“To us, the value of a work lies in its newness: the invention of new forms, or a novel combination of old forms, the discovery of unknown worlds or the exploration of unfamiliar areas in worlds already discovered – revelations, surprises.” (Octavio Paz)

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This work is intended as a digital ecology, a designed underlay of synthetic life beneath the everyday environment of the garden. Although some of the sounds emitting from the loudspeakers are derived from the natural world and several recordings have been used in this final implementation, the majority of the sounds you can hear are synthetic. The physical causes of sounds existing in nature (water, frogs, wind, cicadas and so on) have been explored, analysed and modelled in open-source software.

For example, the water-like textures (water being the focus of the recent World Listening Day) are generated according to the implementation of algorithms expressing the phenomenon of turbulence and its modification by factors including imagined depth, speed of flow, impedance and fluid viscosity. By way of a second example, sounds derived from insect life include pure tones, high pitched whistles and frictional sounds of tiny hairs and body parts rubbing together – a phenomenon called stridulation – a diversity of such sonic processes have accordingly also been modelled.

Practico-Aesthetic Context 1

“Procedural audio is sound qua process, as opposed to sound qua product. Behind this statement lies a veritable adventure into semiotics, mathematics, computer science, signal processing and music. Procedural audio is non-linear, often synthetic sound, created in real time according to a set of programmatic rules and live input.” (Andy Farnell)

Sound, in a general sense, always involves an element of change – the most simple oscillation, and hence most sound creation, depends upon a dynamic change between one state and another. A further observation is that sound creation also implies some form of behaviour – be this intentionally communicative as in the case of many biotic sound forms (mating calls, territorial warnings, orientation signals, human speech and song etc.) or simply indicative of system states in the case of non-biotic forms (large-scale behaviour, water flow, wind speed etc.). The piece is then a primitive attempt to model, and thereby understand, the complexities of biotic and non-biotic sound interactions as found in our soundscapes.

The encounter of the title, in the first place, refers to these complex interactions.

“Biophony describes the acoustic bandwidth partitioning process that occurs in still-wild biomes by which non-human organisms adjust their vocalizations by frequency and time-shifting to compensate for vocal territory occupied by other vocal creatures. Thus each species evolves to establish and maintain its own acoustic bandwidth so that its voice is not masked. For instance, notable examples of clear partitioning and species discrimination can be found in the spectrograms derived from the biophonic recordings made in most uncompromised tropical and subtropical rain forests.“ (Bernie Krause)

Secondarily, the encounter also describes the meeting between technology and ecology. The work was initially based upon sound recordings of a river ecology in North Western Scotland, a place with profound personal meaning and overflowing with memories. As work on the piece developed it became clear that a more procedural methodology (as described above) would not only support a more nuanced understanding of the behavioural sound interactions in this environment but also remove unnecessary (outmoded?) emotional content and enable a more nuanced and dynamic digital installation.

Theoretical Context 1: Bergson: Time and Duration

“The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth all sensation is already memory.”

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” (Henri Bergson)

The primary means by which this is implemented is through the introduction of time into the piece. While sound recordings invariably point towards the past, the procedural method implemented here occurs wholly in the present. Various behaviours occur at particular moments throughout the day and sonic events are programmed to occur at the level of seconds, minutes and hours. We might also begin to imagine further variations in sonic behaviour at the grain of weeks, months, years and so on. Consider, for example, how the sound environment of this garden has changed over the last 30 years? How might we be able to track such change? Are these changes for the better or the worse? How also does your own behaviour alter this, and other environments?

“The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.” (ibid.)


As you move around the garden, as we certainly hope you do, you will also encounter small solar powered sonic circuits created by local participants in the supporting workshop. These elements are, like the sounds coming from the loudspeakers, also intended to evoke primitive “life-like” sonic entities. They are fully autonomous, drawing their energy solely from the sun. Their behaviours, as designed by their makers, are variable and each displays its own idiosyncrasies as determined by their individual internal resistances, capacities, their location in the garden and the contingencies of the daily climatic conditions. The various elements of the work then (solar circuits, and the various sounds diffused from loudspeakers), all attempt to exist as fully as possible in the present, though are derived from past activity and are, like us, facing an uncertain future.

