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

Exhibition: 29 May – 3 June 2015
Symposium: Sound and the Urban Environment, Tuesday 2 June 6 – 8pm

Sonic, Digital, Public Spaces: NetPark
Dr Frauke Behrendt discusses how sound and the digital occupy public spaces, drawing form her work developing the digital sculpture park NetPark, she highlights some of the issues of community and collective experience within a digital age.

Speaker: Dr Frauke Behrendt, University of Brighton
www.metalculture.com/projects/netpark/

The Nexus of Soundscape, Art, and Social Action
‘We must hear the acoustic environment as a musical composition and own responsibility for its composition.’ (R Murray Schafer, The Soundscape and the Tuning of the World)

Speakers: Lisa Lavia , Managing Director, Noise Abatement Society
Dr Harry Witchel Discipline Leader in Physiology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Urban Acoustic Cartography: Sound mapping as a tool for participatory urban analysis and pedagogy.

Mapping Sound Maps
Sound mapping practices and projects have proliferated around the world in recent years. They offer a critical alternative to the emphasis on noise and noise pollution in current policy, scholarship and practice. Their multivalent character suggests new insights across disciplines: the study of urban sound; practices of (collaborative) sound art; sound in architectural and urban design practice; urban pedagogy and urban data and policy work.

Speaker: Conor McCafferty is a researcher based in Belfast. He is currently pursuing a PhD titled The Acoustic Mapping of Cities, with the Recomposing the City research group at Queen’s University Belfast led by Dr. Sarah Lappin and Dr. Gascia Ouzounian. Prior to commencing his PhD, Conor worked for six years with PLACE, a not for-profit architecture centre based in Belfast. https://twitter.com/comccaff

The Socialisation of Sound
Looking to place sound within an urban social context, framing and contextualising it as an important part of research on space, place and spatial practices. The study of audio cultures, noise cultures, and the soundscape are explored in very different fields of research with very little overlap: ethnomusicology, communications, history and the physical sciences. These all explore sound within society but in very different ways. The result is that while there is a large field of research into sound, there is often a separation between sound as a physical and scientific object and the social meaning of sound. This talk examines a project, which mapped the soundscape of The Smithfield area of Dublin city (an urban regenerated space) over four years with 84 teenagers, 5 older adults and through a series of auto-ethnographic walks. It presents some key findings from this study.

Speaker: Dr Linda O Keeffe, Lecturer in Sound Studies, Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Art Lancaster University Editor of the Interference Journal, Vice president of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association

Zone of Tranquil Access
Discusses city planning and soundscape that orientates patterns of life, rather than the fabric of buildings. The Zones of Tranquility are discussed in relation to the sonic environment around the river Taff on its journey through Cardiff, where the project is currently being developed. Civic engagement is at three levels: participants, local
inhabitants, and the public. The participants become custodians of stretches of river. Their initial activity is to map the “zone of tranquil access” along the river, to which pedestrian access extends, and within which their minds are able to listen attentively without being crowded out by too much sound. They plot the zone’s properties onto a device called a “listening wheel” and onto a river map. The participants then shift their focus of listening to conversations with locals about the zone, its value to them, the sonic habitats that give rise to it, and their ecological health. The wheel and map, scaled up to fill a hall and mounted on tables, allow participants and locals to share their findings with one another. They become iconic features around which participants can engage the public about ideas for change.

Glenn Davidson, Artstation
Mike Fedeski, Welsh School of Architecture

Listening Times
1200 1500 Melissa Deerson (Australia) Dawn Chorus: Notes from a Stationary Expedition 7’08” Stereo
1207 1507 Eduardo Brantes (Portugal) Two in Transit 7’
1214 1514 Danny Bright (UK) Ghosting Ruin 18’ 6 channel
1233 1533 Kevin Logan (UK) De Zwaan 14’31”
1247 1547 Joseph Young (UK) 6 Families of Noise 18’
1304 1604 bunú (Northern Ireland, Aidan Deery and Matilde Meireles) Correspondence (Transition #2) 13’32”
1317 1617 Gleeson/ Taylor (Ireland/ UK) up flow of air 6 channel 8’00”
1325 1625 Jesse Doyle & Leo Marcus (UK) Sound, or the Lack Thereof
1335 1635 Leona Jones (UK) On Edge 5’04” stereo
1340 1640 Johannah Hallsten (Sweden) The Onlookers Doubt 6 channel audio, 9’08”
1349 1649 Sindhu Thirumalaisamy (India) Composition for Temple Speakers
1404 1704 Christopher DeLaurenti (USA) Mardi Gras 3’00” stereo
1407 1707 Paula Garcia Stone (Spain) Nunhead: From Dusk to Dawn 12’
1419 1719 Laura Cooper (UK) A Hunt 5‘
1424 1724 Linda O’Keefe (Ireland) Mays song 7’00” & Sara’s song 6’30” stereo
1438 1738 Ingrid Plum (Denmark / UK) The Lightship 3’33” stereo
1442 1742 Mari Ohno (Japan) Floating Sounds 9’05”
1452 1752 Mari Ohno (Japan) Speaking Clock 8’20”

OA#1: LISTENING AND MAPPING THE SONIC.
PLURALITY AND WAYFARING: WRITING THE OPENSOUND PROJECT

J. Milo Taylor, Carlos Alves, Xabier Erkizia, Julien Ottavi, Wajid Yaseen

OA1

http://journal.sonicstudies.org/

This issue of the Journal is focused upon the emerging epistemologies, methodologies and ontologies of sound studies.

Contributors: Holger Schulze, Barry Truax, Katharine Norman, J Milo Taylor, Marinos Koutsomichalis, Axel Volmar, Florian Hollerweger, Michelle Lewis-King, Maarten Walraven, Walter Gershon, and Justin Patch.

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.

Abstract
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.

Noisecleaning-Finals-1-and-2

Noisecleaning-Finals-3-and-4

Noisecleaning-Finals-5-and-6

Noisecleaning-Finals-7-and-8

Article

with Dirk Specht and George Brock-Nannestad

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.










Hans W. Koch
Christian Skødt
Zsolt Sorés Ahad




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