TOUCHING AS LISTENING: PULSE PROJECT
Pulse Project (2011 - ) is a performance series exploring the social interfaces between self and other, art and science, contemporary western music composition and traditional Chinese medicine. This performance-study series aims to interrogate the axioms that underpin contemporary medicine and digital technology through the exploration of its corollary “other” - traditional Chinese medicine and music theory - in order to generate a new approach to embodiment and soundscape composition.
RESOUNDING SCIENCE: A SONIC ETHNOGRAPHY OF AN URBAN FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM
This sonic ethnography represents two years in an ongoing study in which urban elementary and middle grades students wrote songs about the science content they learned. Originally designed to examine whether processes of songwriting might help bridge race and gender gaps in science education for city kids, over time, this project has become what participating teachers and I refer to as “listening to the sounds of science,” a change that underscores the variety of sounds, ideas and ideals, and ways of knowing and being of the daily life of classrooms. Specifically, this piece focuses on two years in an urban fifth grade classroom. Here, the text supports the sounded portion of the piece, providing contextual information about process and participants. As such, this piece provides an opportunity to listen to how often marginalized students make sense, understandings, and experiences that are at once epistemological, ontological, and sensorial.
FROM EPISTEMOLOGY TO CREATIVITY: A PERSONAL VIEW
An epistemological model of sound is proposed involving information derived from the inner structure of sound as interpreted by the listener’s contextual knowledge. In the author’s soundscape compositions, the sound material is elaborated using contemporary digital signal processing techniques, while maintaining listener recognizability, and the structure of the work and its narrative are guided by the composer’s contextual knowledge of the real world.
OA#1: LISTENING AND MAPPING THE SONIC. PLURALITY AND WAYFARING: WRITING THE OPENSOUND PROJECT
J. Milo Taylor
Wayfaring, I believe, is the most fundamental mode by which living beings, both human and non-human, inhabit the earth. By habitation I do not mean taking one’s place in a world that has been prepared in advance for the populations that arrive to reside there. The inhabitant is rather one who participates from within in the very process of the world’s continual coming into being and who, in laying a trail of life, contributes to its weave and texture. (Ingold 2007: 81)
ADVENTURES IN SONIC FICTION: A HEURISTIC FOR SOUND STUDIES
This article presents Kodwo Eshun's concept of sonic fiction as an advanced and adequate methodological approach to sound studies. The references of More Brilliant Than The Sun (Eshun 1998) to afrofuturism and their methodological elaboration in Steve Goodman's Sonic Warfare (Goodman 2010) are discussed – as well as the strong epistemological connections to Michel Serres' reflections in his anthropology of the senses. Finally, this article explores the historical ramifications of the concept of sonic fictions in Alexander Baumgarten's concept of an aesthetic heuristic and ends with an enumeration of ten criteria for the methodological application of sonic fiction.
CAUGHT IN THE CURRENT: WRITING ETHNOGRAPHY THAT LISTENS
In Listening (2002) Jean-Luc Nancy proposes a philosophy that listens, one that does not arrive at static, definitive conclusions but continuously resonates and remains open. This essay conceptualizes an ethnography that listens by putting Nancy’s thinking into play with texts that philosophically critique writing from different angles. By examining concepts of voice, speaking, the author, listening, and open work within writing practices, a polyvocal, nomadic concept of writing that listens emerges and points in many potential directions. One line of flight leads to ethnography, where the conflicts inherent in textualizing human representation continue to be examined and experimented with. In the second half of this essay, I propose one of many possible approaches to an ethnography that listens: ethnography of spin. In conscientiously, honestly, and openly writing the experience of getting spun – an integral part of mediated everyday experience in modernity – we offer texts that listen, resonate, echo, and can be transformed, remixed and re-mastered.
AUDITORY SITUATIONS: NOTES FROM NOWHERE
As an increasingly migratory being, a wandering listener interacts with various places he/she traverses in fleeting and transitory ways, considering them as spatio-temporally evolving but gradually disorienting auditory situations. Instead of locating the source identities of sounds, the listener may relate to these situations through thought processes generated by means of a subjective perception of the various sonic phenomena occurring at these places. This essay describes an on-going project, “Doors of Nothingness,” that frames and textualizes streams of thought triggered by presence in certain immersive but evanescent auditory situations. Essentially personal and contemplative in nature, the project refers to the pervasive interaction that takes place between the constantly migrating man and his contextual sonic environment beyond sound’s immediately accessible meaning. In the context of describing the project and its methodology, this essay intends to develop a discourse on sound’s problematic relationship to locating its source, arguing that situational sonic phenomena activate thought processes that transcend mere epistemic comprehension of the source identity and involve subjectivity, contemplation, poetics, and the mood of the nomadic listener.
