Skrayyp of chairs.

Low conversation.

We are in an acoustically designed space, open wooden floored, and wall panels.
“I think I’m getting feedback from putting this on the table”.

Shuffles and snuffles as the audience enters.

Male voice, “It’s great”.

Female voice, “You have to imagine we’ve come on to tremendous applause”.

Mattosian introduces de Saram and begins the story of Xenakis and his traumatic life, which is, for her as a biographer, key to understanding his work. She describes Xenakis as an outsider, a role he felt natural with, and in many ways, he adopted this persona. She sees Xenakis as both a scientist and an artist investigating the world and sonorising the results. He composed in a very systematic way, but balanced this with a great deal of intuition and gave himself the freedom to change his compositions if a more effective solution presented itself to him, that did not fit with his compositional strategy.

Xenakis grew up in Greece, and as a young man was very influenced by Plato and Marx. Following Mussolini’s invasion of his homeland and the subsequent occupation by Nazi forces, he was part of the communist resistance. The social chaos he experienced during this period, was to crop up again and again in his creative works, and this dynamic between continuity and discontinuity is apparent in many of his compositions. Following the defeat of the Axis forces, Churchill attacked and bombed Athens in an effort to drive out leftist forces from positions of influence. Xenakis himself was directly affected by this, he lost an eye from an explosion of shrapnel and was dragged out from a pile of dead bodies by his father.

Slight feedback.

He went into a long period of depression, and was forced into hiding as the right came into power. His father secured him a false passport and Xenakis was able to leave to France where he begin working for the architect Le Corbusier.

He was quickly recognised as a very capable young man, and by 195x had been trusted by Le Corbusier to design the façade of _________, a musically inspired screen of glass.


Slight feedback.

At the same time he composed a new piece which used the same principles, namely a modular approach based on the Fibonacci series. Here we see his profound sense of continuity, in this case, a highly original connectivity between architectural and musical composition. He was always inspired by nature, and more specifically the mathematics underlying the continuum of natural order to disorder.

The piece of music which is now to be presented to us is an example of Xenakis’ systematic mathematical approach towards composition. ‘Nomos Alpha’, a piece for solo cello is based upon the rotation of a cube. The piece is in 24 sections, 8 movements in each section, each one being unique.

Slight feedback.

The piece uses glissandi and microtonal beatings in a manner specific to string instrument, as well as extended bow techniques (for example using the back of the bow).

Slight feedback from rear speakers.

“This is Nomos Alpha”.

Unamplified solo cello.

A switching of instruments as the piece requires the lowest string to be detuned an octave. This is an unusual solution.

A second switch of instruments.

Creak of floorboards.

Footsteps receding.

Footsteps approaching returning the detuned cello.


Switch. Return.

The sound of the cello scraping the floor as the assistant sits down as quietly as he can.

Little cough from a bald man in the row in front of me.

Someone clears their throat behind me.

de Saram tightens the lowest string. CHunnnNk.

Unanticipated electronic beep from my mobile which gains unwanted attention. It makes me nervous and I almost blush. The man next to me takes off his spectacles in a show of pointed annoyance.

Applause. Slightly more than polite.

She then provides a biographers’ analysis of the work. He argument follows that systematic compositional gridding provided a framework for Xenakis to work through his traumatic experience of wartime Greece. She tells us an anecdote from much earlier in Xenakis’ life which remained close to his heart; an occasion when he was in a tent at night hearing sounds from all around him. She argues that his creative work is a psychological outward projection, recreating a damaged internal universe experienced in a synaesthetic nightmare of sound and light. She goes further to describe Xenakis’ conception of ‘l’effect combine’ and his love of creating son et lumiere spectacles, and his early effort to establish a centre for computer music with an especial emphasis on spatialised sound, as more or less directly related to the personal trauma he experienced during the Allied bombing of his hometown.

Her argument is alluring directly following the intense and fractured experience of hearing Nomos Alpha. Discontinuity is evident, the effect of the work is violent, and providing a vision of an ancient city being bombed by a supposed ally, does give a greater sense of Xenakis’ aims. Listening to this work, not in terms of formalistic musical composition, (harmonic progression, chordal structure etc), but instead as a psycho-mathematical creative engagement by an extraordinary man with the specifics of an extraordinary multi-sensory violence, indicates commonalities with such other real-world elements of sound art discourse as musique concrete, and Cageian ‘all sound’.

The next piece to be presented is ‘Kotos’, a work from 195x inspired by the concept of ‘l’effect combine’


The solo cello piece begins.

There is intense listening happening in the room. Some eyes are closed. Heads are bent, almost in prayer. Hands on mouths, stifling speech perhaps. The speech of oneself, and that of others. All silenced in front of such a troubled life, half a face destroyed by Churchill.

Someone’s stomach gurgles at the end of the piece.

“We will have a ten minute break”.

I go outside to get some air. The wind is fierce and refreshing.

Returning into the space, a 12 piece orchestra is warming up. A fantastic sound of chaos. Not so dissimilar to the last piece we heard.

People take their seats.

Near silence.

Dok A microphone is tapped. She begins to speak about the last period of his life.
Female voice, “…is this working…?”
“…Bah…I never have lunch…”

In this period Xenakis established an automated music centre where children could draw and hear resultant sound almost immediately.

Slight feedback from clip mic.

“…it’s up to you to figure out how this all fits together at the end of the night.”

Orchestra tunes up.

The performance begins.

This is wonderful sound. Spatialised, rich, co-ordinated, contradictory. Atonal. Acoustic.

Someone’s stomach gurgles during a dramatic pause.
Warm brass swells accompanying scratchy solo violin.
Flutes, gentle over the top.
Warm brass swells with woodwind.
Syncopated flutes and clarinets.
Angular solo cello scratches at the notes.

It is rare for me to see such co-ordinated sound making.

