Five Exercises in Smelling

2020-11-23 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Five Exercises in Smelling

Can you smell that? The pandemic of the year 2020 and our collective hygienic measures against it are gradually not only transforming what one might hear, but they also alter what exactly one can smell and how one would evaluate these smells.

All of a sudden, alcoholic clouds are sweeping through all buildings open to the public. Disinfectant scents that otherwise I only knew from clinics or tattoo studios are now escorting my everyday work or leisure time. And as soon as you do smell another person’s body odor or perfume too clearly, you will immediately realize: we have fallen below the minimum distance. Danger threatens!

These days the exhibition BERLIN_LOKAL_ZEIT | PHÄNOMENOLOGIE DER PANDEMIE at the CLB BERLIN, provides a wide array of explorations of the pandemic conditions at present times, including works and performances by Sam Auinger, Ingrid Beirer, Peter Cusack, Maren Hartmann, Susanne Jaschko, katrinem, Udo Noll, Dietmar Offenhuber, Ursula Rogg, Sven Sappelt, Paul Scraton, Georg Spehr, Hannes Strobl, Linh Hoang Thuy and many others. (note: all works are presented in a form that conforms the current contact restrictions and hygienic measures; many of the works can therefore be accessed online)

For this exhibition I prepared a series of Five Exercises in Smelling (or: Fünf Riechübungen). These small, but intense smelling exercises shall provide a five-step guide to exploring this new fragrance era.

You can download them right here – and you might then perform almost all of them right now, at the place and situation where you are right now:

Holger Schulze: Five Exercises in Smelling (CLB 2020)

Holger Schulze: Fünf Riechübungen (CLB 2020)

Sonic Vignettes

2020-11-10 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Sonic Vignettes

These days we start a new series together with the great team at Norient – our absolutely preferred resource for new artists and directions in the wider contemporary area of global pop: Sonic Vignettes.

Sejma Fere: The Sound Politics of Video Calls

But – what are Sonic Vignettes?

Sonic Vignettes discuss one fragment, one experience, recording, one viral video, stream, one monograph or encounter at a time – in all its depth, its historical and affective ramifications.

With the finest expertise in sound studies provided by a range of researchers, young scholars, artists and contributors.

We start this November of 2020 with a vignette on the sound politics of videocalls. Enjoy!

Holger Schulze: Sound Politics of Videocalls

How to do Sonic Anthropology?

2020-10-26 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on How to do Sonic Anthropology?

IMG_0314v3A scribbled paper and recording devices at the Sound Studies Lab (October 28th, 2019: Salomé Voegelin and Mark Peter Wright visited Carla Maier and Melissa Van Drie).

In the fall of 2019 Salomé Voegelin and Mark Peter Wright from the reseach project Listening across Disciplines (LxD) at the CRiSAP / University of the Arts London visited us several times here in Copenhagen, at the Sound Studies Lab. They inspired us to think and talk about listening protocols (e.g. I, II, III & more to come!).

Primarily, however, our both guests focused on their fieldwork. For this purpose they followed and participated as observers in our work on the anthropology of sound. They invited us, Melissa Van Drie, Carla Maier and Holger Schulze, also to a series of longer conversations on our research practices, our methods, and our major goals in our past, present and future research. We spoke about sensory and multi-sited ethnography, about public space, sculptures, and about food. 

This wednesday, 28th of October 2020 you can listen to this fourth episode, titled Sonic Anthropology in the project’s series on ResonanceFM. Enjoy!

Job Offer: Popular Music Studies

2020-07-21 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Job Offer: Popular Music Studies

Why not join us? The section of musicology at the University of Copenhagen is looking for a new colleague (assistant professor, tenure track) in the area of popular music studies – with approaches in cultural theory, anthropology, sociology, and history equally included.

You get the chance to work within an experienced group of seven colleagues (and various PhD’s & Postdoc’s) focusing on musical anthropology, music history, music analysis, and – what a surprise: sound studies.

This research environment offers one of the broadest set of approaches and backgrounds you can possibly find in musicology these days – all teaching in the same MA- and BA-programmes as well as collaborating in research.

