Negotiating Vision: Listening with the Eyes and Hearing Landscape Critically

  • Carina Venter


This article uses the idea of landscape as a heterodox tactic to enable discursive intersections between musical thought, land, colonialism and spectatorial epistemologies. It begins with a brief consideration of Cartesian perspectivalism and baroque vision as two dominant scopic regimes of modernity (Jay 1988), before suggesting that the ways in which we listen to, analyse, and apprehend musical space, carry the residues of a modernist investment in spectatorial epistemologies. It thus treats tempered tuning as a sonic mirror of perspective on the basis that it enabled the rationalisation or enframing of sound in a manner analogous to the point of view inaugurated by perspective. The article is also attentive to the rhetoricity of landscape when pressed into the service of a particular way of listening to and analysing music. Finally, the article moves from theory to practice in a reading of J. M. Coetzee’s 1980 novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, and Philip Glass’s 2005 opera of the same title – a reading that regards the opera and the novel jointly as performative spaces for the respective orders of Cartesian perspectivalism and baroque vision.

‘It was in “the planned epistemic violence of the imperialist project” that earth was transformed into world, land into landscape.’ (Cherry 2002,107)


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eISSN: 0258-509X