Listening Strata: Tito Rivas & J Milo Taylor
The proposed work – a collaborative sound piece by Tito Rivas and Dr. J Milo Taylor – will be the fulfilment of a long-held mutual interest in working together. While meeting at a festival of contemporary dance (Oaxaca and Mexico City 2009) and spending time in conversation and experiencing interdisciplinary performances, workshops and discussions, a shared fascination in the possibilities of sounds and listenings was discovered. Both artists have, quite independently, and with their own particular working methods, continued to explore this domain since that time (2009).
Let us for example, accept an idea of sound as a creative practice. Within this practice we find a number of different groupings. An influential one of these, existing since the early publication of Vancouver-based Canadian composer/academic R. Murray Schafer’s The Tuning of the World (1977), is around an ecological and sociological sensitivity to the transformation or eradication of natural and historical sounds by an on-going homogenising modernisation.
A second approach might be described as documentary, or archival. Recent and ongoing work for both artists in archives in their respective cities (Mexico City, London/Cologne) and a shared critical use of phonographic techniques indicates some idea of sound as preservation. Recording and archiving these sounds somehow saves them from extinction.
Freezing time for a future listening.
Recording as testimony.
How you situate your work when you start recording is fundamental.
However nothing is ever neutral.
Another method – the self-named schizophonic – disregards the source of the sound and the notion of location would be entirely irrelevant to a another Schaeffer, the French engineer Pierre Schaeffer. For those following in this tradition, the work focuses upon fixed sound – the sound as presented by media technologies – tape machines, synthesisers, record decks, computers. In this domain sound is autonomous – it refers to nothing.
It simply is.
A sound in, and of, itself.
An object that is a not-quite-an-object.
Something separate from origin, site or location.
Francisco Lopez would propose these works as new realities – in, and of, themselves – new entities.
The use of recorded sound refers somewhat to its origin – it does point to the past. Yet it also exists and moves towards the future. A form of sonic time travel – the poetics of autonomous sound.
Combining these with other ideas, notably Zielinski’s “deep media time”, the artists are confronted by the area of archaeoacoustics, presenting a notion of the object as sonic : thereby durational, spectral, relational, in flux . As sounds appear and disappear, so objects seep through time – moving both from the past and to the future. Entities endue, but eventually decay.
They decay and they sediment – into strata – layers made in time, like the laying down of a lake bed or ocean floor. Igneous forces may metamorphose such entities into entirely other forms – how may sound and listening cultures be said to be affected by such forces, such a geological, metaphorical morphology?
We may, following this, accept an idea of a soundscape as inhabited by both humans and animals, organics and inorganics, the living and the dead. A notion of the poetics of sound always remain close to our practice.
We are proposing an urban sound-based project exploring exploratory ecological theory, social research alongside recycled soundworks to be presented in Mexico City (and London?). We suggest that spaces may be changed through a transplantation of mass sounds – a de-textualisation of one soundscape and the transformation of the other – if only for a short time.
The piece will be a sonic dialogue: between two continents, two cultures, two cities, two artists – sonic beings sharing space in time.
Recent ideas have been moving towards archaeologies of listening . Archaeologists work with objects. If we are interested in cultures of listening, how can we study sounds when they are not properly objects. The hearing act. How can we detect the archaeological strata of listening to discover how listening cultures are made. These are one of the area we would like to explore further and to inform to working methods
We are asking how we compose new things. Yet things new things are not that new.
What do Mexican people listen to and what about Londoners? Why does a culture follow specific sounds? This shows us how we are as societies. In what way? What are the shared structures that make these possible? How can this be articulated more fully, more poetically?
Inherent in the work will be a sounding comparison of listening cultures in London and Mexico City. We will take these sound documents, our recordings, and try to illuminate these. To create hypothesis. antithesis and synthesis.