Here is the announcement with all the details:
Tenure-track assistant professorship in Musicology

Sonic Talks Online

2020-07-17 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Sonic Talks Online

All three Sonic Talks In a Forest of Letters, performed on the evenings of July 13th, 14th and 15th, 2020, at CLB Berlin by Holger Schulze together with artists, researchers, writers and thinkers katrinem, Katja Kullmann and Christiane Frohmann are now online (in German):

The Hum of the Pandemic (From the installation: In a Forest of Letters, CLB 2020) Photo: Jeneba Komma - Text: Holger Schulze - Concept: Nina Backman.

The Hum of the Pandemic.(From the installation: In a Forest of Letters, CLB 2020; photo: Jeneba Komma, text: Holger Schulze, concept: Nina Backman).

Sonic Talk 1:
katrinem, walking artist & researcher:
Die Innenstadtstrasse

(CLB Berlin, 13.7.2020)


Sonic Talk 2:
Katja Kullmann, writer & essayist:
Balkonien

(CLB Berlin, 14.7.2020)


Sonic Talk 3:
Christiane Frohmann, thinker & head of Frohmann Verlag:
Der Garten am Haus

(CLB Berlin, 15.7.2020)


How did your or my sensology transform in recent weeks and months? How can one perceive the policies and their principles regarding the senses that have prevailed in urban and rural areas in the last years or decades? In what ways did you engage with a forest, with enveloping letters or language fragments, or other agents of sonic convivality and their generative and regenerative forces?

Sonic Talks explore the state of the senses and our sensory entangled and affected lives under the conditions of progressively urbanized and mediatized cultures. Holger Schulze invited earlier – together with sound artist Sam Auinger – to investigate their present, recent, or expected sensologies and sensibilities.

Three Sonic Talks

2020-07-10 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Three Sonic Talks

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Sonic Talks explore the state of the senses and our sensory entangled and affected lives under the conditions of progressively urbanized and mediatized cultures. Holger Schulze invited earlier – together with sound artist Sam Auinger – researchers, artists and writers to investigate their present, recent, or expected sensologies and sensibilities.

The three Sonic Talks In a Forest of Letters in July 2020 now invite three artists and writers, researchers and thinkers who contemplate together with Holger Schulze about their recent life with sounds and the senses:

How did their sensologies transform in recent weeks and months? How do they percieve the policies and their principles regarding the senses that have prevailed in urban and rural areas in the last years or decades? In what ways did they engage with a forest, with enveloping letters or language fragments, or other agents of sonic convivality and their generative and regenerative forces?

All three conversations will be recorded, in German. After the Sonic Talks they will be freely accessible online.

Conversation partners and dates (NOTE: only a maximum of 10 audience members are granted access to these conversations. Please make a reservation with a mail and the precise date you wish to attend to: gonzalez-galan@clb-berlin.de:

Monday, July 13th, 2020, 7pm
katrinem, walking artist & researcher:
The Inner City Streets

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020, 7pm
Katja Kullmann, writer & essayist:
The Balcony

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020, 7pm
Christiane Frohmann, thinker & head of Frohmann Verlag:
The Garden at the House

In a Forest of Letters

2020-07-06 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on In a Forest of Letters

On July 10th, 2020, an exhibition and a series of conversations and concerts opens at CLB Berlin in the Aufbauhaus on Moritzplatz that was conceptualized during and for these times of contact restrictions: In a Forest of Letters.

In times of intense pressure, of medical emergencies and political insecurities, desires to stop and rest become strong. The Forest of Letters in the CLB provides an arena for these desires and wishes to be fulfilled. The Forest offers an occasion for a sensible encounter in quietude.

Tasting this space

Listening with you

Digesting new creations

Detecting the next steps to take

Visitors are invited just to enjoy this space, to write so-called Sensible Letters, to listen to three Sonic Talks on July 13th, 14th and 15th with with artists, writers and thinkers katrinem, Katja Kullmann and Christiane Frohmann, to attend 1:1-Concerts, and some visitors are being invited by the organizers to engage in a Silence Meal.

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Each visitor in the Forest receives a small card for a Sensible Letter. They are invited to write down their loving confessions to recent sentiments and to place them directly in the Forest – for future visitors to discover. Some Sensible Letters can be found in the Forest from the beginning.