HISTORY AND ITS ACOUSTIC CONTEXT: SILENCE, RESONANCE, ECHO AND WHERE TO FIND THEM IN THE ARCHIVE
Listening to history requires the historian to compose sonic events from the archive. This essay explores how Audible History has developed since Alain Corbin’s ground-breaking Village Bells. The listening historian has broadened the scope of social and cultural history by rearranging existing and creating new narratives. However, historians need to go beyond interrogating the earwitnesses of aural cultures. They need to listen to sounds-as-objects and the acoustic context of events. Three concepts are introduced to develop a methodology for this: 1) silence, which is the silence of the archive as well as the role silence played in history’s sonic register; 2) resonance, which demonstrates the way that resonances between people and their environment and among people created community; 3) echo, as a concept that allows for the objectification of sounds at the same time that it attends to the origins of sounds-as-objects.
STRAßENMUSIK AND EARDVERTS: PUBLIC LISTENING INTERVENTIONS AS AN ARTISTIC PRACTICE FOR ENCOURAGING AURAL AWARENESS IN AN EVERYDAY CONTEXT
This article discusses public listening interventions as an artistic research method to encourage and study aural awareness in everyday environments. I will first provide an overview of aestheticized listening practices in the sonic arts. This will be followed by a discussion of my public listening interventions Straßenmusik and EaRdverts, which I will situate within this wider context of artistic practice. From this perspective, I will adopt a sound artist’s perspective on the questions of how to study sound and enable a discourse on sonic experience. I will suggest possible contributions that sound art makes to this process.
WINDOW - AN UNDECIDED SOUND ESSAY
Window is an experiment in writing about sound, listening and environment, in a manner that deliberately subverts any sense of direction, focus or conclusion. But it is also a work of art—both scholarly and “playful”, born of indecision and from having no desire to go anywhere special. There was no preordained subject of study. Instead, the subject of study revealed itself during the making of the piece as being ordinary experience - an activity embedded in individuals rather than things - gradually explored through deliberate indirection. These notes are written to offer some extra insights into how, and why, I made this piece.
EDITORIAL: TOWARDS NEW SONIC EPISTEMOLOGIES
Brian De Palma’s famous 1981 thriller film Blow Out starts with a movie sound effects technician, Jack, who, while recording sounds for a low-budget slasher film in a wooded area near a river, serendipitously captures audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential candidate. The candidate is sitting in a car that gets a blowout; the car slips into the water, and the candidate drowns. However, listening to the audiotape he inadvertently recorded of the accident, Jack distinctly hears a gunshot just before the blowout. What appears to be an accident caused by a flat tire turns out to be an attempted murder.
SONIC FACTS FOR SOUND ARGUMENTS: MEDICINE, EXPERIMENTAL PHYSIOLOGY, AND THE AUDITORY CONSTRUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE IN THE 19TH CENTURY
This article addresses the auditory culture of science and problematizes sonic practices as epistemological practices. In order to deepen our understanding about how scientific knowledge is acquired, represented, and constructed through sound, I discuss case studies from the history of medicine and the life sciences in which sound and listening do not form the objects of scientific observation and reasoning but epistemic tools employed by scientists to produce “sound” scientific facts. First I reassess the question why physicians began to listen to the sounds of the human body in order to diagnose diseases around 1800. After that, I follow late nineteenth-century neurophysiologists who used the electric telephone to study the nervous system by transforming bioelectric currents into sounds. I argue that such acoustemic practices and technologies favorably emerge in the presence of in-visibilities, i.e. situations in which a direct visual observation or representation of the object of study is hindered or impossible. I also show that the success of these practices largely depends on whether or not it is possible to develop the sounds of science into stable frameworks of sonic facts.
ON SOUNDSCAPES, PHONOGRAPHY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SOUND ART
This paper proposes a pragmatic response to the broad philosophical question of what constitutes a soundscape and in what ways it might resonate through consciousness and perception. It also discusses phonography, criticizes its incapability to capture the essence of environmental sound, and explains how a series of artistic practices emerged and established themselves within the non-linearities of the recording-reproduction paradigm. Further, it elaborates on how sound art inaugurates new ways of perceiving, thinking about and representing soundscapes, accordingly. In this respect, several examples are discussed, including a selection of works by the author.