Listening seems easy for the audience, me included.

The cellist’s intonation seems slightly off. Can I trust my ears?

Is it intended?

I am fascinated by the jerky broken toy actions of the conductor, and I do not understand how his actions relate to the sounds I am hearing.

Male voice, “She will be signing copies of the Xenakis biography in the foyer.”

Female voice, “She should write a biography of Rohan. A fascinating life.”

Chat and shuffling as people leave.

Present in the room are Jonty Harrison, Thor Magnusson, Keith Rowe, Christina Kubisch, members of the Sonic Arts Network, various composers, sound artists and students. Sound art discourse as embodied experience.

Keynote Address

The atmosphere is becoming more cordial in the room. People are chatting more with each other.

Rajesh began his professional career as an Acoustic Engineer and developed an interest in modern architecture and the acoustics of particular buildings. He has an interest in mapping and visual art, alongside a background in music, playing the trumpet. He began to approach his instrument as a modifiable architecture, a structure in which to intervene, and he has, over the years, developed a number of techniques to extend the trumpet using pipes, lamps, mutes and slides.

In the early 21st century his visual art began to intersect with the architectural drawings to which he was being exposed, and developed into meta-compositional scores, which he describes as ‘imaginational maps’.

This dynamic between score, instrument, architecture, space, and movement came together in a collaborative project called ‘Sounding Buildings’.

A-V technician wearing a headset is instructing a camera operator.

Mutter. Mutter.
playback > > DVD of the Film Project ‘Sounding Buildings’, MIT

Snik, Snik, SNik. DVD play.

Female voice – AhhHHh. Modulations in tone. No words.

Flute overlay.

DVD snik, snik – Screen and sound frozen for 3 seconds.

Rattle.                     Drone.
Insect type sounds.

Palimpsest video. Static buildings, maps.

Overlayed textures.

Arrhythmic rattles.

Difference video overlay.

Skratch.                 Scatta.                 Squiggle.

Tambourine. Tap and shake.

Drum tap lo.

Violin glissandi. Microtonal variations.

Rhythm disappears.

Cello. Lo glissandi. And Pluck.



Brass. Buzzy Swells. Almost as analogue synth resonant sweep.

Lo bowed strings.

Some suggestion of trumpet tonality.

Fade out. Screen transition to black.

Rajesh describes the importance of the DVD as an integrating medium. Video compositing and the synchronisation of audio and visual material acted as a ‘glue’ between disparate domains; namely the architecture of sound, derived from drawing notated scores and the architecture of environments. His concerns at this time were the historically reoccurring interest in possible synaesthetic translations from the visual to the audible domains.

He goes on to a more detailed discussion of his strategies with regards to his score making, and his development of a multidimensional approach in keeping with his architectural concerns. The scores he has developed address pitch, rhythm, melodic ornamentation, and spatial trajectories thorough the performance space.
“The music is constructed from a map – like an architect”.

Alongside this architectural construction of sound, is a complementary and contradictory deconstruction of the architecture of his instrument. He demonstrates his hybrid trumpet experiments; by removing the slides from the trumpets pipes, its sound becomes a spatialised simultaneity, operating both forwards and backwards, and also existing in a newly acknowledged immanence, surrounding the composer/performer alerting the audience to a reinvigorated engagement with the specifics of space.

He presents us with DVD documentation of a realisation of the project which occurred in Cork (year? Specifics?).

playback > >

ding DVD auto resume.

The camera moves through a modern art gallery at night, picking out the shadows of audience members moving freely through the space, and the illuminated faces of musicians and sound artists distributed throughout the gallery space.

Female voices. Reverberant in space.
Muted trumpet.
Electronics and laptop.
Kaospad. Version 2.
Bass trumpet.
Stratocaster. Highly effected and transformed.



Tone Generator.


“Different happenings all over the building. It’s hard to capture everything that was going on over 4 floors”.


Questions from the floor.

“How much were you hearing when you were drawing?”

“…a conscious choice about language, a monkey going up and down, and this takes time…”.

“…it was done very freely…”.

“It was mixed, but it was nice to be in a system that existed before and after listening”.

Rajesh expands upon this point and relates it to Hindi music theory, where ‘nada’, the struck sound, complements ‘anhatanada’, the unstruck sound. This ‘before sounding’ provides the metaphysical basis for sound-making within the culture from which his family originates.

“We’ll leave it there.”


Lecture Theatre, MacRobert Building. University of Abderdeen

This presentation concerns Streaming Media and Network Radio. Of particular interest to me is the selection of two of my case studies as examples, namely Negativeland and Sam Auinger (other artists selected by Byrne are Katherin Roggla, Bruce Russell and x.y)

playback > > Background level of unknown track

Byrne begins his tracing of the topic with the over-familiar citation of Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto for Radio, La Radio from 1933. This vision is criticised for its rather utopian scope, and the discussion moves on to a consideration of broadcast as a medium and the essential tension between the visionaries of radio, such as Marinetti, and the political reality facing such artists when working in such a capital intensive domain. Early on in the radio’s history, studios and stations became rapidly centralised, moving away from the participatory, many-to-many networks imagined by Marinetti, to become fetishised centres for the dissemination of dominant discourse to societies being organised to maximise consumption and production. Artists who chose to work in this medium worked under highly restricted parameters, including such standardisations as program length, volume, subject taboos, the use of silence, restricted playlists.


Orson Wells – War of the Worlds.
Artaud – Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu (1947)

Of relevance to my work, is the means by which the differences by which radio art and sound art can be distinguished. Key works in this area are Radical Radio by R.M. Schaefer (1987), and ‘Towards a Definition of Radio Art (19xx).

“Radio Art is not Sound Art, nor is it Music. It is Radio”.

“Sound Art and Music are not Radio Art just because they are broadcast on Radio”.

