Research Presentation: University of Brighton: July 2015

Abstract

In late 2014 a collection of various media was passed on to me by veteran sound practitioner Z’EV. This assemblage of auditory media artefacts (cassettes, CD’s, vinyl, CD-R), print materials (catalogues, magazines, posters) and various ephemera offers a unique insight into the aesthetic, technological and social-economic habitus of avant-garde “abstract” music in the period 1977-2014. Rare releases by such practitioners as Brion Gysin and Genesis P-Orridge, Carl Stone, Naut Humon, La Fura dels Baus and Diamanda Galás exist along ultra-obscure singular items (e.g. unreleased CD-R’s, rehearsal recordings) derived from the informal and shifting milieu associated with the nomadism of the touring musician / composer / sound artist.

This archive offers a unique potential both as a focus for research and as potential pedagogic material suitable for students of various disciplines.

This presentation will introduce some elements of the collection and sketch an initial theoretical framework for thinking through, existing in, and listening to, this diverse material. Key paradigms include media and sensory archaeology, entanglement theory and material studies, contemporary historiography and critical readings around notions of the archive and counter-archive.

Abstract Music in Europe and America 1977-2014: Webcast

J. Milo Taylor, George Brock-Nannestad, Dirk Specht
Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln

This paper approaches noise from a media anarcheological paradigm closely informed by Siegfried Zielinski’s notion of “deep media time”. The observation that noise is not absolute, but is variable is somewhat banal; yet if the temporal, methodological and aesthetic scope is extended beyond the conventional discourses around noise what implications for practice may be drawn?

The origins of the paper derive from a research fellowship undertaken at the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln which dealt with sound, noise and listening as practice-based research methodologies. A selection of discarded shellac records (cultural noise) forms the material basis of this study. This media detritus contains program material created during a problematic yet arbitrary period of Cologne’s past (1929-62 – this period defined simply by the contingent array of shellacs found). These discs also offer today’s listeners traces and scars of the damage and decay these traumatised objects have experienced in their lifetime.
These material artefacts are noiseful in many regards: a conventional approach to archiving or preserving these might involve media migration into the digital domain after which processes of “noise-cleaning” may be undertaken. Such cleaning may aim to remove “noise” from “signal”. Yet how is such difference established? There are plentiful examples of problematic media cleansing – and a central issue explored in this paper is this distinction between what the authors frame as “primary” and “secondary” information.

Hence, issues around the context and techniques used during the original recording (e.g. frequency transfer functions), the means by which this recording is produced as a capitalist object (e.g. post-emphasis curves), and the subsequent unintended inscriptions upon the media surface in the course of the objects’ biography (e.g. careless handling) provide a deep media perspective upon the noisy media object.




Audio-Visual Installation / Live A-V Performance
Built with vvvv

Presented at:

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)

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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.


References
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

beta public release: lots to do….

– php cleanup / optimisation
– graphic design
– permission clearances with artists
– community integration (wordpress, fb etc)

any help out there?

http://soundartarchive.net


78rpms, popular music, hungarian, greek, Caribbean, american, british, arabic, jewish, calypso, jazz, soundtrack, country, ballad, rembetika, blues, childrens’

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dusty, unclean, dirty, unmixed, unmastered, surface noise, decay, reactivation

original shellac discs
collected Jafo, Tel-Aviv, Israel. Autumn 2010

by sainsŵn and 612 D.J’s

for Mathilda