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Research

The basic research questions of this international research network are:

    Which transformations can be observed in the cultural history of sound by the rise of media culture – in practices and concepts, as well as in artifacts and technologies? 

    Which methods are appropriate to explore how the scientific entity of ‘sound’ is constituted in historical and contemporary media culture?

In the course of working on the reference handbook in six workshops, hosted by our international network partners, we will explore the following aspects of these questions:

(1) What is specific for sound in media culture? Which methods of cultural studies are used to explore sound in media culture? Why is sound not reducible to music, language, physical vibrations of the air, to phenomenological listening experiences or its mere physical source?

(2) How is sound embedded in everyday life within media culture? How is the popular performed and produced in that context? Why is the sound studies scholar not an omnipotent expert or even sage of the auditory – and why is she or he not a simple propagandist and evangelist of anything mass culture throws on the market?

(3) How is sound conceptualized and produced within an historically and culturally changing studio environment – from the home studio to an institutionalized process of production and distribution? How is sound, historically and today, trademarked and used as a marketing tool and maybe even a rhetoric scam? How did sound become an important part of a recording aesthetic? How did it become associated with particular equipment and even considered an inherent quality of the latter?

(4) Which new modes and technologies of listening are created through historically and culturally changing characteristics of produced sound? Which forms of intermodal perception arose and vanished in the historical process of separating the senses facilitated by objectifying and reproducing interests in science and technology? How is sound in media culture not only affected and appropriated by the ear – but also the bodies of the listeners in an all-embracing and highly idiosyncratic, proprioceptive and auto-somatosensoric way?

(5) How does sound produced by new media technologies differ from that of classical instruments? What is lost when media technologies are ‘instrumentalised’? How did and does the function of a musician change in that context?

(6) Why are current media soundscapes increasingly designed from a functional point of view? What are the basic constituents of an acoustic design theory? How is the term noise variably conceptualized in a globalised media culture? What could be the impact of a global media culture on the production and perception of sound within these changing soundscapes?

The 6 workshops 2010-2013 are designed as follows:

Workshop 1: New sound concepts and methodological approaches
(Berlin, May 28-30, 2010; Chairs: Schulze, Papenburg, Hanáček; Guest: Burkhalter)
This workshop, which will also be the first meeting of all permanent network members, serves to clarify where different approaches to deal with sound in media culture are heading.

Workshop 2: Sound in everyday life within popular culture
(Vienna, November 26-28, 2010; Chairs: Müller-Schulzke, Schopp; Guests: Hecken, Bullerjahn)
This workshop examines how sound is used and transformed within popular culture. It will deal with the individual appropriation of sound within mass culture as well as with talk about sound.

Workshop 3: The conceptualization of sound within a studio environment
(London, March 25-27, 2011; Chairs: Hanáček, Nardi; Guests: Théberge, Zagorski-Thomas)
In this workshop we will consider how sound is conceptualized by the media industries as a marketing strategy but also how it became part of a recording aesthetic and why it is considered to be an inherent quality of technical equipment.

Workshop 4: Anthropology of the senses
(Berlin, October 28-30, 2011; Chairs: Schulze, Papenburg; Guests: Erlmann, Sterne)
In this workshop we will discuss new modes of perception within media culture, especially sensory modes of listening that correspond with new sound concepts and technological mediation.

Workshop 5: New technologies, new sound practices
(Lüneburg, May 11-13, 2012; Chairs: Großmann, Papenburg; Guest: Butler)
In this workshop we will discuss the influence of technological media on music making and listening. We will ask whether a new concept of the musical instrument would be in order regarding the use of technology and interfaces.

Workshop 6: Sound design and acoustic ecology
(Milan, October 19-21, 2012; Chairs: Schulze, García Quiñones; Guests: Kassabian, Bijsterveld)
The last workshop will deal with the design of contemporary soundscapes. We would like to discuss the impact of global media culture on the production and the perception of sound within theses soundscapes.