How can these efforts to delineate radio art practice be used to articulate similar efforts in sound art?

Keywords: Kunstradio, Austria, New American Radio.

n.b Both of these work within state infrastructure. What is the significance of this?

e.g. Negativeland – Over the Edge – KPFA, Berkeley, California.

Byrne goes on to consider how web streaming has suggested new strategies and possibilities for the medium of audio broadcast. There are questions; is internet streaming Radio Art? Is it a new form? It certainly is not radio. Let us consider the similarities and differences between the two.

This can be much expanded using Shaefer, and the Micro Radio Manifesto, Italy.

Traditional Radio
Web Broadcast
Single site
Multi-site streams
Dialogue / Trialogue
1 hour format
Long duration
Through Air
Through Wires

Questions – site of reception of both? Listening environments


‘Radio Polyphony’ – The Thing, New York
RadioNetz, Berlin
Locus Sonus – audio art research group
Art Dirt Redux
Bitforms – podcast
Whitney Biennial mashup.

There is much of interest in this section, and it moves some way to explain the frustration and annoyance I felt at Hanson’s presentation. His view that the studio as object of discourse as relevant and of interest, reveals itself as an ill-informed and obsolete view of sound practice. Issues of portability, and the very examples of artists demystifying their workspaces that he presented, indicate an alternative position.

influence of Fluxus, land art, Kubisch working in situ.
Sound art for mobile phones – who presented this – get paper  from Bill
Community initiatives

While the artist studio as a trope may well be in evidence in the works he presented, their relevance, and interest is limited in scope, and represents an historically entrenched position, showing little understanding of current practice.

Some thoughts on the use of Soundwalking in the Warwick Bar development project

This group work from a basic interest in the significance of sound in space. He discusses ‘logos’ – and our ocular society.

He introduces a project called ‘swash’ a 24 channel spatialised soundscape that was shown in Torquay, and later remixed into an electro-acoustic performance. Other projects they have been involved with include the Churchill Galleries, The Imperial War Museum, Out of Scale, White Out, White Noise, a sound observatory, a device for magnifying the surrounding soundscape, 49 Pallasma, The Eyes of the Skin. As such there basic concern is that of multi-sensory architecture.

He then goes on to describe a project more in depth. The Audible city, Birmingham, Rebranding the East of the City. The site of the project is located in a network of canals, and still remains a rich habitat for wildlife. The economic and development pressures determined that the areas was to be redeveloped sooner or later, and so this group decided to become involved, in this problematic project, with the hope that their concerns with the audible would enhance the project’s development outcomes. Pretty soon in the project they found that their role was not one of producing creative work per se, but rather as a consultant, a position of ‘being there’ and taking part in the meetings that occurred as the project was being planned.

“We would go into a meeting, and they would be discussing how to shave 10 million off the budget. We would show some pictures, then they would continue with their discussions of the budget”.

Bill Fontana has a residency as part if the urban redevelopment. St Martin’s Bells. A sonic mapping project, and deliberate attempt to use soundmarks as a means of creating identity. It is here that sound is being considered as part of the built environment.

The particular site of Liminal’s work was an old banana warehouse, which had also been used as a gun testing site, both of these roles defined by the area’s proximity to the industrial canal transportation.

In an interesting tangent perhaps from the urban planning and high level economic development and board room politics of the preceding part of the presentation, the focus now shifts to the creative outcomes that were produced as a result of the companies’ involvement with the project, namely a headphone based soundwalk. He discusses walking as creative practice, and the importance of this activity, as a research tool in developing a creative response to the locality, and to the concerns of the project leaders. He goes further to incorporate his conceptions of walking with its relation to architecture, and argues that the first architecture were menhirs, built to mark significant locations in early humanity’s travels through a hostile environment. As such they were “places in between, nomadic marks, based in movement”.

In a move perhaps slightly surprising, he moves discussion towards the practices of Dadaist, Surrealist and Letterist artists of the twentieth century ; surprising only because of the ease with which these anti-establishment radicals, are cited with relation to a purely capitalist project of urban redevelopment. However, his interest in the work of such artists, lies in their attempts to break down barriers between art and life, and perhaps such contemporary projects such as this one, mark and inevitable, and perhaps depressing, confluence of art and artists on the one hand, and capital and capitalists, on the other.

He then goes on to cite the work of Janet Cardiff and Hildegard Westerkamp, as influential on his practice and articulates the value of walking as practice for a sound artist involved in such a project as important in two major ways:

1)The way that such a walk is done by a sound artists, is very different to the way that the same route would be experienced by a planner or an architect. The direct concern with and sensitivity to sound highlights sound’s importance, which may reside outside the common frameworks available to urban developers.

2)The activity of walking involved a great deal of audio documentation (field recordings, interviews). For all the hyperbole surrounding the redevelopment, in actuality, this site is under threat (not least by the developers themselves). The activity of documenting the sound environment, fell to the artists, in a ironic moment of complicity.

However, these recordings intended to form the basis of the headphone-based soundwalk, provided the artists with some clear proposals they were able to present to the planners.

playback > >

A cacophony of steel working.

Metal bashing.
“I’ll stop it right there”.

Key points that came from the artists, via interviews with local inhabitants, and field recording included:

1) The mapping of sound levels in the area.
2) Acoustic design – the conception that the designed space could be acoustically zoned.
3) Creation of an archive of sounds that are disappearing from the area.
4) Biological sound design. The introduction of animal and plant species with definite sonic characteristics.
5) Bill Fontana’s conception of sound orientation.
6) The suggestion of an artistic intervention in the area, five years from the present time, once the development has become established.

In conclusion, he describes the value in the group’s involvement in the project, most important was the raising the agenda of sound within the built environment.

“If as much attention was given to sound as to windows and artificial light, then what effect would this have upon a visitor’s experience of space?”

“What is the role of an artist in public art?”

