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Oilfield in Bibi Heybat, Azerbaijan
Workshop ›Listening to the Environment‹
Peter Cusack, University of the Arts, London
Wednesday, Nov 9, 3:00-7:00 pm, ZeM – Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften, Potsdam
As an introduction Peter Cusack will give an overview of his work in field recording and environmental sound, in particular the project Sounds from Dangerous Places that asks the question, ›What can we learn of damaged places, like the Chernobyl exclusion zone, by listening to their sounds?‹
February 5, 2016 marks 100 years since the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and thus the beginning of Dada. To mark the occasion, Cities and Memory: Dada Sounds applies the techniques and practices of Dada to field recordings from around the world.
I also contributed one field recording and its corresponding Dadaist remix …according to Tristan Tzara’s method How to Make a Dadaist Poem.
Explore more Dada Sounds at Cities and Memory.
noises| signals is a sonic research project on signal and noise in the acoustic environment.
For the most part, scientific results are represented in abstract terms–like text, data or diagrams. In contrast, the course »Field Recordings« experimented with sound recordings as alternative media for research and representation. Drawing on Murray Schafer’s »soundscape«–with respect to more recent paradigms from sound studies and ethnography–students of European Media Studies investigated all the differing local qualities and features of the sonic environment, and compiled a corpus of »sonic documents«. The recordings were analysed and arranged to form a »sonic research report«, which keeps record both of the research process in the field as well as the characteristics of sound recordings as representational media in general.
Sonic Places is a research project on the acoustic properties of different places. Students investigated and kept records of several sonic microcosms in and around Potsdam or Berlin. These materials have been further developed into a series of compositions, a corpus of »field studies« that can be listened to.
Photograph by Miss Mussel
Who is, indeed? Both a fervid apology of and a furious pamphlet for Murray Schafer, written by James Wyness last year. Still groovy!
It has become fashionable in some sound and new music quarters to sneer and snipe at R. Murray Schafer and his ideas on the soundscape. In particular I’ve noticed that the ideas set forth in Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World come under attack for being nostalgic, romantic (without defining what this means), idealist, utopian – the list goes on. Of course the detractors rarely come up with any positive ideas themselves. And no I’m not going to name names – that’s for the reader to discover. The critics, if I may dignify them with such a title, range from academics seeking to distinguish their own second-hand ideas to the composer who seeks to validate his or her compositional aesthetic. Personally I doubt if many of the snipers have actually taken time to read the book from cover to cover. I confess openly that after years of taking for granted the…
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›[The] visualist bias has dramatically influenced the way in which anthropology itself has evolved. Thus, one emergent and potentially very important aid to the refocusing of the discipline lies in attending to kinds of knowledge that have proved resistant to being coded in graphic or visual ways.‹ (Michael Herzfeld on the future of anthropology; Herzfeld 2002, 245)
Today, there is an increasing concern for the senses in the humanities. Some even venture to proclaim a ›sensory turn‹. In cultural anthropology, a greater awareness for sensory phenomena and embodied subjectivities, for materiality and atmospheres is reflected in approaches such as an ›anthropology of the senses‹ (Howes 1991) or a ›sensory ethnography‹ (Pink 2009). However, in today’s academic practice many scholars still appear to be utterly reluctant to go beyond text, images, or diagrams as a means of communicating knowledge–even when presenting research on the human sensoriality.
Now ›Cultures of Auditory Knowledge–Knowledge of Auditory Praxis‹, an interdisciplinary conference held at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and the Karl Franzens University of Graz in June 2014, offered just the right setting to address and, indeed, transgress these representational conventions within an academic context. With a paper on ›Soundscapes and Ethnography. Field Recordings within Urban Studies‹ I did not try to construct another theory on sound in the city. Rather, I aimed to allow for some first-hand experiences, or at least to provide some ›sensory material‹ by presenting a composed sequence of recordings from the field.
Listening to this sound sample is an experiment you can partake of: Can these recordings actually convey a ›sense of place‹ (Feld/Basso 2009)? Do they reveal something about the people living here, about the atmosphere and mood of this particular ›sonic lifeworld‹?