Audio-Visual Installation / Live A-V Performance
Built with vvvv
12th September 2012: Scheune Schall, Stommeln (performance)
11th September 2012: Die Alter Feurwache, Cologne (performance)
12th-15th July 2012: Rundgang , KHM Cologne (installation and performance)
28th June 2012: Metasonic@ IPA, Lisbon, Portugal (performance)
Trio with Wajid Yaseen and John Hegre, Metasonic Festival, Lisbon, Portugal
with David Behrman (composer / laptop),
Okkyung Lee (cello) and William Forman (trumpet).
Curated by Hans W. Koch.
A bricolage of shellac records found in Cologne in early 2012 forms the basis for a sonic ethnography of geographically bound historicised listening. There is an accompanying article published in Off-Topic #4 written in collaboration with George Brock-Nannestad and Dirk Specht. This work was undertaken during a research fellowship at the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln. Many thanks to Anthony Moore, Cathy Lane and Martin Rumori for making this work possible.
1.) Karl Reich: Volkslieder. (Dreistimmung, harmonisch umsungen von Nachtigall-Edelkanarien der Zucht)
ELECTROLA E.G. 855 8-49269. Germany.
2.) Adalbert Lutter mit seinen Tanzorchester: Rhythmus der Freunde (There’s a New World).
Telefunken Bestell.Nr 6359 22016. Brown shellac. 1937. Germany.
3.) Die Goldene Sieben und ihr Orchester: Gefährliches Spiel (Tonfilm).
ELECTROLA E.G. 3923 ORA 1923 / ORA 1924. 1937. Germany.
4.) Grosses Tanzorchester: Für ein paar Stunden hast du mich glücklich gemacht.
TELEFUNKEN A 2190 21968. Germany.
5.) Zarah Leander & Werner Müller mit dem RIAS Tanzorchester, Berlin: Eine Frau in meinen Jahren.
POLYDOR. 48871 B. Germany.
6.) Harry Roy & his Orchestra: The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down.
ODEON. 0-31198b. 1937. England.
7.) Eugen Wolff v. Hotel Eden, Berlin: Es geht ein Singen.
ODEON. 0-31154b Be. 11654. 1937. Germany.
8.) Cyrus Bassiak (Serge Rezvani) et Jeanne Moreau: Le Tourbillon.
DISQUES PYRAL. 1962. France.
9.) Orchester Ludwig Ruth (Refrain gesang: Elena Lauri): Ach, Ich Hab Soviel Rhythmus.
ELECTROLA. E.G.3807. ORA 1596. 1937. Germany.
10.) De Groot und Edward O’Henry: Ave Maria.
ELECTROLA. E.G. 2012 30-3824. Germany.
11.) Jaqueline François mit Joe Boyer u.s. Orchestor: Mélancolie.
BRUNSWICK. 82451 A. 1956. France.
12.) Dizzy Gillespie & his Orchestra: Cubana Bop.
ELECTROLA. EG 7779 D7 VB 2934. Germany.
13.) Willy Breuser und die Kölsche Rabaue: Och wat wor dat fröher schön doch en Colonia.
KRISTALL. Bestell.Nr 9113 C 9718,1. Germany.
14.) Staats and Dom Chor (unter Lietung von Professor Hugo Rüdel): Licht von Herrn.
ELECTROLA. E.G. 223. 8-44750. Germany.
15.) Harry Roy & his Orchestra: I’m gonna kiss myself Goodbye.
ODEON. 0-31198a. 1937. England.
16.) Bassiak et Jeanne Moreau: Le Tourbillon.
Dialogue overdub. DISQUES PYRAL. France.
KHM/CRiSAP Klanglabor Sound Arts Research Fellowship Programme
The focus of this fellowship was upon listening cultures, practice-based research, sound archives and media anarchaeology
Access to the sound archives associated with Klanglabor offered the researcher a unique means of exploring a number of specific sound-world’s of the past. My interest in working with the archives derives from a number of interrelated hypotheses:
Contained within the material artefacts found within the archive we can find empirical evidence of a range of constituent elements. Following Foucault, whose work has long been of interest to me, one can propose that the artefacts embody epistemic ontologies of practice. In Foucault’s terms such ontologies are formed by historically determined conjunctions of materials, concepts, themes, subject positions, sites of emergence and so on.