As a postscript, and in response to this question, he describes his experience during this project. Very rapidly he decided his role was should not be one of subservience to the developers, planners or architects; his role was not one simply of spin and an attractive looking (and sounding) plug-in to the project, but rather a position enabling a different perspective on the project’s possible outcomes.

“Hi. In coming here, flying by aeroplane, you get a lovely view of fields. Wonderful stone walls, that look like they’ve taken centuries to build. I thought, “How civilised”. Now I’m going to talk about blurring the boundaries.”

“The challenge for us is to find some way of working the in-between.”

She speaks clearly. Her musical training left her alone when confronting sound art. She introduces her central theme, that of ‘ ecriture feminine, a French post-structuralists project that speaks of ‘writing the female body’, and proposes an approach to writing informed by fluidity, fragmentation, and joissance, which are, it is argued, embodied in, and by the female body. It was a refusal to comply with existing forms of writing; Joyce traces this trajectory of nascent post-structuralism in the early 1970s, and joins this with moves within musical discourse away from the formalisms of serialism, a reshaping of discourse demarcated by the contrasting strategies of Boulez and Cage. The French feminists proposed a new way of reading, an approach that would preserve the essence of the strangeness of each text.

“There are as many ways of reading a text as there are readers”.

Joyce moves on to introduce the work of Maryanne Amacher, and plays us an except from ‘Head Rhythm 1’. She provides us with a projection of the wave form.

playback > >

“We have to play this loud to get the    effect she’s looking for”.

Some people put their fingers in their ears.

“Now I’ll skip to the middle part”.

My ears begin to emit sounds as much as taking sounds in.

Joyce then provides a strong formal analysis of the composition’s structure.

“Boy, I sure read this paper faster at home, than I am here”.

She relates Amacher’s work to that of the Feminist post-structuralists, and argues that goal of ecriture feminine is not a masculine obsession with domination and consolidation, but a radically feminised agenda of dissemination. In regard to Amacher’s work, Joyce proposes that her work has no relation to the traditional high art score, nor to text. There is no report to dominate, and Amacher, by cutting into existing forms, she deconstructs them.

keywords: Terre Thaemlitz, Bob Ostertag – sound and gender, queer, trans

Kubsich “I found Maryanne’s work very loud, very vibrating. I went around with her at her recent installation (Berlin, Singhur Gallery?), there were sounds coming from places you can’t hear. At the install festival (get location, year) her performance was very visceral”.

Male voice, comment from audience, “I thought I was going to have a flashback, I thought I was going to be sick. It was great”.

Kubisch,”Yes it was beautiful, but terrifying”.

Thompson: “You must speak louder.”
Hanson: “This is my conversational mode.”

Hanson begins with a well known anecdote from the Tate discussion list. A rather unfunny quote from Douglas Kahn.

I can’t understand him.
His accent (French?) is obscuring his words.

“My objective is not to define, but to engage dialog between sound art and sociology.”

He draws a rather spurious parallel between sound artists entering the realm of institutional visual art, with that of sociologists entering the art world.

“…restaging of studio space in public galleries…using the examples of Bruce Nauman and Matmos.”

He is hard to understand. He is rushing his words.

Garble. Garble. Garble.

“…structured network…”

The audience has their heads in their hands.

“The modern sound artist’s studio puts the composer in the same position as the painter in front of his canvas. i.e. working directly with sound.

The rhythm of his speech is irregular, fractured. Is he not confident? I don’t feel confident in what he is saying to me. He halts, backtracks, and allows himself smug asides. He taps along to a movie of Bruce Nauman’s ‘Mapping the Studio’ (1968). Is that part of the presentation? He pauses for water. His throat is dry. He IS nervous.

“Am I alright for time?”

Thompson : “10 minutes.”


Thompson : “That’s a question.”

He rushes through Nauman and now we are with Matmos. Their piece ‘Work, Work, Work’, is used as an example of restaging the studio in a public space.

Mutter. Mutter. Mutter.

In this piece Matmos installed their studio in a gallery and interviewed the first visitor of the day, which they used as the basis of a composition, which they created in front of gallery visitors, with the aim of revealing their working process. Their motivation for this was because many electronic artists, in their words, and Hanson’s, think they are “splitting the fucking atom or something.”
“…in the artists’ studio, or the post-artists studio, if you will…”

“…the phenomena of sound art…”

“…unease at the sight of sound…”

“…so I’m going to listen to Matmos now…”

“…shut up…”

playback > > A piece of Matmos.

After the piece finishes, Hanson wants us to applause.
We hesitate.

Questions from the audience.

Someone asks about portability and mobility in this era of the laptop.

Hanson: “What do you want me to say about this?” (bluntly with disinterest)

Talk turns to Markus Popp (Oval) designing his own software.

Stollery makes an observation that new PhD electro-acoustic composers have not been showing interest in the facilities available in the studios of the institution here in Aberdeen. They are technologically self sufficient, and are much more likely to work from their own home or portable systems, only using the university for final mixes and mastering.


External hard drive has been found.

Kubisch, “…normally I improvise. This time I have been writing. An interesting process.”
“I was asked how everything was starting…”

“Cageian stillness…”

“No-one invented sound art…”

“Trace the roots…”

Kubisch is tracing a personal history of sound art, using examples from her own work, alongside the work of two long standing colleagues, Bernhard Leitner, and Hans Peter Kuhn.

Her narrative is linear and begins in the nineteenth century, a period where scientists, engineers and inventors were developing the technologies that were to become so important to sound art practice in the twentieth century. She then jumps forward in time to the 1970s, and argues that a similar period of invention and innovation was occurring at this time within the domain of new media.

In this way, she connects practice to technological development within broader society. Leading up to this period, she cites certain technological inventions, which she sees as important as both facilitating and limiting tools available, to varying degrees at varying times, to those involved in creative sound practice.

