Ultrasonic is a collection of linked essays that explore how sound can be used to search for deeper meaning beneath the surface of everyday life. Delving into questions of identity, family, fear, loss, and the politics of space, the book becomes an idiosyncratic exploration of identity amidst the cultural noise of contemporary life in America. Each chapter operates both as an independent essay and as an echo chamber for larger ideas, and it gazes at our human predicament through such varied lenses as trapped miners, stethoscopes, racquetball, language, loitering, violence, Elvis, and the music of torture. Weaving narrative and thematic threads into a richly layered collage-like tapestry, Ultrasonic functions as a sound map of Church’s consciousness and as a lyrical memoir of fatherhood.
“If you liked Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams or Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, try Steven Church’s latest collection, Ultrasonic, a group of essays brought together by the theme of sound. Church at times seems to say, I make noise, therefore I am. He dissects the nature of sound waves in a racquetball court, counts the seconds between lightning and thunder, and listens for signs of life from trapped miners—and his digressions invariably come back around to sucker punch you. Church uses sound to explore notions of masculinity and fatherhood, love and death.”