The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 16) 10.45hrs | Jana Phillips | “Sonic Postcards” & Adam Proctor: “See Hear Inverurie”

Both of these projects, in their own ways, offer a different perspective on contemporary sound art practice. They operate less along the lines of the modernist artist, or of creative collaboration with agents of capital, but are centred upon the educational and community benefits to be gained from a creative engagement with sound.

In one example of the SonicPostcards project, the Sonic Arts Network team went into Downham special School. Activities included drawing sound maps, drawing environmental sounds and students being encouraged to keep a sound diary. The project is explicitly driven by debate and discussion, with technology being deliberately kept in the background as a facilitating, but potentially distracting, conduit for the exchange of ideas between the visiting artists and the students.

Adam Proctor presenting directly after the SAN has been working on a sound project in the nearby town of Inverie. The aim of the piece was to explore the identity of young people within their environment, and for them to experience everyday sounds from a different perspective.

Proctor articulates a desire to move these types of activity into mainstream education, as he has proposes that creative sound projects can help ‘marginalised’ groups and individuals reengage with learning on a wider level.

—- get more specifics.

— discussion – funding sources for sound art

— proof for his claims? Is he arguing this to secure finance for his organisation?

Jana Phillips, “Sonic Postcards: A consideration of the interdisciplinary and artistic possibilities of a school-based sound education project”


& Adam Proctor “See Hear Inverurie”


Both of these projects, in their own ways, offer a different perspective on contemporary sound art practice. They operate less along the lines of the modernist artist, or of creative collaboration with agents of capital, but are centred upon the educational and community benefits to be gained from a creative engagement with sound.


In one example of the SonicPostcards project, the Sonic Arts Network team went into Downham special School. Activities included drawing sound maps, drawing environmental sounds and students being encouraged to keep a sound diary. The project is explicitly driven by debate and discussion, with technology being deliberately kept in the background as a facilitating, but potentially distracting, conduit for the exchange of ideas between the visiting artists and the students.


Adam Proctor presenting directly after the SAN has been working on a sound project in the nearby town of Inverie. The aim of the piece was to explore the identity of young people within their environment, and for them to experience everyday sounds from a different perspective.


Proctor articulates a desire to move these types of activity into mainstream education, as he has proposes that creative sound projects can help ‘marginalised’ groups and individuals reengage with learning on a wider level.


—- get more specifics.


— discussion – funding sources for sound art


— proof for his claims? Is he arguing this to secure finance for his organisation?

Jana Phillips, “Sonic Postcards: A consideration of the interdisciplinary and artistic possibilities of a school-based sound education project”

& Adam Proctor “See Hear Inverurie”

Both of these projects, in their own ways, offer a different perspective on contemporary sound art practice. They operate less along the lines of the modernist artist, or of creative collaboration with agents of capital, but are centred upon the educational and community benefits to be gained from a creative engagement with sound.

In one example of the SonicPostcards project, the Sonic Arts Network team went into Downham special School. Activities included drawing sound maps, drawing environmental sounds and students being encouraged to keep a sound diary. The project is explicitly driven by debate and discussion, with technology being deliberately kept in the background as a facilitating, but potentially distracting, conduit for the exchange of ideas between the visiting artists and the students.

Adam Proctor presenting directly after the SAN has been working on a sound project in the nearby town of Inverie. The aim of the piece was to explore the identity of young people within their environment, and for them to experience everyday sounds from a different perspective.

Proctor articulates a desire to move these types of activity into mainstream education, as he has proposes that creative sound projects can help ‘marginalised’ groups and individuals reengage with learning on a wider level.

—- get more specifics.

— discussion – funding sources for sound art

— proof for his claims? Is he arguing this to secure finance for his organisation?

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 15): 10.00hrs | Dugal McKinnon | Spectral Memories. The Aesthetics of the Record


Adorno, The form of the Phonographic Record.

Time-binding – changing sounding flow into object.

‘The Intractable Recording’

playback > > Thomas Edison “Mary had a Little Lamb” (19xx)

‘The Veridical’ – ‘an empirical document outside of reality, with an aura of truth’. We read this to be true though this may not be the case.

playback > > Chris Watson “Ol-Olool-Ol” (2003)

‘Voice and Verity’ – transparency and opaqueness.

playback > > John Cousins “Sleep Exposure” (1979)

The Edison track erroneously plays.

‘Authenticity and the Real’ – ethnographic truths. It is not possible to record folk songs on paper”

playback > > Berio “Naturale” (1985)

‘The Analytical Recording’ – records are photographs of their owners.

