Category Archives: time

Film Review: Francofonia

“All museums must be prepared for war,” states director Alexander Sokurov during his ongoing narration of his latest film, Francofonia, a meditation on European cultural heritage and conflict via the Louvre. Continue reading

The Exhibition Catalogue As Printed Echo

When a museum exhibition ends, all we’re left with are memories.

Well, that and a catalogue.

Museum exhibitions are collaborative projects, culminations of the work of many people with a variety of skills: Continue reading

Listening to Museums: Sound Mapping Strategies for Visual Environments

I presented this paper at the 2015 Ecrea Media & The City conference at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb.

You can read the abstract below.


 

The multisensory experience of museums is becoming increasingly relevant to curators, the visiting public, and academics, with many museums even beginning to include participatory activities based on listening to their own soundscapes in their public engagement programs. But what does it mean to listen to a visual environment? What are some effective strategies for engaging with a museum soundscape? Could listening to museums lead to the development of new cultural institutions devoted to sound? In my artistic practice, I have spent the last five years making sound maps of several museums and archives including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (shortly before the Arab Spring revolution), the British Library’s Sound Archive, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern, and The Pitt Rivers at Oxford. Eschewing a top-down, Google Maps API approach, my sound maps exist as immersive sound compositions that lead the listener through an audio tour of a different kind, a cognitive map that juxtaposes the sounds of objects and environments in new configurations and contexts much like museum curators juxtapose items in exhibitions. In addition to the sound maps, I also make blind listening sketches of museum soundscapes in situ, closing my eyes and drawing the sounds I hear for a predetermined duration using a system of mark making that is gradually becoming a lexicon of museum sound symbols. My research into the sonic experience of museums presents these soundscapes as cognitive maps, my personal journeys that are moving closer and closer to an attempt to define the authentic essence of what museums sound like. In this paper, I document the inspirations and thinking behind my museum sound mapping strategies along with a selection of their results, including sound compositions, videos, and drawings that map my acts of listening to various museum spaces, archiving them for the future.

Why Listen to Museums?

This is the text of a talk I gave during the Soundscapes Late event at the National Gallery in London on 4 September, 2015. You can also download and listen to a recording of the talk on my SoundCloud page. Continue reading

Towards a Poetics of Museum Sound

i. Collections

An urge,
an unheard whisper in the ear,
a yearning for that
complete set,
that rarity that only we –
the privileged, the possessors –
can call our own
and control who sees it or hears it.

ii. Objects

This multitude of things
material or intangible
mute or loquacious
produced by culture
assumed authentic
obtained through
– excavation
– plunder
– exchange
selected by a few
desired by many
seen or unseen
with aural auras
untouchable
yet somehow accessible
if deemed worthy.


iii. Galleries

The display of our wares
our triumphs
our tragedies
icons of history
or forgotten pasts
within discursive configurations
spaces resonating with
meaning
history
passion
mortality
time –
the nexus of echoes
past and present:
the active sounds of history.

iv. Memory

What is it about that
sound
that makes me think of childhood?
Why does this image
transport me back to that thing I read
back when I was a student?
Which story about
my family
deserves to be recorded?
When did they decide
these are the things
that we should remember?

v. Contemplation

This silence
that is not silent
these echoes
these objects
installed and instilled with
their own preciousness
encourage one’s mind to ponder
and wander
across time: backwards and forwards
waves of sound, waves of history
upon which our thoughts might float.

vi. Engagement

We visit these places
not just to learn,
but to teach
not just to see,
but to be seen
not just to listen,
but to be heard.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Book Review: Victorian Soundscapes by John M. Picker

Victorian Soundscapes book cover

One of the most engaging books on sound I’ve read this year, “Victorian Soundscapes” examines the changing attitudes toward sound throughout the Victorian era by concentrating on the literature of the time. While previous knowledge of the written works referred to would obviously make this book’s conclusions even clearer than they already are, prior knowledge of the texts discussed isn’t necessary. Some of the works analyzed include Dickens’ “Dombey and Son,” George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Voice of Science,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Along the way, other writings and events woven into the analysis include the writings on acoustics by Hermann von Helmhotz; the anti-immigrant cartoons of Punch magazine’s John Leech; the far-fetched theories about sound and the atmosphere put forth by father of the computer Charles Babbage; the saga of Thomas Carlyle’s attempt to design and build the first soundproof study in London; the histories of the development of the telephone, phonograph, and gramophone; and the origin of the painting “His Master’s Voice” featuring the Victor Dog. Continue reading

Untitled 9

In ruins
desiccated, no longer reaching or supporting
merely abandoned:
a dead branch, twisting
between the remains of two columns.
Beyond the rubble at their feet
the olive jar splayed out on the ground below
after a tumbling fall, ages ago
resting
in a hollow stasis
broken only by wind
and lengthening shadows.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.