Posted in Project

Noises | Signals. Sounds shifting between figure and ground

noises_signals_titlenoises| 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.

Listen now to Birth of a Sound, Field Recordings Fast & Furious, Consonance or Competition, Printing Sound, Library, Station, The Ways of Water, or Traffic.

The_rolling_mills_at_bay_view_milwaukee_1882_AUSSCHN_MITTEL

Continue reading “Noises | Signals. Sounds shifting between figure and ground”

Posted in Composition, Presentation

›Background Noise‹. Field Recordings and Ethnography

Background Noise

›[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)

noiseToday, 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‹?

Continue reading “›Background Noise‹. Field Recordings and Ethnography”

Posted in Critique, Report

A soundscape remodelled

Urban square Nauener Platz in Berlin was recently remodelled and reconstructed by urban planners and acousticians in order to improve its ambiance – with special regard to its sonic properties. One of the outcomes of this project is a middle-sized noise barrier (gabion wall) reducing the crossroads’ traffic noise on the playground by 3 dB.

Nauener Platz playground with noise barrierNauener Platz playground with noise barrier (gabion wall)

Following a distinct ›soundscape approach‹, acoustician Prof. Dr. Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp and her colleagues at Technische Universität Berlin not only took measurements and calculated noise contour maps. They also conducted ›soundwalks‹ and even invited local residents to participate in the planning process. In the end, local residents required more pleasant sounds at Nauener Platz.

Sound devices installed on Nauener Platz

In respondance, several ›audio islands‹ were installed: today’s visitors of Nauener Platz are supposed to sit down on ›ear benches‹ with integrated speakers to listen to ocean surf or birdsong (sound devices by Barbara Willecke, sound files by Konstantin Dudel). Continue reading “A soundscape remodelled”

Posted in Report

R. Murray Schafer’s ear cleaning game at The Global Composition 2012

The Global Composition Header›Considering the world’s objects as instruments, its inhabitants as their players and all sounds on the globe taking place simultaneously, leads to the imagination of a global composition. Any audible phenomenon is part of this huge ongoing concert which includes all living beings and unites them in – mostly unintentional and uncoordinated – collaboration.‹ (The Global Composition)

With ›The Soundscape‹, published in 1977, R. Murray Schafer inspired this idea of a global composition. At the correspondent Conference on Sound, Media and the Environment in Darmstadt-Dieburg in July this year, Schafer opened the meeting with an introductory lecture, including a sample of his so-called ear cleaning games.

R. Murray Schafer at Darmstadt-Dieburg, 2012R. Murray Schafer at The Global Composition 2012

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Posted in Workshop

›Talk about the walk‹. Kathrin Wildner’s soundwalk at the Tempelhof Field

In June 2010 I participated in a soundwalk conducted by Kathrin Wildner, an urban ethnographer reknown for her research in Mexico City and Istanbul. In Berlin, we were taking a walk at Oderstraße along the line of the fence which encloses the former Tempelhof airport. We asked ourselves if the fence may act as a sonic border and what – in general – a border sounds like.

Map of the Tempelhof fieldIn the meantime, the airport had been opened to the public which slightly shifted the focus of our inquiry towards the massive change of the soundscape in this area. Surprisingly, the Tempelhof Field today makes up an area of quietness in the middle of Berlin. Continue reading “›Talk about the walk‹. Kathrin Wildner’s soundwalk at the Tempelhof Field”

Posted in Field Recording, Report

Wake vortex after airplane flyover

Here is an excerpt from a field recording that I took at Berlin Tegel Airport in June 2011, standing next to the Western airport fence where the airplanes fly over landing (if there is easterly wind).

The sound of the airplane is quite intense. However, the crucial part of this recording starts at 50 seconds: closely following the direct noise of the airplane you can hear the subtle sound of the wake vortex (or: wing tip vortex, which is a trail of turbulent air behind an airplane). Continue reading “Wake vortex after airplane flyover”