Thesis 1

1. Technological progress is carrying us to inevitable disaster.
2. Only the collapse of modern technological civilization can avert disaster.
3. The political left is technological society’s first line of defence against revolution.
4. What is needed is a new revolutionary movement, dedicated to the elimination of technological society. (Theodore Kaczynski)

The third, and perhaps most vital area referred to by Electronic Encounter is this individual and collective participation in and impact upon our sonic environments and our broader lifeworld.

Theoretical Context 2: Dark Ecology

“Ecological writing keeps insisting that we are “embedded” in nature. Nature is a surrounding medium that sustains our being. Due to the properties of the rhetoric that evokes the idea of a surrounding medium, ecological writing can never properly establish that this is nature and thus provide a compelling and consistent aesthetic basis for the new worldview that is meant to change society. It is a small operation, like tipping over a domino…Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadistic admiration.”  (Timothy  Morton)

This piece is, finally, “an ecology without nature”: an exploration and implementation of artificial entities, in whose company we found ourselves, here and elsewhere. Any sentiment towards the exterior world has been absenced – though a form of affect may yet still remain.

It is hoped that the work is enjoyed and that some of these issues are of interest and of relevance to you here in this moment that we encounter each other. It is proposed that contemporary society requires “renewable thought” – concepts being here considered as a resource in the broader ecology of human life. It seems clear that my own society, the so-called “United Kingdom” is in dire need of tenable concepts with which to survive the future, its economic malaise a dark mirror of its moral and social bankruptcy. It is a further wish that this electronic encounter can participate in meaningful exchange and that an ecology of health and hope can be encouraged in both our troubled nations.






Taylor, J. Milo., Rivas, Francisco & Mesa, Miguel
Affiliation: Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM) / Fonoteca Nacional Mexico / Independent.
Research Focus: Listening Cultures, Media Archaeology, Sonic Anthropology: Methodologies of Sound in the Humanities

La Cantada: The Songs for the Dead in Naolinco town.

When Spanish conquerors arrived on the Mexican Caribbean coast they encountered a town called Naolinco. To this day, an ancient annual tradition still occurs there: “El Día de todos los Santos” (The Day of Every Saint) – the so-called “day of the dead”. It is a time to remember the deceased and to renovate communication with them. In family homes, altars are made and at dusk, families walk to the cemetery to sing to their deceased. These special songs (cantada) are both ancient and syncretic, mixing indigenous traditions with the Catholic iconography of the invaders. Following their dedication, people move from house to house, visiting altars in the homes of others, singing the cantada. “Fiestas”, as noted by many anthropologists, configure the ritual and social calendar, articulating the sacred and profane, which, in this kind of community, become blurred. In this context sound becomes a “bridge” between two worlds consolidating the identity network of the inhabitants of Naolinco. We witnessed an auditory culture activating the “world of the dead” through ritualised and collectivised soundings. In this study we discuss our participation in the custom and we explore the function of this music in this specific context.

Audiorama del Bosque de Chapultepac.
November 4th 2012

The opportunity to present a sound performance in this unique location intersects with a growing area of interest for the artist – namely that of archaeoacoustics – the positioning and understanding of sound in ancient societies. This area of research is emerging and much work remains speculative, however there is a growing discourse around the the sonic properties of ritual spaces and the importance of site-bound performativities. Specific issues relevant to sonic meditation may be outlined as follows.

There is the recognition that sound often takes a central role in human ritual – this appears to approach a universality, yet also displays great variation across spatio-temporal cultures. Researchers in the field propose that ritual sound provides the historical antecedent of music, with such speculations also argued by such theorists as French economist Jacques Attali – to whom we will shortly return. The diversity of ritual sound practice, its role in the performance of community and its close connection to place can only be hinted at here. We may wish to consider for example the depictions of auditory phenomena in the “sound scrolls” in the Codex Borbonicus, where Xochipilli, the Aztec god of music, is marked with a jewelled flower indicating the poetic importance of song and sound to this pre-Hispanic culture. Mayan “speech scrolls”, common in the classical period, as well as examples found in Zapotec culture further underline the significance of sound in pre-Cortesian Iberoamerican societies. Such a sonic sensitivity is not limited to these pre-Christian examples, we can also extend this analysis using Zeilinski’s notion of a “deep time of sound media” pausing our playback to consider the impressive acoustics of Christian churches and cathedrals, then fast forwarding in time to the more contemporary experiences of the “electric church” of the rock concert and the powerful sound systems of today’s bass cultures (techno, reggae, dub, jungle, hip-hop, dubstep and so on).