In the case of the sound archive we might ask what a survey of the changing nature of technology (from shellac to tape to CD to .flac) may tell us about the changing nature of listening. We may invert the question and ask if/how the changing experience of listening has informed artists’ and composers’ use of technology. A technological determinism is to be avoided however – drawing from the literature of archaeoacoustics (Scarre & Lawson 2006) one finds recognition of the coevolution of material culture, (understood in the broadest terms, beginning in the body and extending though language into the built environment) and internal cognitive processes – the traces of which may be found in material objects, of the kind found in archives for example (Ingold 2008). The archive itself, conceived of here broadly as a mnemonic conceit, is also productive and participates in this feedback circuit between what is thinkable, doable and “soundable”.
Do certain sonic artefacts only occur at certain times? Do they have a lifespan? Can we identify the period in which a sound was born? When does a sound die?
Drawing on Massumi’s treatment of the virtual (Massumi 2002) and Manning’s related notion of the instant of “pre-acceleration” in relation to movement (Manning 2009), binding these notions to David Toop’s thoughts on the “uncanny” nature of sound and Sterne’s insightful discussions of Edison’s interest in the relation of sound technology to the dead (Sterne 2003), may we begin to formulate a speculative auditory ecology? Something along the following lines, as recently suggested by R. Murray Schafer as “the 5 important sounds?
Sounds we hear
Sounds we hope to hear
Sounds we remember
Sounds we miss
Sounds we imagine
(Drawn from personal notes taken during Schafer’s keynote address at the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology Conference. Corfu. October 2011.)
Such a list is clearly incomplete and unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. What it contributes however is an initial means for thinking through a creative engagement with sound archives. We could of course greatly augment Schafer’s list with a simple ploy/play.
Sounds we hear / Sounds unheard
Sounds we hope to hear / Sounds we hope not to hear
Sounds we remember / Sounds unremembered
Sounds we miss / Sounds unmissed
Sounds we imagine Sounds / unimagined
We will return to the these shortly after embarking on a short discussion of Foucault’s treatment of the archive and how his approach, combined with affect theory, will be used during the research period. Foucault, addressing a broad range of social practices (medicine, sexuality, death, punishment), took great pains to depreciate the centrality of the subject in the production of statements – concomitant with his post-structural contemporaries proposing the “death of the author”. He alternatively emphasised an expanded field of discursive play involving contingent power relations existing between subjectivities, organisations and statements simultaneously and contradictorily enabling and limiting production, distribution and archivisation. Folding his ideas into our field of enquiry one might outline the relationships between the following as constituent of historical and contemporary sound discourse and practice:
• Organisations: KHM, WDR, apparatuses of state and civil society, archives.
• Subjectivities: artists, composers, musicians, curators, theorists, academics, promoters.
• Statements: compositions, artworks, performances, publications, releases, editions.
Such an approach would, by way of example, focus less upon the “major artistic figures” whose work is present in the archive (Stockhausen,Cage, Kagel et al) and instead explore a genealogical description of the changing nature of sound works themselves. We would wish to select particular epistemic snapshots, burrowing into emblematic years of the archives’ past (e.g. 1956, 1968, 1977, 1984, 1991, 2000, 2011). We would also direct our attention to a microdescription of works found at these times and find the means of articulating the appearance and subsequent disappearance of particular sonic features – more on this later. Let us now turn our attention to affect theory.