1958 – First stereo vinyl.
1963 – The first compact cassette.
1964 – The first stereo cassette.
1967 – The colour television.
1971 – The first microprocessor.
1975 – Portable video recorder.
1976 – Prototype of first Apple computer.
1979 – Compact disc.

Interesting in this is her focus on technologies not purely related to sound. Her inclusion of audio-visual and computing technologies highlight themes perhaps better understood as:

– Audio-visuality.
– Portability.
– Machine readable processing.

She now moves on to showing projections of work created in the 1970s. Digitised representations of her work, Leitner’s and Kuhn’s.

Projector picking up Mac.

She is introducing the early work of Leitner, who, in 1973, had moved to New York and was working as an architect.

Sound tube. 32 speakers. Only four at a time. Tape

Sound chair. Duration defined by tape length. Intimate, physical exploration.

Hans Peter Kuhn was approaching sound from the direction of theatre, and had been working with Robert Wilson.

Death, Destruction and Detroit – 1978
Body mics amplified into a room
4 channel tape
10 speakers
10 Amps

In preparing for this presentation, Kubisch requested pictures and sound files from both Kuhn and Leitner. Though both were prepared to provide pictures, neither were comfortable in providing sound. Kuhn especially connects the sound with the specifics of the site, and does not allow decontextualised representation of sound work. What is the distinction he is making here between visual and sonic material?

She is describing her early career. She was trained as a flutist, and early work dealt with extending her instrument along Cageian lines. She was working with deconstructing her musical practice; playing with boxing gloves metal thimbles, or contact microphones on her fingers.

“People were wanting to break out of traditional set-ups, such as this lecture. I now have to perform for you all”.

This is a pertinent moment of self reflectivity.

She describes her uncomfortable position at this time. She felt unlocated, most sound artists, like her colleagues Leiter and Kuhn, were not from a background in music. Their concerns were architectural (Leitner), and theatrical (Kuhn). Anecdotally she refers to a gathering of 100 artists for a sound art festival in Berlin 1996. Of this group, only 6 formally identified themselves with conservatoire styled musical training.

As the 1970s progressed, her distance from music, in a formal sense, grew, although she remained performance based, and entered an extended period of collaboration with video artists. The use of video works, and associated hardware, along with multi-channel speaker setups provided different possibilities for performer and audience, some distance from the institutionally supported, and culturally assimilated norms of serious music.

“The role of multimedia is to break up reality”.

playback > > A recording of such a performance.

Weoo Weeo Weeoo Weoo

Oscillating siren flute.

“In performances we placed speakers around the room in different places”.

She finds it strange to hear the playback of these recordings in this clinical environment. What were spatialised, contextualized, emotional and visceral performances, are now being experienced through two Genelec speakers, supported only by a PowerPoint slide, and her words.

By the 1980s, many artists who had been working independently, more or less in isolation, during the 1970s, began to meet each other, and some form of exchange and dialogue began. Technological developments, as outlined above, opened up new possibilities and many artists were creating their own equipment, wiring circuitry, developing their own tools, raising important questions about the artist as a technological designer, and the location and process of art-making.

She shows a slide of a Leitner piece from 1980, an 8 channel sound room for one person. She recalls being impressed by the simplicity, and subtlety of the work.

In 1987, she was invited to a university studio, and was able to use a computer for the first time. It was used to manipulate sound material, and the 24 hour wait, while the machine processed her data, obtained results that excited her hugely.

Le cylinder sonore

“In this kind of magic space, natural sounds, slightly modified are mixed with everyday sounds from the garden and the street”.

Speakers and lights were installed in waste piles of industrial glass. A nearby warehouse was once used to house artworks forbidden and confiscated by the Nazis. A large speaker was installed on the top of the building reciting this same, previously banned, Expressionist poetry.

Still at this point, there were few places where she had the opportunity to exhibit. Her work was seen as fine art by musical discourse, and as being too musical from the perspective of the fine art world. As a consequence, she found herself travelling a great deal, and she, and her work, toured many festivals (get specifics). This had a positive effect in bringing artists together, and a (small) network of practitioners began to grow.

Accompanying this economic and creative necessity was the growing importance of site-specific work. It is from this period that she developed a rigorous understanding of site-specific sound installation.

Her engagement with this type of work inscribes a line of flight from her conservatoire background. She became interested in creating spaces for people to listen to music without duration. She left the conservatoire and spent 2 years studying electronics. She discovered electromagnetic induction during this time, and presented her first induction piece in Sicily.

In this piece, cables were used to electromagnetically transduce two sound recordings made on a local beach. Audience members were given small cubes containing receivers and speakers, which allowed them to hear the dematerialized sound. As they moved around the space, they were also moving within, around and between two sound fields, mixing the sources through physical movement.

“The audience became active”.

By 1987, Kubisch, had developed wireless headphones, that provided the audience with a sonically more immersive experience of her invisible sound fields, and she presented work in an outdoor installation at Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria.

playback > > ‘On Air’. Cassette published 1983.

Sine wave falling. Loop.

Electronic squeals like seagulls.

Lower pitch signal.

“The aim was to create sounds that could not be identified.”

“There was another piece made with little toy computers”
playback > >

Casiotone beat.

“Why” – digitally synthesized voice.

Delayed ‘primitive’ synth tone. Loop.

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At this time, in the late 1980s, Kubisch was working laboriously with tape. This type of work is familiar to the older generation of electro-acoustic composers present. Acknowledgement of  shared technological and physical historic processes passes unspoken between the sound artist and the composers (Stollery, Harrison, Wyness).

As the 1990s began (and Kubisch takes care to highlight the artificiality of categorizing historical narratives into 10 year blocks), so started, what she calls, the “era of high definition”. The profound technological developments of this period, created new modalities.

“Virtual, imagined spaces, became more important than reality”.

