What will busy streets sound like when cars and lorries are electric? Sound designers are developing vehicle sounds to make them less dangerous. Listen to this Radio 4 Today programme clips to hear some examples:
Building design and city planning is dominated by the visual. But a new science has emerged which explores the relationship between design, acoustics and the human experience, called aural architecture. Every space has its own unique soundscape, created by a combination of the overall design, the materials used in construction and the way that space is used by humans.
Until very recently, few architects ever gave much thought to what affect that soundscape might have on the people inhabiting the space, be they office workers, school pupils, teachers or shoppers. This has resulted in railways stations where train announcements are unintelligible, restaurants where you have to shout to be heard and open-plan schools in which teaching is all but impossible. More recently, research has shown that a poor aural experience can have a considerable negative effect on how we feel and behave, even at a subconscious level.
Professor Cox hears for himself how some spaces ‘speak’ and meets architects, designers and researchers hoping to transform our aural experience for the better.
Blog Post by Dr Dean Lockwood:
Staff and students from the Lincoln School of Media (including Audio Production) welcomed Marie Thompson for the LSM Research Seminar series which took place Wednesday, 30th October.
Marie is an artist and researcher based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She is currently a PhD candidate at Newcastle University, based in the International Centre for Music Studies. Her thesis uses a Spinozist notion of affect to critically rethink the correlation between noise, ‘unwantedness’ and ‘badness’, so to more fully allow for the use of noise as a musical resource. She is the co-editor of the collection, Sound, Music, Affect: Theorizing Sonic Experience (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013). Marie is also regularly audible as a noisemaker and improviser. She plays individually as Tragic Cabaret and in the band, Beauty Pageant. Here is Marie’s abstract for her talk for our research seminar:
‘Rethinking noise, rethinking noise music: Affect, relationality and the poetics of transgression’:
‘In this paper, I outline a relational, ethico-affective approach to noise that works to disrupt the definitive correlation between noise, ‘unwantedness’ and ‘badness’. Rather than defining noise as a type of sound, or a subjective judgement of sound, noise is posited as a productive, transformative force and a necessary component of material relations. This approach to noise, I argue, is advantageous: firstly, because it allows for the noise that occurs out of (human) earshot, insofar as it no longer relies upon a constitutive listening subject; and secondly, because it allows for noise’s capacity to be good as well as bad, generative as well as destructive. A greater space is thus made for noise’s positively productive capacity, which has been readily explored within the arts.
In the second half of this paper, I discuss how a relational, ethico-affective approach to noise provides a means of (re)conceptualising noise music that moves away from the language of failure, taboo and contradiction. Rather than approaching noise music in terms of transgression, which is underlined by a dualistic conceptualisation of the relationship between (wanted, ‘good’) music and (unwanted, ‘bad’) noise, I suggest that noise music can be understood as an act of exposure, in that it foregrounds the presence of noise that is always already within the technical-musical system.’
Blog post by Senior Lecturer Dr Dean Lockwood.
On Friday 18th October, Mike Harding, founder and supremo of Touch, came to LSM to talk to Audio Production students taking the critical studies module, Auditory Culture. Given that some of the key concerns of the module are debates around the concepts of noise and the soundscape, it was a great opportunity to talk to someone intimately involved with a label which has specialized in promoting artists exploring precisely these areas. As quickly became clear, Touch has a philosophical orientation which propels it way beyond the narrow exigencies of the music industry. Touch has always been conceived as an art project rather than simply a label. Because of its obsessively experimental ethos, it has survived pretty much on its own terms and has never fit well with the complacent mainstream and its genre categories. As Mike explained, Touch was established in the early eighties in the wake of punk. Capitalizing on the energies generated by the so-called ‘New Wave’ independent scene, Touch was a key post-punk project, its first releases heavily involved in early cassette culture and the ‘mixtape’ phenomenon. With cassette magazines such as Feature Mist and Ritual: Magnetic North, Touch presented sophisticated cut-ups and powerful work by bands such as New Order, Einstürzende Neubauten and Cabaret Voltaire, as well as musics from around the world (before such a thing as ‘World Music’ existed). ‘No one ever said no’, which stands as a great testament to the label’s reputation and integrity. Mike took us, in the first part of his talk, through the early history of Touch, spicing things up with personal anecdotes, and in the second part addressed Touch’s present concerns. It is the home of artists such as Christian Fennesz, Bruce Gilbert, Ryoji Ikeda and Chris Watson. Mike played us a good selection of pieces which some of these artists have put out on Touch. These artists have in common, I would suggest, what we might term an ecological sensibility, a particular attention to the relations which comprise acoustic space, sometimes through glitch aesthetics, sometimes through field recordings or other means.
On Saturday 19th, Touch presented two world premieres at Lincoln Cathedral as part of the Frequency festival. The evening, after Mike’s introduction, commenced with Anna Von Hausswolff’s performance of an austere, resonant new score for the organ, titled Källan. Chris Watson and Hildur Guðnadóttir then presented a stunning new collaborative multi-channel sound work, titled Sönghellir (The Cave of Song), which I think captivated everyone present. Touch’s website describes the work as ‘a sound journey from under the waters of Faxafloi, Iceland, alongside some of the largest animals on the planet. Up, onto the lava beach, across the lava fields and reindeer moss to the foot of the snow mountain, Snaefellsnes. The journey continues up and then into the mountain, ending inside Sönghellir, the song cave…’ It was a perfect example of the art of acoustic space that Touch releases exemplify.
There used to be more than a hundred foghorns stationed around the British Isles but now there are fewer than 30. The BBC’s arts correspondent Rebecca Jones reports that a special requiem has been written which will be performed by ships at sea, three brass bands on the shore and the Souter Lighthouse foghorn near South Shields to mark the demise of the foghorn.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 clip here
Update: please read Robin The Fog’s excellent account of the performance and listen to recordings here.
Curiously, the word silent is an anagram of the word listen! In this edition of Something Understood the poet Seán Street reflects upon what can be heard in silence and the difference in its nature from stillness – the difference, perhaps, between doing and being.
Using poetry, prose and music, as well as some extracts of innovative international radio, Seán explores the positive and negative aspects of the subject, the ‘magic silence of possibility’, the peace and calm it brings in a noisy world, the silence of loneliness, alienation – and when keeping silent is sometimes tantamount to complicity. ‘The words “Silent” and “Listen” are anagrams of one another,’ says Seán. ‘That is perhaps very significant. I want to explore as far as I can the poetry that lies in silence, the point where sound and silence come together, as in the tolling of a bell, the place matter and spirit merge.’
With reference to the words of Rupert Brooke, John Berger and Rachel Muers and music by John Cage, Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Harvey, Erberhard Weber, Pink Floyd and Miles Davis.
Listen to the programme here
Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4
Everyone has experienced the cringey horribleness of scraping noises like fingernails on a blackboard. But Izzy Thomlinson noticed that while some people find these noises unbearable, other people are hardly affected at all.
In her So You Want to Be a Scientist experiment she aims to find out who is most affected by these noises. For example, do people’s responses vary with age? Or gender?
Listen to BBC Radio 4’s Material World programme here
Visit Izzy’s Horrible Noises Facebook page here.