In his “Manual de Elocución” (Elocution Manual), Caro, the modern con-
servative Hispanist, seems to predict the historical movement from the em-
phasis on the oral to the emergence of the importance of the aural that is
currently taking place with the consolidation of the field of sound studies:
“the recent inventions of the phonograph and the telephone have given rise
to very interesting descriptive works on acoustic phenomena” ([1881] 1980,
446). The contemporary intensification of the aural can be seen in the gradual
institutionalization of the field of sound studies in the North (Sterne 2012a)
and the rise of diverse types of graduate programs of music/sound studies
in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is deemed part of an “aural turn”
that acknowledges the increased presence of sound as field of theorization.
This book took form in the midst of this epistemic transformation. But what
questions does the history of the voice, so frequently reduced to an ellipsis
between orality and aurality inscribed on the page as orality/aurality pose for
the way such a turn is being described? To begin to address this question it
is perhaps good to consider what Caro’s reference to sound technology im-
plies. As part of the above passage, Caro also states: “If we study the way the
sounds of language are formed by the vocal organ, as any other sounds are
formed through the medium of the instruments that produce them, followed
by the propagation through the air or other elastic body; the physical condi-
tions that determine intensity, pitch, and timbre of those sounds; the form
of the vibrations that conduce them, examined through optical means, this
study of phonetics is scientific and pertains to the physical sciences” ([1881]
1980, 446).
The Oral in the Aural
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