‘The Spectral Recording’

‘Spectres & Affect’

‘Coda’ – ‘sonaisance’


The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 14): Owen Green “More Than ‘Just a Hammer’: Critical Techniques in Electroacoustic Practice”

Lecture Theatre, MacRoberts Building, Uni.of Aberdeen.

“There’s feedback going on throughout the system…”.

“…both internal and external…”

“…Sound is the interface…”

“…a heretical use of technology. Less problem solving and more problem raising.”

“…it cannot be controlled, and can only be interacted with”.

“the relation of technology to sound artists is interesting from an anthropological perspective”.

“…using technology for critical discourse on a technological world”.

“How do artists engage with technology on a day to day basis?”

“Compare this to acoustic instruments. The search for extended techniques is emblematic of the creative spirit. The desire to subvert design”.

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 13): Bill Thompson and Patrick Keenan – Improvised Performance

“I’m Bill Thompson, we’re going to start”.

Owww. Sine tone

Like vinyl noise.

Like vinyl noise.

High sine tone.

Like vinyl tone. Higher in the mix. More defined.

Source = water? Fire?
Pop.         Pop       Pop…       crackle


The footsteps of latecomers.

Skrayp of chair.

1  2  3, 1  2  3, 1  2, 1  2, 1  2  3, 1  2  3  4

Mid-low percussion kicks.

I close my eyes and wait for something to write.

Any number of images come into my mind.

The first being a view of the ocean today during a soundwalk.

Cold wind, ocean surf, ships in the middle distance. What does this have to do with these sounds?

Hi hi static sine tones, with slight beating.

Low register bass tones. Beating more noticeable.

Thompson pulls out a contact mic and battery powered fan. It makes a sound.

Beating pulse tones continue.

Cough from two seats to my left.

I look at the clock.

A lo to mid bass texture comes into the mix.

I am experiencing some in ear soundings.

A deeper bass texture increases its presence. Pulsing, pulsating.

Hi frequencies are now clearly sounding in my ears.

Not unpleasant. Not pleasant. What then?

A bass texture, pulsating comes into the foreground.

In ear tones continue. Maybe one of the extractor fans from the Heathrow smokers’ area have spawned a cartoon monster offspring that has tracked me here?

The sound of oars? Running stream water.

I am now inside the sound. Or rather, it is now inside of me.

Everything disappears other than pulsing pure tones.

As I move my head, so the effect changes. Hmmm…

The same tone that began the piece is still there.

I am sitting much closer to the left speaker than to the right. Am I missing something?

People seem much more comfortable and attentive to this than the last performance. Is this due to Thompson turning on a toy disco light? There is something strangely focusing about the banal play of light from yellow, to green to orange, to red to yellow to…

The threshold has fallen.

Low bass hum. Gentle.

In ear tones continue at a much more comfortable level.

Mid tone.

Click,                     glitch.

Glitch. Click.

Click, click, clik-clik, click, click, clik- clik.

Male voice (whispered) “This is shite.” (Scottish accent)
Near silence.


Lights up.

“Lots more tomorrow.”

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 12): Keith Rowe, Rajesh Mehta, and Rohan de Saram Improvised Performance

| Concert Hall |

Keith Rowe, Rajesh Mehta, and Rohan de Saram Improvised Performance

Cello Sound Check.

Trumpet Sound Check.

Rowe sitting behind his table of objects.

Web Streaming team are set up in the corner.

“…there was one time when someone turned up at the end of the night, and at the end of the concert, just helped us pack up…”


“…one or two really belligerent people… I don’t need that anymore.”

“We’d like to welcome Keith Rowe, Rajesh Mehta, and Rohand de Saran…”

Lights are switched off.

Near silence. Some air conditioning.

The performance begins.
Cello harmonics.

Rowe emits whooshy electromagnetic washes.

Psst. Pssssst


Muted trumpet. Closed to open.

The sound is a mixture of acoustic sounds and amplified sounds from two huge Genelec monitor speakers.

Crack, snickle, from Rowe. Joggle pickup up.

K – K DOnk. Fiddle Fiffle Ckik.

Trumpet slide – the trompet? Muted like wah-wah.

Crackle – crackle…glitch

Cello – lo lo drone

A sound like wind from Rowe. A battery powered fan like a mini distorted helicopter.

Hybrid trumpet – opening frequencies.

Volume threshold increase.