Such temporary acoustic communities are both centripetal and and centrifugal – on the one hand attractive and bounding to believers, and on the other hand repulsive, disturbing and excluding non-initiates, evil spirits and the damned. While many ritual musics refer towards transcendence and the evocation of entities exterior to human consciousness (gods, spirits etc.), the piece to be presented here explores a different plane – that of immanence (the “who-here” and “who-now”).

Archaeoacoustic studies, and sound studies more generally, draw attention to the continuum existing between internal experience and external phenomena, and indeed challenges a (Western) ocularcentric paradigm which operates to enforce such problematic distinctions. When we speak, for example, we sound. This sonic entity, betraying intimate secrets of ourselves (Barthes “grain of the voice”) exists both “over-here” inside our bodies, and simultaneously (in fact with a degree of delay) “over-there” inside the bodies of those able to hear us. Sounds exterior to us touch us with vibration – we have no distance from sound – it passes through us, and something of it may continue to metaphorically resonate within us, once the actual sound itself has dissipated.

Let us now return Attali. Writing in 1977 he outlines the positioning of auditory culture relative to society’s modes of production and the associated power relations. He proposes four major periods of sound-making in deep historical time – ritual, representation, repetition and composing. He argues that the primary function of sound, as introduced above, was the reinforcement of community through ritual practice. Once its power to do this is recognised by early centralising states (e.g. Mayan), it becomes co-opted by the elite classes, and it is used to represent the interests of these groups to the rest of society. As society evolves, sound-making becomes detached from this explicitly representative function, and sound-makers, though still bound to dominant modes of production enter a period of repetition. This is articulated by Walter Benjamin in his 1936 text The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, where the repetitive reproducibility of the modernist art object (prints, books, LP’s, CD’s) involves a loss of aura. His historical positioning, on the cusp of such significant sonic mutations as punk rock and disco (the latter innovating the development of the dance music sound systems mentioned above), suggested the fourth period – that of composition. Though not fully explained, he proposed that sound makers would seek to reclaim their role as auratic community formers, composing novel forms of future-facing micro-societies, where the exchange between sound-maker and audience/congregation would no longer be over-determined by a financial transaction (a cost of entry/purchase), but be based upon a participatory post-humanistic encounter. It is with such thoughts in mind that I accepted the invitation to present a piece in the Meditatio Sonus series.

The piece, performed in real-time with open-source/FLOSS technologies, intends to fold together these historic, social, aesthetic technical considerations. The sounds to be used are exclusively sine tones – “pure”, characterless, non-representational and total sonic abstractions derived from the mathematics of the ancient Greeks. Such tones will be used to explore the resonances of the site. At the same time, difference tones (“beatings”) between the resonant frequencies of the Audiorama will be used to activate psychotropic frequencies in the consciousnesses of the congregation. The intention is to guide the brain state rhythms of the gathered listeners from the usual frequency of waking consciousness (the so-called “beta rhythm” 13 – 30 Hz) though the base frequency (“alpha rhythm” 18 – 13Hz) down to the hypnogogic meditative state (“theta rhythm” 4 -7 Hz). This gradual journey inwards and outwards will resolve with a return to the beta rhythm.

It is with the greatest pleasure that I embark on the composition and performance of this work. It is my hope that the openness with which I was invited to participate is echoed and returned in my conception. It is my belief that a sonic meditation, shared between friends, family and strangers is a wonderful opportunity to experience ourselves as a collective body composed of humans, non-humans and sonic entities alike.

Arcangel Constantini
Marcela Armas

Free Public 3 day workshop. Listening Techniques, Archaeoacoustics and Histories of Sound
Art. Organised by Tito Rivas.

Fonoteca Nacional

Soundscape Composition with Tito Rivas
Fonoteca Nacional, Mexico City.

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.

1) Prelude
2) Breaking the Frozen Radio Sea
3) Uncertainty Relation (Memory tastes Metallic)
4) International Slo-Mo (As Recalled by Room Herself)
5) Spatial Resonances in Eventmind (Fly in Flames)

Bilwa Costas, Mariella Greil, Werner Moebius, Emily Sweeney, J Milo Taylor