Historically Informed Soundscape: Mediating Past and Present
D. Linda Pearse
Imagine for a moment that we engage with early-music manuscripts only through inspection of the musical text, without any attempt to perform it. Imagine again that musicians who perform early music made no attempt to engage with the historical context and performance practice of the past. It is mind-boggling to consider what we would miss if we did not make these attempts through performative artistic research. Can we engage with auditory culture over time by using methods from early-music performance practice to create soundscape? Will the process and product of creating a historically informed soundscape provoke new conversations and generate a new type of knowledge to engage both scholars of auditory culture and audiences? We want to complement scholarly narratives that seek to better understand the sounds of the past beyond music itself by borrowing methods and models from early-music performance and adapting them to create historically informed soundscape.
Recapturing the sounds and sonic experiences of the hunter-gatherers at Ajvide, Gotland, Sweden (3200‒2300 cal BC)
The rich and well-preserved osteological material from the archaeological complex of Ajvide, Gotland (3200‒2300 cal BC), provides favorable conditions for studying prehistoric sounds and soundscapes. Archaeological excavations at the site have uncovered tubular bone artifacts and concentrations of animal tooth pendants that resemble whistles and rattles, the earliest types of sound instruments. The remains of hunted animals, such as seals, boars, dogs and birds, provide a lively picture of the species that were present in the environment. This article aims to evoke the sonic experiences of the people utilizing the site of Ajvide and explore how these hunter-gatherers constructed and responded to their sonic environment. The results of the osteological, organological and soundscape analyses are presented in the form of a scholarly text, samples of studio and field recordings, and a soundtrack that fuses the results together into a nine-minute piece of sound art.
Managing the Sonic Environment: Ambient Noise, Creativity and the Regime of Ubiquitous Work
In contemporary neoliberal capitalism, sound is increasingly employed to modulate the affective tonalities of environments and, as a result, attune bodies to everyday habitual regimes of conduct. In this paper, I argue that comprehending this new mode of sonic governance requires going beyond cultural theories that approach politics in terms of a symbolic struggle over meaning. Instead, I attempt to analyze Coffitivity – a web service that transmits recordings of ambient noise from coffee shops in order to boost the creative capabilities of workers – according to posthegemonic theory, positing it as a sonic apparatus designed to modulate the affective environment in such a way as to habituate the distributed multitude into a regime of ubiquitous work. Consequently, I claim that posthegemonic analysis can provide insights into the potential of sound to immanently modulate the field of embodied interactions, thereby contributing to the development of new techniques of power in contemporary neoliberal capitalism.
The Relationality of the Adhaan: A Reading of the Islamic Call to Prayer Through Adriana Cavarero’s Philosophy of Vocal Expression
The Call to Prayer, the Adhaan, is one of the most instantly recognizable Islamic sounds that we might hear in our soundscape today. For Muslims, the Adhaan is a specific call to notify the Islamic community that the time for prayer has arrived. For those who are not trained to respond to it religiously, the experience of listening to the Adhaan can trigger the formation of different interpretations, sometimes in hostile ways, from its original intent. This paper looks at the Adhaan from the perspective of sound and suggests that the voice of the Mu’adhin, who calls for prayer, carries with it the possibility to be perceived in manifold ways. Through the sound of the human voice and its pervasive nature, the Adhaan carries its original message, fusing it with new meanings, and announces it in a way unique to the voice. Guided by philosopher Ariana Cavarero’s conception of the voice and referencing situations in The United States of America where the Adhaan was at the center of controversy, this paper approaches the Adhaan with a focus on the sound of the voice and the relations that it fosters both intentionally and unintentionally.
The Secret Theatre Revisited: Eavesdropping on Locative Media Performances
With the proliferation of the iPod and related audio mobile technologies in our daily experiences, Shuhei Hosokawa’s “The Walkman Effect” (1984) gains new significance. While exploring the locative aspects of these technologies for media art, I elaborate on Hosokawa’s idea of a “secret theatre” by paralleling it to some compelling concepts in audio (culture) studies, such as Michael Bull’s “auditized looking,” Elisabeth Weis’ “écouterism,” Denis Hollier/Jean Paul Sartre’s “auditory gaze,” and Steven Connor’s “modern auditory I.” As case studies, I focus on three performative audio walks that all took place in train stations around 2012-2013: Janet Cardiff’s Alter Bahnhof, Dries Verhoeven’s Niemandsland, and Judith Hoffland’s Like Me. Each in their own right reconfigures the urban experience by means of locative features and interactive relations with their environments. These art works help to see Hosokawa’s “secret theatre” in a new light of highly individualized yet relational aesthetic experiences that open our ears and eyes to an outside social context and reality rather than shut them off.