Sound system cultures represent one point of resistance to these trends. But they also provide a counterpoint to the rise of screen-based, digital entertainment technologies, and mobile personal communication devices. These forms of mobile privatization represent listening experiences that tend to be shallower and impoverished when stood against the sound system. They entail atomised, solipsist modes of in-ear listening which compress the amplitude and dynamic range of sound frequencies. These stand in marked contrast to the intense, whole-body modes of listening of sound system culture, where musical experiences are turned outwards into shared expressions of sociability and collective awareness. What seems to have been lost in these developments, and what sound systems continue to offer are the core ethical values transmitted through its multifarious frequencies, in the form of communal sensibilities and alternative, more human ways of knowing, being and living together.
Simon Jones, Guest Editor
Volume 2 Issue 2
This sound system and reggae issue of Riffs provides a space for a consideration of sound system culture – from personal reflections to the importance of sound system for whole communities. As with other Riffs issues, we include here a range of voices: academic researchers, music journalists, sound system operators, and reggae fans. While they celebrate sound system culture, they do so through a critical and analytical lens, reflecting on what it has meant to them and to others. Some frame these through the work of theorists, some through the words of others to demonstrate that which has become communal. And at points, these insights can only be expressed through the visual and the aural.
Through conversations and collaborations, the strands between the journal and individuals, collectives and sounds have been woven together to give a varied snapshot of a complex and important music culture. We thank the writers, photographers, sound men and women, promoters and venue owners, radio stations, editors, musicians and curators for their essential contributions.
You can view the full issue online here. For a downloadable PDF copy, please join our mailing list by clicking here.
Individual articles are available to view and download here.