Nadine SCHÜTZ (((Echora))) | CH / FR |




ECHOTECTURE, ECHOSOPHY: Considerations on the relationship between ephemeral and permanent elements of spatial presence based on the timeless fascination of an acoustic landscape phenomenon.




Long before architectural acoustics has formalized reverberation, in his posthumously published Elysium Britannicum, the 17th century English author and garden architect John Evelyn had recommended human vocal measurement as the fundamental technique to understand the "wonderful doctrine of Echosophy," and to conquer a new professional field, the "Echotect." The work of an Echotect as imagined by Evelyn, pairing mathematical and physical evaluation of acoustic function with in situ observations and attendant emotional experience, demonstrates holistic thinking which applies not only to human communication and performance but also to environmental sounds of various origins. The echo is probably the acoustic phenomenon most commonly appreciated and considered as a landscape feature throughout epochs and cultures, even though in very different ways. The fascination spans from the echo as an indicator for the determination of spiritual places in prehistoric cultures personified as a mountain nymph in Greek and Roman mythology, as a primary term in Vitruvius's categorization of acoustic spatial properties, appreciated for enhancing the meditative effect when walking through the peristyle halls of medieval monastery gardens, reproduced in the form of modern garden attractions, up to a recent Swiss smartphone app proposing a participatory online echo archive. In this paper, this thematic echo history introduces a broader ontological questioning of the persistence of the fascination echo, which ultimately leads to the central thesis: an "echosophical" examination of the conditions for the perception of acoustic spatial properties challenges the still commonly passive understanding of ambiance and atmosphere and develops it towards an animate notion of indwelling. The study of these properties that are incorporated into the assumedly stable built environment but only become audible when they are stimulated by transitory sounds conveys a perhaps new approach to the understanding of spatial presence, which combines ephemerality and permanence and might reach out beyond the auditory realm. Deploying this thesis not only theoretically but also artistically, the paper includes a concrete project example, the work on the square of La Défense, through which I explore designing and composing with echoes or acoustic room signatures, in collaboration with IRCAM. With its origins in an actual planning process, this project also experiments on how echotectonic work with ambient sounds and acoustic room signatures can "indwell" larger landscape, architectural, and urban contexts. "Plage de la Défense #1-2," extracts from a series of acousmatic compositions resulting from that project, is submitted for being presented amongst the sound works in this symposium.


Nadine Schütz (((Echora))), Dr. sc. ETH, landscape acoustician and sound artist, born in Switzerland, lives and works in Paris. Nadine Schütz presents herself as a sound architect or environmental interpreter. Drawing on both theoretical and poetic research, she explores the sonic landscape through compositions, performances, installations, and atmospheres that relate space and listening, nature and music, urbanity, and humanity. Her work has been presented in Zurich, Paris, Venice, Naples, New York, Moscow, Tokyo, and Kyoto. Among her current projects for permanent sound installations in public space, the Acoustic Niches for the forecourt of the TGI in Paris, Elementary Instruments for a new urban crossing over the rail tracks in Saint-Denis, and Jardins Amplifiés for the athlete's village of the 2024 Olympic games in Paris. For four years she headed the multimedia laboratory of the Landscape Institute at ETH Zurich, where she installed a new studio for the spatial simulation of sonic landscapes, during her Ph.D. Cultivating Sound was finalized in 2017. She has taught at various architecture and art schools in Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Austria, and Japan. Currently, she is a lecturer for Landscape Acoustics at ETH Zurich and artist in residence at IRCAM at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.