Supersonix Conference in London

Last weekend I visited the Supersonix conference in London with the emphatic subtitle celebrate the art and science of sound with my fellow researcher and friend Sebastian Schwesinger. The conference took place in the city’s exhibition road, where institutions like the Science Museum, National History Museum, Goethe Institue and Victoria & Albert Museum hosted the various talks and performances of this event.

Although Supersonix was a big conference with many things happening simultaneously it was still overshadowed by the presence of the large museums. Finding the Dana Centre, where several panels where hold (e.g. Sound Studies Lab’s principal investigator Holger Schulze’s Speaking about sound), was a real quest. Acoustically, the presentations there were almost assaulted by the heavy doors of the rooms which inevitably slammed shut very loudly when people entered or left. In the Science Museum’s Theatre the electric equipment permanently produced a very loud humming sound as background noise. This was a good instance of one of the conference’s main themes – Sound, Noise and History – demonstrating literally how information and communication emerge out of, but also produce noise. Without the event, the equipment wouldn’t have been turned on, the doors woudn’t have been slammed by their own mechanics.

The notion of noise was the topic of the first panel we attended and problematized by Texas Tech University’s Bruce Clark in his talk on Noise and Form: Information and Cognition. In his presentation he favored the approach of autopoietic systems theory over classic information theory and thereby tried to deconstruct the latters concept of noise. Basically, systems theory’s recursivity triumphed over information theory’s more linear telephone based model, although I’m not sure whether his account of information theory wasn’t too reductive. Anyhow, he ended up in mainly criticizing Michel Serres and his question about why we can’t hear the noise of our own body. Serres writes about this topic in his essay The Origin of Language: Biology, Information Theory, & Thermodynamics.

Admittedly, sound wasn’t very prominent in this talk I presented here firstly. In the upcoming further parts of this report of my conference experiences I hope to provide you with accounts of other topics more closely aligned to sound itself. Unfortunately, my next post will have to wait until next week, because the event calendar demands that I visit Germany’s musically probably most diverse and state of the art festival named Fusion.