Affect is described variously, according to the discipline within which which it is applied and intent of the author (see Kosofsky Sedgwick 2003, Thrift 2008, Greg & Seigworth 2010). Steve Goodman, writing recently about sound provides us with a succinct definition applicable to our interests:
“[affect is] the potential of an entity or an event to affect or be affected by another entity or event” (Goodman 2010: xiv)
I suggest that such a definition, perhaps echoing the autonomy of the objet sonore proposed by Pierre Schaeffer, or indeed the “sound characters” of Maryanne Amacher, allows the media researcher to conceive of sound practice as an “ecology of intensities”. A field of practice formed by entities and events bound together in historically and geographically determined co-modulation. Such an approach, greatly expanding upon Foucault’s supra-subjective propositions, attempts to articulate the contingent relations between sounding “con-specifics3”. Such entities could include organisations, technologies, humans, sounds and much more. Such a formulation, populated by entities with clearly differential affordances, could enable us to move through disparate strata of an epistemic snapshot of a sounding archive and allow us to connect aestheticised sonic utterances with broader bio-social realities.
Returning to the play on R. Murray Schafer’s list of important sounds, we can imagine a number of strategies that might be used by the researcher when confronted by the exhaustive and perhaps intimidating body of work contained in the archives. This is suggested to occur in three stages:
1) A sounded exploration of material objects. It is anticipated that the archive contains a broad variety of media ranging from contemporary and instantly playable formats (e.g. CD, mp3, DVD) to the more temporally distant and hence more problematically playable (e.g. compact cassette,VHS, Beta-Max, 2” and 1/4” tape, vinyl, shellac, wire recordings, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm film). The textures and forms of the various technologies and the procedures of playback for each format may be sounded however (e.g. contact microphones) and suggestive of creative response. Reflective writing and audio recordings of the mechanics of this (fetishised?) process is proposed as an appropriate methodology generative of artistic/academic output. (Sounds we hope to hear)
2a) Selection of Works known to the researcher. This aspect of the research, and 2b, closely related to this that follows, involves a more usual engagement with the archives4. Both elements involve a systematic process of cataloguing and a close listening to the works present and the re-presentation of their sounding bodies. These bodies are considered as “con-specifics” with the mechanical aspects of sound reproduction explored in 1). Previous research has involved an extensive survey of historical sound practice. A beta version of my international database of sound art can be found here (http://www.soundartarchive.net). I expect a certain degree of overlap between the materials found in each archive and I am keen to explore how access to such material may be opened to a wider contemporary audience. I am aware of the Nocturnes series of events organised by Klanglabor at KHM and place my own work alongside such efforts (http://www.khm.de/kmw/klanglabor/?cat=3). A related piece of mine warrants mention at this point – “A History of Sound Art” was commissioned in early 2011 and toured the U.K. (http://suborg.net/a-history-of-sound-art/) This plunderphonic composition presented a playful re-contextualisation of 100 years of creative sound practice – such a strategy would seem appropriate to the proposed research – a remix of the archive. I have no interest in this however and I suggest instead an approach informed by the questions suggested by affect theory introduced above.
Particular works will have particular effects upon different listeners and I include myself within this. I anticipate finding works whose sounds are immediately affective to me, and other works, while of interest, will not conjure any specific visceral response. Why should this be? What are the sounds that affect me? Does their affective nature remain constant through time? Is there a personal sonic ontology at work that at this point remains hidden to me? Could such a framework be of use to others? Do specific periods speak to me? Do others remain mute in their soundings? What is involved in this subjective propensity towards different sounds? To conclude this section I propose that with a systematic cataloguing of archive material according to the epistemic instants introduce above (i.e. 1956, 1968, 1977, 1984, 1991, 2000) will be a creative response informed by those particularly affective sounds heard during this process. This creative output will be an autonomous work and is intended as a performance informed by such practices as spectral composition, signal processing and live video. Supporting this will be an online database presenting the original works with relevant documentation, images and metadata. Note that this latter proposal would only occur pending permissions obtained from the host archives. (Sounds we remember)