Funereal cello.

There is some slight interest in the contrast between Rowe’s knob twiddling and consumer noiseplay with the meditative cello and the experimentally tubed bugle boy.
Bab bab bab. Trumpet as Drumpet.

Crackle creatures from the guitar neck. A slight pumping of a volume pedal.

Trumpet like passing propeller.

Cello pushing quavers, suggesting a chase sequence?

Rowe tunes into the communication ether. Radio static between the units in pursuit.

An insect buzzes against the hot-hot windscreen.

The trumpet helicopter passes overhead.

Disembodied voices demand guidance.

“Where is Bernhard?”

Fade to Super-8 noize of a summer field.

Flicker, flicker, white out of summer sun.

The bleeding body lies under summer heat.
Exposed nerve endings twitching in white more heat.

So cold.

Subject through teared up eyes.

Brain stem exposed to gentle breeze.

Where is he? What happened?

Fizz. Fizz. Distant sirens / sirens close.

I don’t know.

Twitch. Twitch. Raw electricity




Help me.

Christ, please help me. I think I’m dying.

Ga goo – goo. I’m becoming a baby.

Snatches of piano lessons in the drawing room.

Comical toy trumpets.

Fratured melodies. I’m sure I know this song.
Materd Frelod. I’m sure I’m now this song.
Actref olemsidi. I’m ss.s I.s

Gentle warm.
Am I being moved?
Something is moving against my skin.

Near silence.

A pop.
A click.
A buzz.

A laugh from the audience.
A snigger.

A continued buzz in the Genelecs.

Pockle. Pockle.

High Harmonic. A call for attention.

A squiggle of new life.
Is this the sound of life?

A background pulse of theme begins.


The universe opens out to me.

High harmonic. A call to life.

Quick cut back into the darkened and quietened theatre space.

A trumpet with tubing and a lighting frame attached is sounding a high harmonic.

The cello responds.
Rowe – alone with his broken noises bzzzzzzzzz.

The battery powered fan brushes against pickups or strings.
Increase in volume threshold, from what was approaching near silence.

Strange subtones and solar winds.

Ba – da  da   dah  dab a dah – cello

Scrunch – scrunh

Buzzbell overtone from Rowe.

Hysterical cello fingers.

Now a calm drone.

Glitch   glitch.

I am reminded of nothing.

Trumpet swell and cello insects.

Cello glissando.

Small sine type wave.

Squiggly glic glic from Rowe.

Small sine wave meets bass tubed trumpet.

Buzzbell undertone.

Harmonic overtone series from cello.

Wahh whaa. Baby cry from trumpet.

Cello bass drone.

Rowe turns something on.

He picks something up. Skrayp.

I wonder when he’ll use his electric toothbrush.

Tap tap.

Cello low harmonics.

Muted trumpet suggests a higher place.

Crackle crackle schwa schwa.

Bik-bik  bik.

The trumpet is sad.

Ooo-ooo- wh. So is the cello.

“Hello”, it says, “Can you make me laugh?”
The musicians stand defeated.

Rowe’s machines continue to sound.

The cello adds a comment, “but…but…but, I am too”.

Rowe’s toy helicopters are ready to napalm the guitar fields.

The cello plays a death song.

A trumpet spatial sweep marks bass feedback swells.

Rowe: scribble scribble scratch. He appears to be fixing an old timepiece, being cooled in his garden shed by a 99p battery powered fan. Oblivious to all around him.

The cello plays a death song.

Many in the audience have their eyes closed. Beautific. Some look incredulous. Others look around as I do.

The artists continue to fumble around, in search of what, I neither know nor care.

An attractive space though, and some pretty comfy chairs.

Apart from air conditioning; silence.

A cough.

Some shuffling.

Rowe looks up.

The artists smile.
The audience applauds.
The artists stand awkward.
The applause ends.

Thompson : “That’s fine”.

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 11) The World of Xenakis: Nouritza Mattosian and Rohan de Saram

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.

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 8) David Prior | Soundwalking as a Research Tool

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.

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 6) Jerome Hansen, “Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance Matmos): Sonic and visual arts connected through the artist’s workspace.”

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.

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 5) 18.45hrs | Christina Kubisch “A Personal History of Sound Art 1976-2006”

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.

|—-| |—-| |—-| |—-| |—-| |—-| |—-| |—-|

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

The Blurred Compilation Album (Track 4) 18.00hrs | Lecture Theatre, MacRobert Building. Uni. of Aberdeen

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.