New works became worked out in virtual spaces (the web, within software, within hardware) rather than originating within the analogue specifics of a room. Whilst sound installations would be fine-tuned once placed in the site of reception, much work was created at distance, both in a physical and metaphysical technological sense.

“Throughout the 1990s, there was a tendency to create large spaces with power and beauty.”

1999 Bernhard Leitner – ‘Acoustic Architecture’

“…like a sound forest…very dense…very beautiful.”

Kubisch found herself working in the context of theatre due to financial pressures, as well as continuing her installation work.

Listening to the Light – Tokyo.

Solar – key theme in her work
Ultrasonic speakers – to keep animals away.

When connected to solar power, they malfunction and sound like crickets.

By the turn of the millennia, developments in sound art had become so rapidly changing, as to make it difficult for a practicing artist, such as Kubisch, to keep abreast of the shifting terrain. She cites web music, and web art in a more general sense, to be very important 21st century innovations. With the involvement of many younger artists, curators, festivals and sympathetic institutions, so definitions of sound art, became much looser. She mentions sound installation as a case in point.

Leitner – 2000 – Sound serpent.

Kubisch had given up her electromagnetic induction work at this point, she had become interested in other areas of work. The cost of mounting such installations had also had also made exhibition problematic. However, the support offered by a sponsor encouraged her to reengage with induction work, and she developed a large scale work in 200x

-underground garage. Go though water soundfields, when took off headphones, heard real water sounds. 200 electromagnetic headphones.

Hans Peter Kuhn : Sound carpet.

5 computers
64 channels
26 lights

Visitors walk on a soft carpet, but the sound creates a sense of rapid motion.

“the technology is so cheap, we have to use it.”

In developing this new work, she discovered a startling change in her environment. During the 1980s, she found some occasional electro-magnetic interference from neighbouring sites that would, on occasion, encroach upon her designed sound fields. All of these polluting frequencies were between 50-60 hertz. By the time of her ‘underground garage’ installation she was picking up new sounds, from the electromagnetic spectrum, that she had not experienced up to this point. As she researched this phenomena further, experimenting in different environments (transport systems, shops, offices) and different cities, so she found that more new sounds were coming. This research led to her ‘Electrical Walks’ series of work.

“Nothing sounds as it looks.”

“…as I walk wearing my induction headphones, I am in a different world.”

She notes how the activity of listening modifies the behaviour of the listeners, businessmen listening on one of her ‘Electrical Walks’ can be seen to behave in very un-businessman-like ways.

Electro-magnetic activity sounds very different from day to night, and each city has its own signature. Cities in Romania and Bulgaria for example, who are investing heavily in new technology, with, for example, wi-fi hotspots throughout city centres, sound “very nervous’. New York is so saturated, so dense, so heavy with signal, that Kubisch had to adjust her equipment, as the volume level was unbearable.

There are also global sounds that appear everywhere. One example of this are the scanners placed at the doors of shops to prevent shoplifting. Trans-national chains tend to use the same model, regardless of which country the shop is situated in; these have the same signature.

playback > > ‘Homage with Minimal Disinformation’

A piece based upon sounds sourced from the electromagnetic environment of New York. It was an attempt to create a work inspired by New York minimalism, which was a great influence early on in her career.

Well defined electronic pulse. Hard Attack. Movement through stereo field. Desynchronous dialog between speakers.

Low buzz – suggestion of harmony.



Rapid higher pulse.
Sine. Saw.

Pure tones. Click.

Boomp. Boomp. Boomp…Boooomp.

Subtle high frequencies.

Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Booomp

Gdik dik dik.
Gdik dik dik

Snick ik                     ik ik

Tok tok Tok

Everyone is listening intently. The camera operator shrugs his shoulders at me, as if to say “Like what am I supposed to film, dude?

After about 4mins Troxler seems to want to turn the work off. Kubisch gently defends her turf, with a gentle wave of the hand. The piece continues.

Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop. Boop.

Boop. Burmp

Sudden end.

Kubisch, “We should have bigger speakers.”


In making her closing remarks, Kubisch provides an interesting insight into the economics of sound art. For her, her work is not object based. It is not something to be bought and displayed by art institutions. The nature of her work means that she has to make repeated installations, which are, as discussed above, temporary. This ephemeral, changing, site-specific approach, originating in a period where galleries and music halls were unreceptive to sound work, coupled with the necessity of travel to ‘marginal’ sites, is perhaps a vital dynamic in the generation of theory, practice, and discourse, undocumented within institutional archives, but existing as informal discussions and correspondences between practitioners, at a time when ‘sound art’, as reified object, had yet to appear. She is encouraged by the recent upswing in interest in her work, as funding support necessary for the continuation of her explorations, have, so far, remained minimal.

Questions from the Audience.

The first question is about Lamonte Young.

Kubisch replies that influence of the New York scene was very important in her finding her own voice. Not only Young, but female artists Pauline Oliveros and Annea Lockwood helped her develop confidence, in what was a misunderstood and marginalised practice.

“I was a failed artist, a failed composer, I didn’t know. They helped me.”

Second question is about the U.K. Health and Safety man. Has Kubisch had difficulties installing her work due to such concerns?

“We just did things without asking.”

The third question is regarding the piece constructed from the New York electro-magnetic recordings (‘Homage with Minimal Disinformation’).

“Is it important that people know where it comes from?”

She answers, that documentation, of installation work, is problematic, and so this type of background context is important.

“I just want to have fun. Not just to make spaces, but experiences of spaces [for the audience].”

“I’ve always found that men are more interested in how you make it, women are more interested in how it sounds (jokingly).”

The final question is about how Kubisch works out the relation between what she gives to the audience to complete, and how much control she maintains herself. Kubisch seems slightly annoyed by this question and speaks about improvisation in high art German orchestras in the 1970s.