2b) Selection of Works unknown to the researcher. There is also great scope for creative work to be produced from a position of imagining sounds. What type of work may be produced from simply reading an unfamiliar composer’s working notes, linear notes of a LP or an exhibition / performance catalogue? Could a work be produced in 2011 that takes as its point of departure a record sleeve originating in 1968? What would be the process of imagining the unheard sounds from the original? As well as an intriguing creative proposition to me, a focus upon works of “minor” artists, as
well as “minor” works of “major” artists may well expand our vocabulary for sonic creation (Sounds we imagine). To paraphrase Žižek, the question is not what can we learn from history, but how the present might appear through a historicized ear. (Žižek 2009)
3) Audio-visual Virtual Environment. I hope, by this point, to have established a clear working methodology and outlined several concrete examples of the type of work to be undertaken. What remains is the need to expand upon the means by which the appearance and subsequent disappearance of particular sonic features may be articulated. 1, 2a and 2b above, while partly digital in nature, are not exclusively so. The homogenising effect of digital media is intended to b approached from a critical and distanced perspective. The work introduced above highlights the affective nature of sound, implying a phenomenological binding between source and listener and technology is cast as but one agent in a broader discursive field also including subjects, organisations and broader epistemic constructions. The final output, entirely digital in nature is intended to further question the affective nature of digital media and to explore its suitability for re-presenting sound archives. Such a production draws on some previous work (see Figure 1), and I would again direct you towards the video documentation of the ImMApp project. (http://vimeo.com/4222483) This work will be an interactive and immersive installation created with open-source software tools (Puredata, Processing, X3D) that will allow visitors to inhabit a hauntological rendering of emblematic years with the time-spans included within the WDR and SAK archives (Figure 2) (Sounds we hear). It is the intent that the installation will have a dual iteration – firstly occurring as a real-world gallery-type installation, and secondarily as an online presentation exploring the X3D/VRML capabilities of the newer generation of web browsers (e.g. Google Chrome)
The approach is informed by sound practice and extends soundscape theory towards that of the mediascape where all auditory phenomenon is proposed to be, by its nature, mediated. I have outlined a methodology based upon listening and a sensory excavation of the archival materials guided by an expanded field of post-structural theoretical concerns. The central generative antagonism in the work is the tensions produced in the travel across a spectrum constructed by material culture at one extreme (objects, artefacts) and immaterial affects (feelings, autonomic internal changes) at the other. The traces of sonic activity held in the archives partially document exterior and interior movements on the part of composers, improvisers, musicians, writers and artists. While many such motions are impossible to record (we may wish to consider the fleeting thoughts that pass through our minds while listening to a piece of music by way of example) the proposed research will attempt to map some of these subjective, but possibly generalisable, experiences. While I am no ardent subscriber to R. Murray Schaeffer’s work, some of his thoughts, when placed in the context of this proposal can offer a somewhat poetic insight into my aims. At the recent conference in Corfu he re-iterated that we as humans, are “condemned to listen”: in his view, to a increasingly homogenised sonic environment. It is my intention to re-animate some of the extra-ordinary soundworlds of the past and re-introduce these sounds into the contemporary context. Schafer made three observations that affected me deeply and have influenced the shaping of this document. I will conclude by leaving his thoughts with you and ask you to consider how these statements affect you in relation to the works preserved in the WDR and SAK archives.
all sounds are original.
most sounds will never be heard again.
all sounds will never be heard again.
Foucault, M. (1982) The Archeology of Knowledge. Vintage Books
Goodman, S. (2009) Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and The Ecology of Fear. MIT
Greg, M. & Seigworth, G. J. (Eds) (2010) The Affect Theory Reader. Duke University Press.
Ingold, T. (2008) Lines: A Brief History. Routledge.
Kosofsky Sedgwick, E. (2003) Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Duke University Press.
Massumi, B. (2002) Parables for the Virtual:Movement, Affect, Sensation. Duke University Press.
Manning, E. (2009) Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. MIT Press.
Thrift, N. (2008) Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. Routledge.
Scarre, C., & Lawson, G. (Eds) (2006 ) Archaeoacoustics. Short Run Press.
Sterne, J. (2003) The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Duke University Press.
Žižek, S. (2009) First as Tragedy, Then as Farce. Verso