What is Authority?

In the MEDA101 tutorial we were looking into the topic of sound and how it can bring meaning to particular topics, specifically Authority. Immediately i thought of the most obvious sounds including police sirens, political figure speeches, gunshots and military directions. As the lesson progressed i learn’t that there are many different sounds to convey authority, hierarchy and power. Laurie Anderson’s ‘O’Superman’  uses voice, imagery and sounds to create an abstract interpretation of this notion.

We were asked to create a list of sounds we believed conveyed authority. In order to do this i needed to understand the concept of authority, this leads us to the question; What is authority?

Authority is defined as the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. Other words for authority are: power, dominance, dominion, rule, sovereignty, ascendancy, supremacy, domination, force, influence, command etc.


  • envelops us
  • regulates our movements
  • regulates our thoughts and actions
  • is omnipotent that is it has unlimited or very great power

When researching authority i stumbled across Mikhail Bakunin’s essay on What is Authority? it is insightful and a great read. i have linked it below.


Sounds that i believe convey authority:

Ambient: TV playing in background, crowd with a distinct voice, electricity, distant machinery

Voices: political leader, religious leader, mother/father, person giving direction (ie, traffic controller), yes/no (encouragement/punishment)

readings and narrations: phone calls, reading a text outloud, instructions, spoken synonyms

sound effects: single bird tweet, phone ringing, text notification, malet slam, facebook notification, constant pulse, distorted voices

Authority is everywhere and in places we least expect it to be. We can try to go against it,but authority will always be there around us and ultimately will control all our actions.


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