“I found it stupid.”

“It [should be] a natural process.”

Her earlier work using cables, used to be very neat and orderly. She contrasts this with her recent work, which gives a surface impression of disorder (Below this surface however is a evolved and evolving personal language of carefully created sounds, all the more effective, hidden below a mass a tangled wires). The work is completed by people, who in recent shows have been playing quite freely with the cabling, wrapping themselves up in it, and interacting with the work in a physical and unselfconscious manner. Kubisch ends with saying that she is not interested in control per se, but on how interesting the experience is for the audience.

“I am more interested in chaos [than control].”

“Thank you Christina”.

“We will now have a coffee break for 15 minutes, as we tech the next speakers.”

Bonus Track 1) Conversation insert with Joyce Shintani.

Merleau-Ponty. embodiment. electro-acousticians now searching for physicality following the mental abstractions of the structuralists / serialists

This is the quietest place I have been.

Modern lecture theatre. Video projectors, Behringer desks. Windows XP.

Quiet whir of JVC camera being operated by tech behind me.

Technicians working audio and video equipment.

Female voice, “…kunst nacht…”.

Two Genelec monitors.

Female voice, “…on here?”

Shuffling of conference program.

Male voice, “…you have to make sure, she’s here”. (Scottish accent).

A mini grand piano with the lid closed.

(Colour – dull green blue – desk top formica).


Mac boots up.
Male voice, ‘Adam, tell people the show is starting in half an hour”. (Scottish accent).

Male voice, “You’re here on 3 and 4”.

playback > > Stereo bleep piece. Joyce is testing her PowerPoint presentation.

Male voice, “Video is feeding back”. (Scottish accent).


Laptop recognizes video projector.


Generic volume cannot be removed from system just now.

Female voice,”The show is due to start…hi audience…”

Technicians joking amongst themselves.

Male voice, “We apologise for the delay due to technological and travel problems”. (Peter Stollery).

Stollery goes on to introduce the conference. The school of music here in Aberdeen is located within the School of Art and Education, which has funded this conference. The music department itself was only formed 4 months ago. The music school is in the process of creating an identity for itself; much of this self-definition is centred upon post-graduate activity in electro acoustic and sound art composition.

Rather tellingly, the SoundasArt conference is occurring alongside a festival of contemporary music (s.o.u.n.d.), this indicates the vector from which the organizers here are approaching sound art. An awkward meeting of entrenched academic composers, with the fluid open spaces of sound art.

Male voice, “Do you hear me in your headphones?” (Peter Troxler).

Troxler gives a short presentation providing us with some social context for the activities of urbannovember, the group that has organized the festival. The organization began in 2004 with an open uncurated public art event developed to counter plans by the British National Party (BNP) to march through Aberdeen’s city centre. Their next project in 2005 addressed the locally vital issue of the oil industry.

Male voice (from podium), “…sound and light is being bitted and streamed to everyone who could not afford to travel to Aberdeen, or were scared of the weather.”

One voice. Ending with health and safety.

Awkward switch over of wireless mic.

Bill Thompson greets everyone and provides some housekeeping information. He introduces one of the keynote speakers, Christina Kubisch, who is to speak next.

Awkward switch over of wireless mic.

Reception Area / Café, MacRobert Building. Uni. of Aberdeen


Skraa. Of chair being dragged across tiled floor.

Background chat of students in café area.

Giggles, laughter.
Very very quiet air-conditioning.
Toddler’s voice.

The space is reverberant, sound waves slightly softened by the red carpet in a visitors’ area to one side of the main space.


Rustle / rustlessss / rustle The receptionist opens a carrier bag.

The architecture is a similar piece of anonymous post-modern construction as the airport. It could be a hotel, a doctor’s surgery, a hospital, leisure centre.

Easily seen as a generic non-place.

The 2 second reverb is quiet pleasant.

Female voice to left, “Do you know where 87 is?” (Scottish accent).

Single short whistle from people leaving the building.


In walking around the city centre today, these was little to identify the place as sounding distinct from any other modern British high street. The same shops, the same cars, the same mobile phones. There is a significant number of non-Scots in the city, probably due to the important oil business (Aberdeen – the energy centre of Europe on various signs on the road from the airport to the city centre).

Two events altered me to the difference. The first, a single seagull cry from above Union Street. No sign of the bird itself. The second event, repeated in two different occasions were minor difficulties in understanding and being understood in speech transactions. Questions and responses had to be repeated on both occasions.

A heating unit above the entrance turns on blowing dry hot air across the room. There are some loose screws that are being vibrated by this.

I am going to explore the building. There are a number of installations in the south wing of the ground floor.

Subtle rising intensity as aircraft sounds from exterior penetrates the pedestrian walkway.

Vacuous greeting of female flight hostess.

playback > > Piped female voice, nasal and American, “Welcome to BMI aircraft”.

I don’t like this environment.

Musak, almost imperceptible (sounds like Billy Joel), cuts out suddenly as baggage lockers are systematically snapped shut by female hostesses.

Constant SWooShhhhh of air conditioning.

A designed environment.

No passenger is speaking. Chit chat from staff in rear of aircraft.

A sneeze from the seat behind me.


playback > > The captain addresses us from the flight deck.

“We have a small restriction on our departure time”.
Calm, reassuring.

playback > >         Male voice, “Cabin crew prepare for departure”.

Cut into the captain’s address.


playback > > AOR musak continues.

Female voice over intercom, ”Your mobile phones must be switched off.”

Female voice over intercom, ”No transmission devices.”

Female voice over intercom, ”Your attention is appreciated.”

Female voice over intercom, ”Sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey.”

Female voice, “We’ll do the demo”.

snaps, tinkle from staff activity in back of plane.

Giggle from two seats behind me.

Footsteps are muffled, but felt though the fuselage.

playback > >    Male voice over intercom, “Please take note of the brace position”.

