Ben Byrne – Experimental Music and the Anthropocene: From Thoreau to Cage and Werder
Since the Industrial Revolution there has been pronounced and continuing change in sonic ecosystems around the world as a result of human activities, part of what is now known as the Anthropocene. Henry David Thoreau, for example, writes of hearing the whistles of trains through the woods when he was living at Walden Pond in the nineteenth century. This raises the issue of how to engage with this change. Tracing lines of flight from Thoreau’s journals to John Cage’s writings and Manfred Werder’s text scores, here I argue that experimental music offers an approach to this question in the form of listening practices that raise awareness of and engagement with listeners’ environments. Demonstrating this using a performance of Manfred Werder’s 2005, I show that these listening practices place listeners within their environments and so offer not only a way of hearing environmental change but a way of reconceiving the relationship of listeners to their environments.
Ben Byrne is a scholar, musician and curator who explores art, media and culture through technology, engaging the complexities of identity, media and environment. He is a Lecturer in Digital Media at RMIT University. He recently completed a PhD, producing a thesis, Murmur, that argues sound is a multiplicity.
He has performed extensively in Australia and overseas over the past ten years, using a variety of electronics. Notable recent performances include appearances at Melbourne Music Week, Myopic Books Music Series, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the NOW now festival and series, Moduluxxx, the Make It Up Club and Avantwhatever events, among many others.
He has produced and contributed to releases on a number of labels, including Avantwhatever, Copy For Your Records, Splitrecs, Wood & Wire and Factorvac.
He makes installations, the latest of which, Tumult, was presented at Firstdraft Gallery. Also, he has produced a sound work for theatre titled Too in collaboration with Carolyn Connors and Cynthia Troup, which was staged at La Mama Theatre.
He has been a director of both the Electrofringe Festival of Electronic Arts and the Liquid Architecture Festival of Sound Art and is the founder and director of Avantwhatever, a contemporary experimental music label.
Tobias Linneman Ewé – The Noise of Oceans: Sonic Experiences of the Objects we Cannot See
The present talk will investigate how sound influences the experiences of humans, objects and ecologies at large. Sound affects change beyond human hearing, and by further developing Steve Goodman’s term unsound, I argue that this feature of sound has implications for the sonic experience of objects.
Human hearing is defined at 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz, but sound affects more than ears, and different objects at different frequencies. Therefore, the limits of sonic experience change depending on the nature of the object. Objects are not just listeners – they are also transducers of vibration implicated in the co-production of sound. (Kahn, Douglas 2013. Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts, Oakland: University of California Press)
As Tim Morton mentions when discussing the artworks of sound artist Raviv Ganchrow; when mountains move they make infrasonic sounds that travel across earth and sweep up entities in their waveforms. Sound waves are not isolated information-bearers that can only be understood in their entirety. A small portion of the wave contains as much information as the entirety of the wave. The wave rushing over the mountain, water and buildings scoops up the waves of these objects and thereby the information. These objects are withdrawn and we only ever access translations and relations of objects. Or as Harman would say; a thing cannot be replicated by the knowledge of the thing. The sound we hear when mountains move is actually the (upper) limit of infrasound. “Infrasound is literally the sound of context exploding.” (Morton, Tim (30 June 2013) “Earworms,” talk given at Tuned City, Brussels, accessed at: https://archive.org/details/130630001)
The lower (infrasound) and upper (ultrasound) limits of sonic experience are not defined by precise points but by fuzzy borders on a sliding scale. Sound art and sonic technologies illuminate these borders and call into question the nature of sonic experience.
Tobias Linnemann Ewé is an independent researcher of vibrational affect, object-oriented ontology and sound art. Based in Copenhagen, he explores alternative modes of research as a computer musician and sonic situationist.
Amina Abbas-Nazari – Across The Sonic Border (Variations on 50hz)
In this speculative scenario the UK has started to use speech analysis as a key assessment for gaining access to the country. In addition, electrical network frequency analysis is used in law, forensics and other aspects of culture to mark or conceptualise time, because of it’s ability to timestamp recordings. People have become hyper-aware of its hum.
English is still the fundamental language but people have reacted to this situation by forming their own speech communities, creating sonic borders and allowing them distinct ways of life. Populations have diversified their language not in terms of words but in terms of sound, due to the tone (on and around 50hz = F Sharp) of the pervasive electrical hum.
Presented as eight audio clips that can be listened to by inputing a headphone jack into a laser cut map, they can be listened to independently but also provide a linear or chronological narrative. Starting at the Dover border, in scene 1 the hum is loudest and most potent, gradually getting quieter through the scenes and having less influence, finally ending in scene 8 where there is no hum.
Amina takes on the role of an outlaw speech therapist through her teaching people how to perform their vocal parts, giving them ability to code-switch to move across borders.
Amina is a graduate from MA Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art; a course that investigates the social, cultural and ethical implications of emerging and future science and technology. She has presented her work at the London Design Festival, Milan Furniture Fair, Venice Architecture Biannual and has lectured at Harvard University, the V&A museum, for industry and prominent NESTA events in London.
She is also a classically trained singer and has sung competitively, internationally with of number of distinguished choirs for 20 years.
Recently Amina has combined her interest and skills in singing and design to utilise sound as a design medium. She is interested in where speech meets sound to blur the boundaries and exploit vocal potential for telling stories about future or alternate realities.
Alissa Cherry – Sounds of the Outskirts
Sounds of the Outskirts is an investigative look at the migration of people on the Manhatten outskirts over the course of four years during each of the four seasons. How has the economy, the immigration rate, and the general culture of Manhattan shifted over the course of four years? Over the course of American history?
Can it be heard?
Artist and investigator, Alissa Cherry, is walking the perimeter of Manhattan (32 miles) once a year and recording the sounds of the people, places, and things she comes across. Through “silent” walks alone, on the street interviews, and walking companions she is exploring what the average New Yorker dulls out on their daily commute. She is questioning the migration of people based on previously determined neighborhoods, and then restructuring the neighborhood borders based on the audible differences she is hearing in the culture.
This piece is currently in its third year, and looking to finish in 2018 as an interactive webspace where the viewer and listener can follow her journey through an academic analysis and artistic representation of the sonic neighborhood change. She will not only be taking a look at her own data but found footage and historical context of the neighborhoods on the outskirts. This project will be looking for a space available to project the interactive sound walk in 2018.
As a social justice activist Alissa Cherry has always been interested in the movement of people. Movement geographically, as well as emotionally, due to human interaction and societal change. As a photographer and sounds designer, Cherry’s work tends to have the central themes of nostalgia and memory both visually and audibly. Aside from this investigative piece on the island of Manhattan, she is currently developing a 12-part film series entitled The Prophet, where she is visually dissecting the writings of Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran using found footage dating back to the 1950’s in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Massachusetts. Cherry is also the Education Specialist for Reel Works Teen Filmmaking in Gowanus, Brooklyn. She has her B.A. in American Studies and Journalism from Brandeis University ’10 and her M.A. in Media Studies from The New School ’14.
Day 2 – Friday, 11.03.2016