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)

Sonic Fiction

2020-05-12 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on Sonic Fiction

The formal structures of time collapse, regress to mud, and space is pushed back and forth until it bends to be trampled by the pulsations of alien music, while the thinking space becomes seasick (Kodwo Eshun)

This is the disruption as it can be experienced when ultrablackness hits you. When the all-consuming, all-absorbing and all-imploding might of ultrablackness exercises its power of radical, pervasive and fundamental negation. The one message, the one action, the one intervention of ultrablackness is taking an axe and ramming it into the fake common ground or shared table and says: NO.

sonic fiction 3 covers

Sonic fiction is everywhere: in conversations about vernacular culture, in music videos, sound art compositions and on record sleeves, in everyday encounters with sonic experiences and in every single piece of writing about sound. Where one can find sounds one will also detect bits of fiction.

The idea for this book – the first introduction on the pre-history, the applications, and the subsequent effects of Sonic Fiction – was born in several weeks in the spring of 1999, when I read the German translation of More Brilliant than the Sun by Dietmar Dath, titled Heller als die Sonne: Abenteuer in der Sonic Fiction.

DJ, music critic, and video essayist Kodwo Eshun proposed the concept of sonic fiction first in this book. Originally, he did so in order to explicate the manifold connections between Afrofuturism and Techno, connecting them to Jazz, Breakbeat and Electronica. His argument, his narrations and his explorative language operations however inspired researchers, artists, and scholars since then. Sonic Fiction became a myth and a mantra, a keyword and a magical spell.

Since then I discussed, applied, transformed, and worked on the concept of sonic fiction in numerous talks, paper presentations, academic articles, book chapters, and course modules. The ideas then developed into the chapters that constitute now this new book.

SONIC FICTION turns your mind into a universe, an innerspace through which you the headphonaut are travelling. You become an alien astronaut at the flightdeck controls of Coltrane’s Sunship, of Parliament’s Mothership, of Lee Perry’s Black Ark, of Sun Ra’s fleet of 26 Arkestras, of Creation Rebel’s Starship Africa, of The JBs’ Monaurail. (Kodwo Eshun)

In six chapters it explicates the inspirations for and the transformations of this concept; it explores applications and extrapolations in sound art and sonic theory, in musicology, epistemology, in critical and political theory. Sonic fiction is presented in this book as a heuristic for critique and activism.

You can read now the sixth chapter NON: Ultrablack Resistance right here on NON.COPYRIOT.

You can have a look at the Table of Contents and you can order the book on this webpage directly from Bloomsbury Academic.

The Sound of Corona

2020-04-15 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on The Sound of Corona

Can you hear the coronavirus? What does it sound like?

Recently, some compositions which used data gathered from the coronavirus, stirred up some conversations among listeners, composers, musicians, scientists, engineers, and artists: the Proteine Counterpoint Sonification.

This sonification was produced by the engineer and material scientist Markus J. Buehler and his team. They claim to have generated the sounds from original data stemming from the virus, following a sonification method for proteins which they described in an article from 2019: A Self-Consistent Sonification Method to Translate Amino Acid Sequences into Musical Compositions and Application in Protein Design Using Artificial Intelligence:

»The vibrational frequencies are transposed to the audible spectrum following the musical concept of transpositional equivalence, playing or writing music in a way that makes it sound higher or lower in pitch while retaining the relationships between tones or chords played.« (Yu, Qin, Martin-Martinez, Buehler 2019)

Sonifying a Virus

Their method demonstrates some of the fundamental steps for sonification: gathering data, assigning rules of transposition or transformation of these data entries into audible sound events (cf. Hermann, Hunt, Neuhoff 2011), organizing these sound events into a time-based structure that listeners of a largely westernized, vernacular music culture may recognize as ‘musical’ – and that allows for a new, scientific insight into the material. This last point is, allegedly, the main goal of a scientific sonification.

The results of Buehler and his team sound quite pleasing. One listener to the Soundcloud upload commented: »Reminds me of Chinese meditation music.« You might recognize the sound of a lute, a spinet or even a japanese koto. The tempo is somewhere between lento and larghetto, there is a constant pulse and a counterpoint; it has a character of minimal music and some listeners might even be reminded of Johann Pachelbel’s iconic Canon and Gigue in D major, that has been used recurrently to represent a notion of cosmic universality and unity between all lifeforms and all natural and cultural processes. Some listeners, hence, seem to have expected a more threatening sound – but of course it does not sound threatening: a biological process of viral expansion is only actually threatening from the perspective of the affected lifeforms, not from the perspective of the expanding virus. The expectation that a sonification of a virus potentially carrying deadly diseases would also sound threatening and deadly, is a deeply anthropocentric one: an expectation that treats a scientific sonification like an aesthetic artifact, a musical composition. Yet, a scientific sonification is not a musical composition.

However – and that is really the main flaw of this sonification, I‘d say – there is not really a scientific insight to be gained from it, at least not from what I heard or read or understood. The six pieces presented remain largely in the realm of somewhat pleasing sonic artifacts, with various references to existing musical genres and sound designs. As a result, the main goal of sonifying any dataset, the goal to gain new insights into the material, is not really achieved.

So, is this sonification then closer to a musical composition? And what would we expect from it then?

Composing a Pandemic?

As listeners we surely would expect something completely different from an actually contemporary, artistic interpretation of the coronavirus than from a sonification. In this case, the aesthetic decision for certain sounds or musical structures would then not be camouflaged by an often failing argument of being directly determined by a dataset and not by a producer’s personal decisions: whenever the personal is hidden underneath a notion of the objective, neutral or even the arithmetic, one can be very sure that deeply personal inclinations and idiosyncrasies will have a much stronger and unmitigated impact in the end. This means that also producers of sonifications are actually mainly composers of a certain kind, with certain aesthetic preferences and aversions, maybe even obsessions and definitely also a particular personal style and sonic or musical aesthetic (of what quality or of what expertise we would then be able to discuss).

In case of a clearly musical representation some of us would probably expect it to sound indeed threatening and to represent – obviously in a refined and aesthetically interesting and challenging way – the phenomena of social distancing, masks, hand sanitizers and gloves. It could even include in its artistic and instrumentalist techniques some of the harsher symptoms one does apparently experience when fallen ill with the lung disease of COVID-19 such as troubles with breathing and a persistent pain or pressure in the chest. Maybe the musical material of circular breathing techniques could be employed, explored, skilfully disrupted and expanded in such a composition?

Other listeners might wish to hear more of the punctually decreased social activities in public places that seem so characteristic for social life these days. A hum of looming danger, underneath all of our activities – at times louder, then almost inaudible – but in general not a musical structure, more an arithmetic display of expansion and decrease that avoids the more trivial illustrations. Such a composition could then maybe sound like this recent record by Thomas Köner: Motus. The hum of the pandemic.

But maybe we wish even to recognize the sound of getting in touch through one of the videoconferencing tools that dominate social activities under Corona. I am thinking here of the strange effect that through these tools two, three, five or ten people can interact with each other, sonically and visually, and each of them can be seen and heard in totally different rooms and environments. Sometimes the characteristics of these rooms are wiped out, but in many more focused productions of a higher quality, one can actually hear the switch between and the mash-up of these various room acoustics: a quite unusual experience for a lifeform like ours that is not yet familiar with teleportation.

For me, personally speaking, this mash-up of room acoustics is perhaps the strongest sonic signature of the pandemic these days: a sonic icon of being bodily distanced yet socially even more connected (and I haven’t even yet touched upon the painful class struggle between precarious gig economy workers on the streets and the privileged self-quarantined in larger mansions or spacious appartments: the actual challenge for any musical piece might lie precisely in this struggle).

Viral Science Communication

All in all, I would claim this sonification by Buehler and his team serves primarily the purpose of science communication, which is fair enough. It needs to be compared, understood and interpreted as a sonic equivalent of the visual representation we all know so well by now (a grizzly, fluffy ball with loads of scary and bright red triangular spikes attached to it), crafted by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins for the CDC: an iconic design, ready to be used for communication purposes across all media and publication formats. But neither the visual design nor the sonic design of the coronavirus is a means of research or a tool for further insights, right now.

How could one then employ sonification for a more scientific purpose in this particular case? One proposal came recently from the sound designers around Rainer Hirt: they proposed a series of single sounds for the single most important constituents of the coronavirus and their activities. So, they designed the »Spike Glycoprotein, the Hemagglutinin-esterasem, the Matrixprotein, the Envelope, and the ssRNA und N-Protein« and they subsequently combined so-called »audio scenes for 4 major processes within the viral infection cycle: (A) Attachment & entry, (B) Replicase protein expression, (C) Replication & transcription, (D) Assembly & release«. These individual sounds and scenes now indeed could help to identify and to analyze the activities of the virus; I am still not sure, what insight could be gained; however, it seems to me that these sound dewigners propose primarily a sonic repertoire that can now be used by researchers, designers, artists. It offers, if you will, a sonic toolbox for analysis less than an aesthetically pleasing artifact, ready for dissemination across all media platforms. And that is an inspiring and generative first step, in my understanding.

Aside from this, a sonification could also focus on the global spread of the virus and its acceleration: this could provide indeed deeper insights. Or a sonification of the actual propagation of a virus (or a plethora of virus particles) through one individual body’s various respiratory pathways, organs and systems. One could then even craft a sonic artifact close to this legendary sonification, almost two decades old now, developed and refined by Isao Hashimoto in 2003: a visualized and sonified sequence of all the nuclear explosions, their locations, and their home nations in the years between 1945 and 1998.

This piece offers – only through the method of sonification – a synopsis of events and of developments that one could not gain access and insight into in any other way:

Isao Hashimoto: 1945-1998 (2003)

(note: this article has been republished by Passive/Aggressive on May 1st, 2020)

My Listening Protocol II

2020-04-02 by Carla J. Maier | Comments Off on My Listening Protocol II

This listening protocol was written in relation to conversations with Salomé Voegelin and Mark Wright who visited the Sound Studies Lab at the University of Copenhagen in the context of their research project Listening Across Disciplines. They discussed with us our individual and collaborative 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 one of our meetings, they asked us to outline our individual listening protocol: »Such protocols are derived from practice and the observation of practice, and take the form of an instructive document that while providing a shareable framework retain space for the contingency and unrepeatability of sound.« This is what I wrote:

My listening protocol is not a set of fixed instructions on how to listen. This protocol is a set of notes for listening, which I use as part of my practice-based research on sound, art, public space and postcolonial entangled histories. It both reflects past listening experiences and anticipates future listening experiences. It is thus always preliminary and up for amendments. Though not binding, these notes for listening are aimed to be as concrete as possible. The restrictions that this implies are wanted, because they confront me with my presumptions and embodied habits of listening. So they also work as provocations. What I will do with them in the actual listening situation cannot be foreseen. How long I will stay with each of these notes for listening, or if I will skip some of them entirely will be decided spontaneously and on sensory, rational, poetic impulse. Listening is a mode of being-in-the-world and thinking which allows me to explore its powerful, critical, embodied and speculative agencies.

I start in the present. An uncertain here and now.

I feel my own body and feel my feet touching the ground. I don’t look at something in particular. I attend to my breathing and listen to the sounds around me.

What are the sounds that are close to my body?

What are the sounds in the background, in the distance?

What movements, intensities, rhythms, voices are there?

What moves me?

I follow instances when sounds become entangled, reverberant stories.

Acts of the imagination.






I distrust my ears.

I return to the concrete, material, spatial, temporal realities of my listening experience.

I attend to the sounds in-between. Travelling sounds.



This text is based on research conducted in the project Travelling Sounds and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 750199.

My Listening Protocol

2020-03-03 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on My Listening Protocol

In recent months, Salomé Voegelin and Mark Wright, directing the impressive project Listening Across Disciplines visited me and my team 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.« This is what I wrote:

Listening as a research activity follows six steps in my work:
spacing, timing, embodying, intervening, performing and transmitting.

1. Spacing: In a first step I try to get a notion and an idea of all the material sensory qualities of this very precise and spatialized listening situation in which I am situated right now: the distribution of the auditory dispositive, the state of my sensory corpus, and the quality of all the sonic personae present or performed.

2. Timing: In a second step I try to follow the specific dynamics and timing inherent to this sound experience, its flow or stopping, its vortexes and excitements.

3. Embodying: In the third step I try to embody and to identify with these sonic materials present in this situation – in their particular spacing and timing characteristics. This particular step brings my listening as research very close to ethnographic fieldwork practices.

4. Intervening In the fourth step I will make an effort to intervene, to follow the sonic flux, to actually take part in this sonario, to reach out into a perceptual and affective mimesis, to expand and further the sonic fiction presented to me.

5. Performing: In the fourth step I craft a performance of this listening experience – be it in written form, in an oral or audiovisual presentation or even in an impromptu recalling of all the qualities mentioned above.

6. Transmitting: In the fifith and last step the insights, observations and descriptions I recorded can then be presented on a given media stage – be it a course, a conference or workshop, an academic article, an essay , be it a radio or a podcast conversation or even a research monograph.

These five steps seem to allow me to get potentially a certain access to the idiosyncratic qualities of the sonic events I encounter – and to my listening experience that grants me the chance to encounter it.

They constitute for me the idiosyncrasy as method.

The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art

2020-02-13 by Holger Schulze | Comments Off on The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sound Art

Over a dinner at Café Wilder in Copenhagen, October 11th, 2016, we, Sanne Krogh Groth and I came across some intriguing ideas for a handbook on SOUND ART in the 21st century:
it should definitely include discussions of the post-apocalyptic in sound art as well as sonic intimacies and sonic fiction, it should discuss decolonization and deinstitutionalization as aesthetic strategies, and the actual crafting of sound art-instruments should also be explicitely addressed and presented.

To achieve this, we would be focusing on a diverse corpus of artists and authors, including much more female and genderqueer artists as well as perspectives, authors and artists that bring in aesthetics from the southern hemisphere of this planet, outside an often largely eurocentric if not germanocentric interpretation and discourse of what could be called sound art.

sound art table

40 months later and with 35 authors onboard, this handbook is now in stores.

Please enjoy this preview of the handbook – including the Table of Contents and our introduction:

Sound Art: The First 100 Years of an Aggressively Expanding Artform

An Almanac of Sound Words

2019-12-02 by Holger Schulze | 2 Comments

How do you speak about sound? This core question of sound studies and of artistic approaches around sound is probably troubling listeners and sound aficionados since the beginning of hearing – and it might actually never be resolved within the research frameworks of the cultures you and I inhabit, embody, and perform right now. However, the efforts to collect the words and idioms and vocalizations with which one might communicate a sonic experience, they never cease. Humanoid aliens like you and me, we love and we enjoy speaking about sound. It is simply a thing.

One of the most recent efforts to investigate the language for sounds and to collect sound words comes from German media and sound studies scholar Bernd Herzogenrath. Since 2017 he published together with Patricia Pisters a series of impressive volumes in their new Thinking Media-series – for instance on Sonic Thinking, on Media Matter or on Society After Money. Volumes that bridge the gaps between an English- and a German-language media studies discourse, between new materialisms and critical theory, as well as between cultural studies and sound and and sensory studies. Now he is planning an almanac of sound words.

For this endeavour he addresses:

mainly sound artists for whom English is not the first language, to contribute such a word or concept in their own mother-tongue (maybe even untranslatable) with a personal, explanatory, poetic entry – words that have the potential to maybe even change our perspective on listening- musicking-thinking … and if English words, then non-standard English, for example Welch, Gaelic, different dialects words. (Email by Bernd Herzogenrath)

These sound words should be „words related to sound – onomatopoetical, mythological, practical, etc., words of personal importance to you and your craft, words from your memory“ (ibid)

So, if you are interested in contributing, please get in touch by mail with Bernd in the next weeks, until New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2019). Depending on how many contributors propose their entries, the inividual contributions will either consist of (short) essays, or dictionary-style entries.

Short proposals are then due by ***March 15, 2020*** – and the final contributions should be handed in by the end of 2021. The publication would then be released in summer 2022.

Is there one sound word of yours that immediately comes to mind?

Honey is Something We Make Together

2019-11-27 by Zora van Harten | 1 Comment

“They don’t have honey here,” a man said confused. At the end of his journey through the tent of the installation, he was disappointed that there was no honey to taste. Instead, he had to navigate through four different spaces filled with sounds of bees, birds, and tower bells coming from the hidden speakers behind the piles of blue bee hives that surrounded him.

This man was moving through the installation called Honey is Something We Make Together, which happened on Copenhagen’s annual Kulturnatten (11 October 2019) and was part of the ‘Live Like Tomorrow’ C40 World Mayors Summit. The aim of the festival was to raise awareness on the role of cities and their businesses in relation to climate change and the creation of sustainable environments. The installation was created by Oliver Maxwell (Founder of the Bybi Honey Company, Copenhagen) and Melissa Van Drie (‘Sounds Delicious’ Project, Arts & Culture Department, University of Copenhagen), with scenography of architect Mia Frykholm and collaboration of Kathrine Friis (Bybi). With Oliver being the director of Bybi that produces raw local honey and Melissa running a research project on sensory experiences of food, they decided to join forces and explore the different aspects of honey-making.

Their installation consisted of four different spaces that focussed on different aspects of the honey-making process. People silently entered a space and listened to sound recordings of queen bees communicating with each other through the rubbing of their wings and the shaking of their bodies. Listeners were invited to imagine the ways bees feel sonic vibration. Next, visitors were led into a second space where they could touch and smell honeycombs created by the bees. In the third space, a bee keeper was waiting to hand over a flower bulb that would turn into a crocus. The visitor was then invited to dip their finger in paint, choose one of the places written on the walls of the fourth space, and mark the spot where they would plant their flower.

Bybi Listening Bybi Honeycombs

Bybi Flowerbulbs Bybi Fingerpaint

Bee sounds and fingerpaint? One might ask what all of this has to do with honey-making? However, when walking through the universe of smells, sounds, and feelings, one realises that this installation was not as much about honey-making as it was about the people that visit it. Everyone listened with their eyes closed, stroked and pushed their  fingers into the honeycombs and smelled the scents around them. It evoked sensations that many could only describe as “different.” A “touchy-feely kind of thing” which could not be captured easily into words. A teenage boy comments on his headphone experience: “It was really satisfying to hear all the bees and the guy who was talking. […] It was like you were in the situation even though you were just standing there with some headphones on.” Listening to the sound recording created the sense of “being in nature” and “being in the moment.” It re-questioned our connection to nature and our senses. Touching the honey-combs also challenged their relationship with nature’s materials: “It was a different feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. I expected it to be really tough material but when I pushed it, I almost pushed all the way through.”

The alternative and non-visual sensations that the installation evoked made visitors think about their relationship to the materials and environments in which bees produce their honey. Through emphasising their sensory experience, visitors in this installation became aware of how they as humans take part in a system. A man wipes off the paint of his finger and becomes aware of his part in honey-making: “The whole situation with the painting and the fingers, it shows how many people show interest in this area and for planting flowers to help the bees.”

Honey is Something We Make Together shows how getting in touch with our senses and embodied forms of knowledge can serve as a means to explore our role in honey-making and our role as self-declared humans in our urban environment at large. For now, we will have to sit through winter to see the planted flower bulbs grow. In spring, however, the crocuses that appear on rooftops, in gardens, meadows and parks will show how humans have a crucial part in how honey is made. The man who was looking honey for left the installation. What he didn’t know was that a taste of the result of this great co-creative honey-making process was waiting for him in the Bybi shop just a few steps away.

A Sonic and Sensory Installation on Honey Making

2019-10-10 by Melissa Van Drie | Comments Off on A Sonic and Sensory Installation on Honey Making

Friday, October 11, 2019 / On Vester Voldgade, right next to Rådhuspladsen, Copenhagen, DK.

Melissa van Drie, ‘Sounds Delicious’ Project (Arts & Culture, University of Copenhagen) / Oliver Maxwell, BYBI Honey / Katrine Friss, BYBI Honey / Mia Fryk, Architect.

The ‘Sounds Delicious’ Project (University of Copenhagen) and Bybi (Copenhagen’s urban honey producer) have teamed up to create a magical universe where bees, people and flowers communicate through sound, colour, smell, taste and feeling. Visitors to this enchanted honey factory will use their senses to explore how different species interact, to imagine connections in nature, and to understand how honey is something we make together. Highlights include sound field recordings of queen bees and an archive of the seasons shown in honey. It’s kid-friendly and part of the C40 Mayor’s Summit ‘Live like tomorrow.’