Nina Backmann, Finnish artist and creator of the Silence Meal teamed up with Holger Schulze, Sound Studies-scholar at the University of Copenhagen and the CLB’s director Sven Sappelt to provide this arena for rest, reflection, and recreation.

This forest is an invitation: an invitation to listen, to sense, to articulate tentatively, to engage in a brief yet meaningful conversation. A conversation that does not deplete one of hope and energy – but a conversation that serves as a revitalizing, a reenergizing agent.

A Conversation on Sound Art

2020-07-03 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on A Conversation on Sound Art

A few weeks ago, on June 11th of 2020, composer and sound artist Jeremy Woodruff invited Sanne Krogh Groth and me to a longer interview session. Being a member of the famous sound art project space Errant Sound in Berlin, he wanted to know from us how we had conceptualized The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art and how all these highly diverse and rather unconventional conceptual cores composed into this volume came actually together.

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Whilst he had contributed himself a great and insightful chapter on the aesthetics of permaculture (chapter 2), he obviously was not involved in all of our editorial work with the other 34 authors, co-authors and interviewees in this handbook.

Woodruff’s intricate and insisting questions helped us in our conversation to carve out the concept and the various insights running through this handbook and, at least partially, altering the discourse around and within what has come to be called sound art in the broadest sense. The result is a concise, sonic introduction into this handbook as a whole.

You can listen to our conversation, with some added sound examples right here, on the website of Errant Sound:

Errant Sound Podcast: Interview with Holger Schulze and Sanne Groth, Editors of the Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art

My Listening Protocol III

2020-06-23 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on My Listening Protocol III

Late in 2019 and early in 2020, Salomé Voegelin and Mark Wright, directing the impressive project Listening Across Disciplines visited us here at the Sound Studies Lab. They discussed with us our research approaches, our ways of developing research focuses, applying methods, and publishing research results.

However, they focused primarily on how we employ listening as a research method. Towards the end of our conversations, they asked each of us to outline our individual listening protocol: they »organise and articulate listening in a way that is useful and adaptable to various disciplines, enabling and legitimising sonic processes and materialities as part of research and knowledge production.«

In one of our Colloquia Sound & Senses this spring, the composer and performer Lars Graugaard contributed the following listening protocol:

For listening pleasure and professional listening I apply different modes.

Listening pleasure is non-expert and an immediate appreciation of the sound waves, as they envelop and transport the listening body.

In contrast, professional listening is an expert endeavour, and in my case it involves a number of steps where some are inescapable, and many more are significantly discretional. (This suggests the general opportunity in the professional realm for vastly different listening objectives outside of those I may happen to have.)

First I do a spot listening as a short-term appreciation of 0.5 – 2 seconds snippets at random locations, to get an impression of the sound’s presence independently of the composition’s form (and the composer’s purpose). I listen for sound features such as transcients, spectral balance, density, depth, roughness, transparency etc. and small contours. It gives me an impression of the relative weight and balance of the music’s immediate sonic attributes, as well as its immediate presence in local, physical space. It can be likened to a quick personality check that will decide how – and if – I continue to listen.

I may then listen for slightly longer segments, to grasp phrase contours on the time scale of, say, a spoken phrase. This gives me a more nuanced understanding of the musical ideas, as the underlying personality of the author (and thus any aims and intentions implied) will become clearer.

My listening may stop at any step given the attentiveness my listening so far has induced, but if I am sufficiently intrigued professionally, I will listen to larger parts of the composition, to see how ideas combine and contrast, how resolution and tension is managed and so forth. This could be determined as the narrative, and it is mostly where I begin to take real, personal benefit of the listening, sifting for (counter)ideas and inspirations.

What I am listening for is the sonic, or spectral features, as I separate mid-level units into performative and compositional. At this point I also begin to fold back my listening into that of the non-expert, as I establish a relationship between the factual ongoings and the – naïve – musical appreciation. This way I let what I hear impregnate me so that it ideally can take a future shape within my me, albeit in such a way that it integrates completely.

