Mack Hagood, Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Contro

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Katherine Marazi
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European Association for American Studies
In an age of overwhelming information, consider the impact of noise-cancelling headphones, or white noise machines that, similarly to the case of Orpheus, drown out the “sirens” around us allowing us to “remain unaffected in changeable, stressful, and distracting environments,” creating a “hear no evil, fear no evil” effect (Hagood 3). In his book, Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control, Mack Hagood raises awareness towards these types of media technologies and their orphic dynamics and goes beyond the mere experience of sound and silence. Rather, “orphic media foreground a deep desire for control as freedom, a desire that motivates the use of nearly all electronic media today” whereas understanding their function and mediation provides insight to “how we allow ourselves to resonate, especially where the vibrations of others are concerned.” This, in turn, can have integral sociopolitical potentials into areas of the public/private spheres, “media echo chambers, urban noise, online noise, fake news, trigger warnings, and safe spaces” (4). As Hagood highlights, the reason why examining such media dynamics is important is because, on the one hand, when information is overwhelming this fosters a “hear what you want” a tendency that could lead to sensory and political intolerances, but it also substantiates the need for guarded listening in order to preserve one’s sensory and emotional self-care. Consequently, “sensitive listening” becomes a central issue and “begins with changing our notions of what media are and what they do” (4). Drawing on the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1970) and similar theorists, Hagood argues that the essence of media use is not the transmission of information, but the attempt to control the affect – “the continually changing state of bodies that condition their abilities to act and be acted upon”
Katherine Marazi, “Mack Hagood, Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control”, European journal of American studies [Online], Book reviews, Online since 26 June 2020, connection on 31 August 2022. URL: http:// ; DOI: