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    CFP: Tuning Speculation V: Vibratory (Ex)changes

    written on June 24th, 2017

    Note: deadline extended to the 1st of August

    17-19 November 2017, Toronto (Canada)

    Organized by The Occulture

    (David Cecchetto, Marc Couroux, Ted Hiebert, Eldritch Priest and Rebekah Sheldon)

    If the din of sonic and vibrational ontologies has catalyzed a salutary expansion of the vectors through which the world is (never) made sensible, it has also risked speaking, echoing, and amplifying the disquieting murmurs and groans of contemporary neoliberal biopolitics such that sounds of the latter are, paradoxically, inaudible as such. If this is the case, then what is the relationship between a vibro-capitalism that is heard in and as contemporary politics and a vibrocapitalist impulse that drives and ratifies the reality of those same elements? Put differently, on what does vibration exchange?

    Maybe it’s time to forget the future, which was always a hallucinatory mnemotechnical destiny anyways; instead, the tuning is now and it brings with it questions that can only be (un)heard at scales that never quite sound. We therefore seek contributions from scholars, artists, writers, activists and comedians who take seriously the ethical, political, or phenomenal capacities —possibly impossible, and likely unlikely—that are opened, foreclosed, amplified, attenuated, dampened, resonated, remixed, or otherwise called forth at the nexus of vibration and exchange, however broadly conceived. While several approaches can catalyze our speculations, we propose to concentrate on sounding art—broadly understood—in order to leverage the fated semiotic parasitism, differential production, relational expression, and perceived multiplicity that informs such practices. We also welcome various reflections on sono­distractions, phonochaosmosis, ’patasonics, harmelodic­prescience, audio pragmètics, chronoportation, h/Hypermusic, rhetorical modes of speculation and other invocations of impossible, imaginary, and/or unintelligible aural (dis)encounters.

    Please send an abstract (maximum 250 words) to torn@asounder.org by 1 August 2017.  In addition, given that we will be making multiple funding applications to support travel for all presenters, please include the following with your abstract: short bio (150 words), your affiliation, and a summary of academic degrees. Notification of acceptance will be given in early August.

    Tuning Speculation V is generously supported by York University through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and the Department of Humanities.

    || filed under: Academia, CFP, Conferences
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    Hildegard Westerkamp on Background Music

    written on April 23rd, 2016


    Yesterday, Hildegard Westerkamp shared this story on the Acoustic Ecology listserv, and I thought it might be worth sharing with a larger audience. Although I might not share Westerkamp’s views on the nature of listening (“But does anyone actually listen to the music  – or to the intent behind the music, for that matter?”), her letter is a poignant critique of muzak’s insidious power of anesthetization and distraction.

    Without further ado…


    Dear Colleagues and Friends,

    Today is Earth Day, a perfect day to share with you a letter I just wrote to the PlayNetwork after they approached me to use one of my compositions for background music purposes! Imagine Gently Penetrating beneath the sounding surfaces of another place  – that’s the piece they requested as a starter – at Starbucks!

    Here is the letter (The irony was just too enormous for me not to respond in this fashion!):

    It seems rather strange and ironic that I would be approached to add my music to the libraries of the background music market. My  compositions do not lend themselves at all to be heard as background music, and I will certainly not make it available. Thank you for the offer, but it goes absolutely against everything that I am trying to do as a composer.

    Background music insidiously distracts people from the real social, environmental and cultural issues in this world. The Muzak Corporation and all other leased music companies have been rather successful in creating obedient consumers (and workers) for decades now, who essentially and with deaf ears provide the huge profits that are being made through the creation of background music atmospheres. How is it, that millions of so-called listeners (or ‘impressions’, as you call them in your email below!) have been convinced that they cannot live without music during every day of their lives. But does anyone actually listen to the music  – or to the intent behind the music, for that matter? No, of course not. It has been the corporate intent all along, to create audiences who do not listen, who swallow any musical sound presented to them and thus enable the profit-making of the background music industry.

    In a world in which environmental and social issues are emerging everywhere, alert ears and minds are needed to notice and counteract these grave conditions. The ongoing efforts by the background music industry to ‘soothe’ its audiences into false comfort and numb ears and minds into a kind of haze of inattention, are outright irresponsible and rather sinister under these urgent circumstances in which our world currently finds itself.

    In your email below you say please consider the environment before printing this email. Equally, please consider the acoustic environment and the ears and mental sanity of your listeners, before continuing to devalue the real quality of music and the world’s acoustic environments. In that spirit, I will not contribute my music to PlayNetwork, and thus will not become part of a “brand that moves consumers” as it says so poignantly on your website. I also have not printed your email.

    I am pretty convinced that no one at PlayNetwork has actually listened to my music, and that this request does not come from an informed listener, but rather from the corporate context of collecting as many ‘tunes’ or ‘songs’ as possible for the purpose of making profit.

    With best regards,
    Hildegard Westerkamp


    || filed under: Academia, Music, Sound
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    Will Schrimshaw – Infraesthetics

    written on February 25th, 2016

    I found this talk Will Schrimshaw did at Tuning Speculation: Experimental Aesthetics and the Sonic Imaginary in 2013 – a conference that had a lot of talks by people whose work I am still getting acquainted with.

    The term infraesthetics is proposed in order to describe a prominent and `reductive’ domain of work that takes a functional approach to sound and signals wherein the aesthetic is understood to be a kind of residual congealing or crystallisation, an unavoidable byproduct of more fundamental and primarily functional processes.

    Infraesthetics is the way in which art dealing with the infrasonic boundary orients our thinking away from interiority (and immersion) toward exteriority. The aesthetic is treated as a necessary interface to the inaudible conditions of audition. In this talk, Schrimshaw’s concurrent aim is to implement infraesthetics as an ontology of sound based on movement – not the artwork’s pictoral qualities, as is the case in cymatic artworks. It’s an ontology of the vibrational aspects of sound art, removed from its visual appearance.

    Infraesthetics is concerned with the concept of the noumenal.

    Later, Schrimshaw talks about an aesthticist engagement with aesthetics based in Deleuze’s statement that »experimental practices are primarily concerned with ideas« and that »white noise is the idea of sound.« This is something that recently has become clearer to me – the need for a more experimental and alternative approach to my research.

    Now I need to figure out how I am going to implement this in my own upcoming PhD-research. Both in terms of institutional and personal limitations.

    || filed under: Academia, Sonic Materialism, Sound Studies
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    written on November 24th, 2015

    During his talk last year at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, Wolfgang Ernst mentions the concept of sonicity. This was the first time I’ve heard Ernst mention aspects of sound (aside from the few passages in Digital Memory and the Archive) and it got me excited. Especially since Ernst was a big influence on my MA-thesis about new media art archives with his media archaeological and deconstructive approach to (computer) archiving.

    With the announcement of his new book Sonic Time Machines (date of publication set for 2016), I am excited to see how Ernst will combine two great interests of mine; archives and sound.

    Yet after watching the talk, I am left with a tame feeling that this idea of sonicity is not the novel idea I was hoping it to be. Ernst starts to discuss what he means by this concept at 46:55; “There is an implicit sonicity in computational architectural silence. A sounding latency. Like a gothic cathedral waiting for the organ.” By this definition, sonicity is little more than a way to describe the oral/aural history of objects. How even an unplugged modem still contains within it the croaking and wheezing clicks, whirrs and beeps we remember so vividly. As interesting as the archived object’s potential for sound is, I fail to see what academic insights can evolve from this? Doesn’t it seem kind of.. old.. to you?

    Later, in talking about the magnetic tapes on which archives used to be stored, he takes another stab at defining sonicity, as the sounds coming from these tapes. (49:03) “If we listen to computing, we are not listening to content but to memory itself.” The sounds of the archive itself. So now we’re not talking about the sound of the objects, but the sound of the collections holding the objects? In a sense, what I think Ernst is trying to get at, is a acoustics of computational architecture. The resonance or reverberation of software – the rhythm of algorithms.

    And just as he seems to be tapping into intriguing territory, he shuts down and starts talking about computer architecture again. Ernst covers a lot more sonic ground in his talk, but it lacks focus and he keeps trailing off about silence (temporal, culturally negative), sound-as-signal/noise (Kittler) and other slightly dusty ideas.

    Maybe I’m being too harsh here. I do think that Sonic Time Machines will hold the academic clarity and rigour needed to explore what I hope will be the vibrations of software. A rhythmanalysis of the algorhythms of digital architecture.

    || filed under: Academia, Archives, Essay, Sound Studies
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    In flux

    written on October 22nd, 2015

    In the past week or so, I presented my PhD proposal to the other members of the Sound & Senses Research Group and wrote two articles about sound art and sonic warfare, respectively. The resulting discussions, feedback and introspection has made me reconsider my approach to the PhD proposal.

    My initial interest in sound art – beside the immediate aesthetic experience – was based on the idea that sound (and art in general) could be made for non-human beings. Be they computers, animals or inanimate objects – the idea that sound is received by much more than just ears seems to me inherently obvious, yet generally under-theorised or downright ignored by many sound students.

    What also interests me is the correlation between sound and intelligence. Just like an object’s reception of sound is often judged by anthropocentric standards of reciprocation and ability to distill meaning from a sound, so is intelligence judged in relation to human intelligence. In a colonial act of uniformity, computers and parrots are required to think like humans to be considered intelligent.

    Trying to arrive at these ideas through the affect theory of Brian Massumi and Will Schrimshaw seemed logical at first, but anthropocentrism lurks in the shadows. Instead, my eyes have been opened to Object-Orientated Ontology. Perhaps this focus on objects and their relations can bridge the gap between Massumi’s affect theory, sound art and Steve Goodman‘s vibrational ontology. In a sense, I think this is what Schrimshaw attempted to do in his article “Non-cochlear Sound: On Affect and Exteriority.” However, he never addresses OOO directly.

    It’s truly odd. Half a year ago now, I went into this with a curiosity about whether Actor-Network Theory might be what I was looking for in order to describe these anthro-decentric ideas I had. I remember diving into the Wikipedia article to get a taste of what this was all about, and ended up stuck in Latour feeling let down and dissatisfied. If I had only taken a left turn, followed some stray hyperlink or plunged deeper I might have found Morton, Harman, Bogost and Bryant much sooner.

    All the more exciting to be academically starting anew. However it does not feel like starting over – it feels like reading up on ideas that – when formalised – were always self-evident.

    || filed under: Academia, OOO, Sound Studies
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