Sensologies of Contact Restrictions

2020-06-08 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Sensologies of Contact Restrictions

During this spring’s pandemic, a plentiful of artistic and research activities around sound and sensory studies were started by various researchers and artists: the relation of sound and music to the (mostly urban) environment seemed, apparently, especially intriguing to investigate in these weeks and months of contact restrictions in most and of lockdowns in some regions. Recently, Meri Kytö began collecting those projects. By now, May 27th of 2020, 55 items can be found in her list called »Pandemic+sound/music+environment«. In this list you can find more traditional soundmapping projects from a lot of nations and world regions, but also newspaper articles, blog posts, and scientific surveys focusing on the assumed transformations in the soundscape or the whole ecosystem, even viral videos and videostreams that document and archive the activities of sounding out, playing, singing, musicking in times of the pandemic.

Screenshot of the website of the University of Copenhagen on the evening of the 12th of March 2020.

Screenshot of the website of the University of Copenhagen on the evening of the 12th of March 2020.

To discuss the various aspects of these pandemic sensibilities (or »pandemisk sanselighed«, Anette Vandsø) we met in our regular Colloquium Sound & Senses. We were nine researchers and artists who scrutinized the various »frames, scales and categories« (Melissa van Drie) we could detect in this archive of projects exploring the sensory generativity of contact restrictions.

New Pandemic Listening Protocols

Our discussion started out with confessing a confusion: is it really a good thing – as many people assume – that public places seem to have gone silent or at least quiet these days, Merio Kytö asked herself and all of us? Maybe, Melissa van Drie added, it is more the case that our listening protocols (following Voegelin) are almost necessarily altered due to the contact restrictions? Van Drie stressed for instance the activity of listening behind oneself as a phenomenon of developing different habits and customs of listening when walking through a quieter and calmer urban environment. Aside from developing such new protocols also existing protocols seem to be reactivated and revitalized: for instance the old and fascinating idea of mediated telepresence – a strong attractor of media arts in the 1990s and 2000s – has now become an everyday practice and necessity. Up to the point where the decision to listen to the soundscape of a holiday region one wanted to visit can seem now, as Macon Holt pointed out, as a viable and handy alternative: he and his partner intended to visit Fukushima in April 2020 – which they now actually visited sonically, at least punctually, through soundscape recordings.

Sonic Personae in Videocalls

Related to the transformations through everyday auditory telepresence are then of course all the domestic soundscapes that everyone of us suddenly grants access to others joining in a videocall: Anette Vandsø pointed out that not only the visual self-presentation is different in videocalls, but also the auditory self-presentation, especially through all the non-intended sound sources maybe entering a job-related conversation – such as playing kids, cooking sounds, quarrels between siblings, chirping birds or activities of any dogs or cats present. The usual visual self-presentation in the public sphere is now almost coercively combined with an often involuntarily audible self-presentation that also manifests a conflict of social roles – or, ideally, a new amalgamation of those roles. What new sonic personae are emerging or developing here, I need to ask?

However, the options for listening to an environment or for strictly separating social roles point to one underlying, structural force in all these mapping activities of sensorial transformations: they rely on and are heavily driven by social stratification. This »partage du sensible« (Rancière), the distribution of sensibilities is a social effect. Social class and gender roles at least provide the economic and chronotopic dispositives for one’s options of listening to or sensing into the sonic effects of recent epidemiological recommendations for social interactions. People whose job-related activities are being considered essential (a noteworthy descriptor, as it is most often related to a lower or even the lowest range of salaries) will probably have a harder time scrutinizing sensorial transformations as their workload on every single day is either massively multiplied or even dropped radically to zero. Both developments tend to deplete a person of its energy to more freely explore and assess certain seemingly more marginal effects in their lives. The sometimes claimed slowdown of these days can definitely not be experienced by people with kids or working in one or more jobs, maybe with a necessitiy for stressful commuting. The so-called quietude of the pandemic presents itself here more often as a sort of vexatious hum if not overload of the pandemic.

