Article begins

This piece begins by exploring glitchy teleconferencing spaces and their propensity to artificially remove messy sounds like barking dogs, crying babies, street noise, construction, and others beyond the grammars of spoken language. Sonic snapshots spill into fragmented conversations about sonic hygienics, cries and screams, and trouble various practices of silencing. 

Listen to the audio component here:

(With clear enunciation, performatively) Please mute yourself if you’re not talking. If you’re no… 

[Glitchy indistinguishable sounds crackle through digitally produced silences.]

Can you the gl..i..ting?

Can I hear the glitching? Yes!

Um. That’s good.

[Sounds like shoes on a gym floor, high-pitched squeals burst through inaudible gaps.]

I’ll see if I can get outside somehow.

[Oscillation between squeals and glints of silence. Wind bursts across the microphone.]  

Thank you, Nicole and thank you everyone. Can you hear me well?


OK. Perfect. So, I want to start my intervention by asking, or making you think, how could you define a scream?

[Murmurs, whispers, shuffling, buzzed silence.]

Like, feel free to jump in if you have any ideas.

[Aleatoric metallic sounds. Shuffling.]

Loud volume was one of the responses.


Turning down my volume here.

[Raucous laughter erupts.]

Ah. OK. Well. Um. I will start with my

[Mysterious, continuous noise verging on shrill but vibrant whistling erupts from an unknown metallophone that reverberates as though played in a cavernous water-filled tunnel. Metallic sounds briefly overlap messy conversation before fading out.]   

Well, I wonder too if maybe, um…your… your nature sounds definitely, like the.. the… the… soundwalky stuff.  

[Silence. Muted chuckle.] 

Um….It’s not a very good soundwalk.  

No, no.

[More than the previous chuckle, not a full laugh.]  

It’s a terrible soundwalk.  

[Chuckling continues.] 

And I think maybe that’s, uh…a bit of a reveal about conversations that are happening about sound and also about what’s happening…in terms of…sil..the silences that Luisa is talking about silences. Like it’s literally…I have a whole ton of noise happening in this house. It’s people drilling screws into studs. It’s really loud, but you can’t hear it all. As if it were people screaming, right? Eh, you know, if I had a child screaming in the back, you wouldn’t be able to hear it because the Zoom algorithms mask it out. Right? 

Mhmm. Mhmm…

Technologies mask it out because they don’t want you to hear my situatedness in this particular sonic environment. 

I like that. It sounds like a hygiene of the sound. So, hygiene…how come…how, how can you match, or how can you overlap hygiene over silence, right? So, it’s like hygiene is not simple, a simple term in terms, like, of human needs. You know, like, you know, like, you eat and you need to clean. But also, you need to clean the way you speak, because like that’s, I don’t know, like, that’s part of like, uh, an extension of the bourgeoisie concept of…(garbled)….  

[Abrupt switch to sparse but layered sonic environment with bird calls, camera shutter clicks, shuffling, footsteps, hand contacts recording device, distorted muffles, sharp clatter as something drops, distant airplane engine roars, crunchier footsteps. Fades to abrasive, rhythmic mechanical buzzing of a power tool.] 

So, you’re always looking for those sounds and then you’re going on Zoom to to have this human (quiet chuckling) conversation about them, so yeah, the… 

(With clear and slow enunciation, performatively) Apart from the politics of visual masking, sonic masking seems to have factored into a particular glitch which has effectively shaped what is being communicated and how this communication translates over digital networks.  

Alright, I’m going to pu…pu…put myself on mute again so that I’m not canceling out your sound. 

[Momentary silence. Screams erupt quickly. A crowd. Whistling. Indecipherable speech. Metallic clinking. Screams continue in foreground and background.]

(With clear and slow enunciation, performatively) In the early days of mass uptake of Zoom calling, glitching, halting, and speaking while accidentally muted was met with a certain quiet…or perhaps mild confusion. Several years in now, dispositions manifest through the voice articulate into dullened unenthusiastic chimes of “You’re muted,” “I can’t really hear you,” or, (quick fade-in of fast-tempo-ed, high-pitch insect-like sounds over spoken audio) “You’re glitching out.”  

[Silence. Switch to muted reverberant space. Very faint bird song. Quiet sounds of movement in the foreground.] 

..inding ways to talk about sound without (soft chuckle) talking about sound. And, and, how, how can we kind of put those (digital noise) ifferent sounds in conversation and, and, through that show what…


And it’s not, you know, we’re not exploring crying, God forbid. Even though those sounds do…I know that’s not the point…


the point of your crying was, the crying sounds, was that they…they show the difference between crying and shouting, right?


OK, here. This is crying. This is shouting.  

[Silence. Digital noise.]  

No, but that’s interesting because for some reason, like, even though they’re natural processes, like…they’re na… they’re human natural processes, you need to show it in a sound for a reason…


Why you need to show it in a sound? Like, that’s a question. Like, even though you know what is crying, and even though you know what is screaming (softly laughing), you need to, like, demonstrate what’s the difference because there is like, a, for me, there is a silence in between that you naturalize certain terms… 

[Birds chirp. Unknown objects clatter.]   

Do you hear the construction in the background? 

[Rhythmic wind sounds break up with each footstep. A distant, indecipherable mechanical din and other indiscernible noises vacillate between foreground and background. A distant drill rattles. Objects bang. Birdsong increases. A distant whirs. Birdsong seems closer. Sound glitches intermittently into silence: footstepsm slow hammering, chisel clinks, birds.] 

I think this is as quiet as it will get. 


sound braid (Luisa Isidro Herrera, Nicole Marchesseau, and Johann Sander Puustusmaa)

sound braid’s activities stem from the collaborative efforts of Luisa Isidro Herrera, Nicole Marchesseau, and Johann Sander Puustusmaa. Employing experimental forms, the braid explores atmospheres, inhabits the incommensurable, and weaves emotion, thought, rationality, and irrationality together to create rather than reproduce, and to shape ecologies rather than libraries.

Cite as

sound-braid-luisa-isidro-herrera-nicole-marchesseau-and-johann-sander-puustusmaa. 2024. “Curating Silences.” Anthropology News website, January 11, 2024.

More Related Articles

A Reliable Narrator

Erin Routon