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New sound concepts and terminological approaches

One year ago we – Jens Gerrit Papenburg, Maria Hanáček, and me – thought hard about the concept of this network, in the summer of ’09. And now, finally, the first workshop in Berlin really took place and is over. So, now it’s time to ask: What took place?

It all began on friday with a tiny symposion. Michael Bull started with a tour d’horizon on the situation of publishing on sound cultures, handbooks that are on the way and book series as well as peer-reviewed, international journals that could be installed soon; Daisuke Ishida and Marco Montiel-Soto took it away with an audiovisual and a solely acousmatic work: Montiel-Soto’s Maaáwaa: State before disorientation threw us deep in an urban, non-western situation of auditory disorientation – and Ishidas performance Erratic Flow encircled the audience with extreme media-inherent sounds: a kind of transcultural and technological earcleaning. Finally Golo Föllmer, Jochen Bonz and Jens Gerrit Papenburg did wrap it up with three inspiring positions on the voice which raised lots of the questions in the audience how to understand this continuum of mediated and processed voices – especially in popular culture.


On saturday the closed workshop session took place: the main format of this network. To work on the planned reference handbook (to be published in 2013/14) we had elaborated a structure to try out on this very first workshop under the titel of New sound concepts and terminological approaches.

We did start in the morning with a series of 5 very brief (only 10mins!), but provocating presentations and discussions at a roundtable under the title of What Sound is not (e.g. Sound is not the Score by Rolf Großmann or Sound is not only a Western Phenomenon by Thomas Burkhalter); followed in early afternoon by three working groups to specific questions arising out of the morning session (e.g. Sound Concept and/or Sound Practice, Sonic Essentialisms & Ontologizations, Separation of Sensory Channels & The Anti-Visual); PhD-researchers Carla Müller-Schulzke, Marta Garcia Quiñones and Thomas Schopp presented their likewise positions in the working groups as starting statements. The day closed on late afternoon and with a broad plenary discussion on the main topics and terminological questions we should deal with in the following – yes – years.

Some of the questions raised in the course of this day and especially in the final round were for instance: What qualitites are attached to related but different terms such as sound, Klang, sonic, audio, auditory, aural or even music? What could be an adequate set of methodologies to do research on sound? What is still needed in terminology and methodology to put the listening and appropriating individuum of sound in the focus? How are the historically separated senses in western culture brought together again through media technology? And how do the senses in the individuum interact and react on each other while performing sensory perception? What aspects of intentionality and non-intentionality of sound are to be researched on? If there is sound in a media culture – how does this change and affect the so-called non-mediated sound (if there is or was any ever)? I personally was surprised and delighted how often the name of Kodwo Eshun and his methodology and theory of sonic fiction was mentioned.

Later that night, Lena won the Eurovision Song Contest – surely nothing else than a phenomenon of Sound in Media Culture. The research network meets again in person in Vienna, at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, where Diedrich Diederichsen will host the second workshop under the title of Sound in everyday life within popular culture, 26th-28th of November 2010.

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