Altered States of Everyday Life

So, should we instead consider these transformations of our social encounters not as a form of welcome (and somewhat decadent if not cynical) break – but more as a kind of syncopy, a stumble as Lars Graugaard called it: maybe these days need to be considered as a kind of, well, Freudian stumble (not a slip) of accelerated societies? The ongoing stream of meme music, for instance produced out of all the balcony concerts, home performances and superstar medleys in videoconferencing rectangles, surely can be regarded in this way, as Macon Holt and Meri Kytö pointed out: it is indeed that these circulating activities gained traction and even political resonance just because they were mediated, recorded, edited and memefied. When focusing in videos posted online – be they memes or videos leaked from a family group chat – one begins to wonder: what are the moments or rituals of singing or sounding out during the pandemic that are not videoed posted public? Emphasizing and accelerating the distribution of some of them is for sure highly selective. Which desire drives the protagonists of these memes to present themselves in these ways and what desire drives powerful distributors to accelerate the distribution of a particular sets of memes?

After almost three months, a quarter of a year, there is now a particular time structure firmly imprinted onto these weeks of contact restrictions and lockdowns: the excitement for new self-presentations, new memes, and altered states of everyday life soon degraded into a depression, and maybe has now reached the laconic and largely uninteresting boredom of the common and the habitual? Is there still a sort of resistance in these new sensibilities to be found, as Lars Graugaard insisted in our conversation? Will we indeed be able to maintain some of the transformations we consider important, for instance different ways of working from home and of arranging a sonic environment through streamed performances as Carla Maier reported? Will these new modes of listening of spring 2020, these emerging new listening protocols just vanish – or will they stick with us and live on with us?

Optimizing + Stabilizing = Reassuring?

After our discussion it seems to me that there are mainly three categories of how these coercively transformed sensibilities are being assessed, employed, or translated into various activities:

The first category is a paedagogical one that sees in these contact restrictions and their effects on social interactions a welcome occasion for personal optimization – be it in the personal lifestyle, the individual working style, styles of recreation, and even in regard to acquiring and training new work skills including digital media. Now seems the time, for many of us, to finally strive for the ultimate optimizing challenge.

This leads me to the second category, which is a psychological one: the ongoing stream of diaries, daily protocols, videos, podcasts, series of memes and tweets seems to represent for many of their authors and producers an apt coping stratgy of materializing and thus stabilizing the vibrant flux of daily, hourly, instantly observations, experiences, doubts and fears, hopes and pleasures these days: to keep track of everything serves a persona precisely this stabilizing function.

The third and last category I recognize here is political. Any person who experiences these weeks as states of emergency and reaches out for stabilizing coping mechanisms is obivously an object to contemporary political reflections: what is needed to achieve practices of successful governance in such a state in flux? It seems to me that the most recent races towards a state that is sometimes being called Back to Normal! or Opening Up [insert nation name] Again! result as direct additions of the tendency to optimizing plus the tendency to stabilizing.

In addition they produce new sensologies of reassuring their consumer citizens. They are sensologies (following Mario Perniola), because they embody governing regimes through sensory or sonic practices that result from the contact restrictions or that are fostered by or forced onto the epidemological recommendations of contact restrictions. This desire to provide reassurance for all citizens affected from the pandemic extends then of course to all the existing habits, values, structures, power regimes and systems of exploitation and oppression. Bluntly said: the state of emergency produces politically an overly stabilizing, optimizing and reassuring governance. And this tendency towards reassurance can then even go far beyond any of the usual affirmations of existing policies. It maybe even intensify and fortify all of the existing demarcations and power relations: the racism, the sexism, the nationalism, the social inequality, the excessive wealth and the poverty – but maybe it intensifies also some of the political decisions for more planetary connectivity, commerce, much tighter synchronized research, development, sales and consumption. In recent days we can even see substantial protest bringing millions of people on the streets, all over this planet in advance of social and democratic change under the sign of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. It is yet to be seen, if these protests can be punchy enough to pressurize the reactionary powers that be, in many nationstates, into lasting and antiracist policies. Such prognostics, however, can only be speculations at this point, educated ones, hopefully.

Whilst underneath all of our optimizing, stabilizing and reassuring (or even rebellious) activities on every single day, the intimidating hum of the pandemic is still and incessantly tangible. Where all of this might lead us, into what detour or to which anxiously seeked for homeground, is yet undefined.

(Participants of this colloquium were: Anette Vandsø, Carla Jana Maier, Jacob Eriksen, Jenny Gräf Shepard, Lars Graugaard, Macon Holt, Melissa van Drie, Meri Kytö & Holger Schulze)