not so much by binary oppositions but in a fragmented and all pervasive manner" (25). What is foregrounded and valued within this field of difference is determined by an imbalanced distribution of sense and perception. Braidotti asserts that in order to resist this "rhizomic or weblike structure" (25), it is necessary to "start from micro-instances of embodied and embedded self and the complex web of social relations that compose subject positions" (4-5).  Racial theorist Fred Moten describes a similar approach as the "revolution of the surround" (17). Working with practices drawn from new music and sound studies, I have attempted to invert the traditional foreground/background relationship within art song by multiplying, fragmenting, and bifurcating text within a field of noise. By embedding what is normally a unified, foregrounded object (the song) into a drone-based sonic environment, I hope to direct the listener’s attention towards multiple, scattered sites of becoming within the surround.


Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Theory. NY: Columbia University Press, 2012. 
Harney, S. & Moten, F. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. NY: Minor Compositions, 2013.
Schafer, R. Murray. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Random House, 1977.


Rebecca Bruton (MFA) is a Western Canadian composer, song-maker and vocalist. Loosely characterizing her work as understated, Surrealist folk music, Rebecca often involves sonic ideas that aestheticize tuning discrepancies, auditory illusions, and other acoustic phenomena alongside simple and surprising melodic structures. Her compositions have been performed by Quatuor Bozzini (Montréal, CA), Continuum Ensemble (Toronto, CA) and by her own ensembles. As one half of the vocal performance duo Moss Moss Not Moss (with Canadian-Icelandic poet angela rawlings), Rebecca has also presented original work at Tectonics Festival Glasgow. With Australian sound artist Alexandra Spence, she co-founded Tidal ~ Signal, a Vancouver-based festival dedicated to women and trans-identifying artists working in experimental music. Rebecca lives in Banff, Alberta.