Good fidelity, calm, Midlands tinge to the accent.

“If oxygen is required, breathe normally”.

The flight staff are bored going through this ritual performance.

playback > >    Female voice “May we wish you a pleasant flight”.

Truly inane.

At least I have a window seat.

Swwwsssh The continued exhalation of the air conditioning.

Slow rising glissando of engines. Levels off at low level.

Groans and creaks of various unknown parts of the machine.

English accents. People mostly silent reading in-flight literature.

Cabinets are being closed by attendants in the rear of the aircraft.

Subtle increase in air pressure. Slow breath of air flow into cabin.


Aircraft begins to taxi along tarmac.

Low rumble of tyres across joins in the tarmac. Felt rather than heard.

Mid-pitch whir above and behind my head.

Quiet grinding of some wheeled mechanism in starboard wing.

Further rumble from the tyres on larger joins, and imperfections in the tarmac. The aircraft vibrates with each bump.

The sun is neat the horizon, golden and wintered. Flashes of the multitude of stationary aircraft.

Whiiir / swoosh / grhmmmm

Aircraft comes to a halt.

The taxiing aircraft look like hungry sharks. Predatory. Awaiting their chance to defy gravity.

Indistinct female chat from hostesses strapped into the rear.

Sudden increase in volume of engines. Duration 7 seconds. It plateaus out. Was that this plane, or another one taking off outside?

All is calm. Florescent and sterile.

Magazine pages being flicked and thumbed. The company’s marketing is going in and through rows 1-25.

At least I have a window seat.

A slight increase in grumblings from the engines. Plane moves forward. Smoother surface here.

A 747 takes off ahead of us. The power of its engines (a volcano) can be felt.

I see the grass moving in the wind outside, but hear no natural sounds other than the nose sniff from the seat behind me, and the fat man next to me breathing too heavily from his nostrils.

sniff, sniff, from behind.

fnh..Fnh..fnah The fat man breathes. A strange comforting touch of animal life.

Female voice, “But I don’t know. They changed it”. Hostess from rear.


Crumple of sweet papers. Perhaps crisps or a sandwich.

A moment of disorientation as the wheels leave the ground.

SSSSS From rear right once airborne.

I am thinking of all the unknown systems, processes and procedures surrounding me.


playback > >        Female voice,”Drinks are available”.

“We take cash, euro and pounds and MasterCard”.

I consider this process, making marks on a page to document my soundscape. Is it effective? Can you hear it? Internal audition, a connection to your memory of this non-space. Will I hear any original sound during this trip?

I am travelling to Aberdeen to participate in a sound art conference. I am moving out of my familiar home environment. I live in Hackney, London. The sounds I hear daily include;

Police and ambulance sirens. Pretty constant. Pretty loud.

Passing buses. Very low frequency. Something felt rather than heard.

The neighbours. A young family from Poland with 2 young boys. Laughing, screaming, stamping, tantrums. We live on a council estate, very low quality housing from the 1960s. I hear the light switches when they are turned on and off, so thin are the walls. They are a young couple, and obviously enjoy each other’s bodies. Soon after his return home; Boing, boing, boing, squeak squeak, squeak.

The boiler turning on and off. Newly installed by British gas. Why does it always fail when the cold weather comes? An engineer should have come to fix it today.


Housemate #1. A sound designer. All kinds of artificial sounds emit from his room downstairs. Looped, distorted, transposed. Repeated endlessly as he works on pieces for film, theatre and dance.

Male voice,“Thankyou”. (English accent)

Chink of money being taken.


Housemate #2. A 42 year old with a slight drinking problem. I hear a cycle of sounds from her room. A new drunken lover. Sex sounds.


Furious. For a few weeks. Then furious arguments. Then crying. Then her laptop showing DVDs as she comforts her broken heart with expensive red wine.

Female voice, “Did I miss you? Did you want something?” (New Zealand Accent).
Female voice, “Three pounds ninety.” (New Zealand Accent).

Building works. The whole estate is undergoing compulsory improvements. Poundings, large plant, angle-grinders, cement mixers, carpenters, electricians, plasterers, shouted instructions, arguments. People are working.

Occasionally church bells.

I have no control of these sounds, and limited means of insulating myself against them. Is it not better to be aware of my environment, than cocooning my ears from the intrusions? I do not have a choice.

I can’t sleep in a room with a ticking clock.

In the summer, the estate kids play in a patch of green behind the flat. Their families come from all over the world. They seem happy.

The aeroplane is making an endless gasp, Shhahhhsshh, as if it is amazed by its ability to fly. Should it give up this vocalization, we should surely fall to the ground.

This exercise is intended to illuminate some questions I have regarding the evocation, documentation and reporting of sonic environments. What opens up between this silent? page and the immersive digital environment that is being created during this research? Writing this, I hear an inner voice articulating this process. Simultaneously, I am aware of the external sounds of the flight.

Indistinct chatter from passengers further up the plane to the port side.

As well as easily recalling familiar sounds from my home, I am also projecting into the future, anticipating my experience of sound in the next few days. In this way, this active attitude towards listening simultaneously places me in the past, visiting keynote sounds of home, in the present, aware of my immediate sonic environment, but also involved in a process of inner dialogue with regards to what I am writing, and finally in an imagined sonic future awaiting me in Aberdeen. None of these seem particularly distinct, but rather point marking out a fluid space that flows between notions of self, location, context and past/present/future.


An active listening channel has been opened that sits alongside normal psycho-biological activity in my body. I feel connected to what /where /when /how – was, what /where /when /how – is and what /where /when /how – will be.

Internal dialogue disrupted by female-voiced flight announcement that we are coming in to land. The message is much harsher in timbre, tone and volume than previous messages.

Shaaashhh / Griing. Something is changing with regards to threshold.

Ding-dong anyone?