Interference Journal Issue 5

This issue of Interference asked authors to consider sound as the means to which we can explain the sonic. Contributions to the study of sound, apart from practice-based works, are often disseminated through language and text. This is the case for most analysis or research into sensory based and phenomenological studies. There is of course a strong case to be made for text; it is the universal way in which contemporary knowledge is transmitted. But perhaps there is an argument to be made for new ways to not only explore sound but to disseminate ideas around the sonic. For example, in what way can ‘sonic papers’ represent ideas about the experience of space and place, local and community knowledge? How can emerging technologies engage with both the everyday soundscape and how we ‘curate this experience’? What is the potential of listening methods as a tool to engage community with ‘soundscape preservation’ and as a tool to critique and challenge urban planning projects?

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This paper describes a pedagogical method to engage students in the study of sound objects using an acousmatic, phenomenological approach. The interdisciplinary course is taught at the undergraduate level in the school of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas. The primary goal of the course is to teach students to become experts of their own listening. Schaeffer’s Solfège des Objets Musicaux (1966) shaped the design of this phenomenological approach to teaching auditory perception while the framework of Temporal Semiotic Units (TSUs) supported the approach to musical structures. The paper first describes the theoretical foundation for the study method, then describes students’ progression through the phases of the learning experience, and concludes with an invitation for more research about leading students towards greater understanding of the cognitive processes engaged by auditory perception.

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Cities are dynamic, spatial and material systems that exhibit power scaling and self-similarity across a range of scales. Spatial designers are informed by mathematical and biological systems and use concepts and processes abstracted from them to analyse the emergent phenomena of dynamic complex systems. Although there is an increasing interest in integrating aural perceptual phenomena within the discourse of spatial design domains, both of these fields continue to develop separately. Urban factors, activities, and morphologies determine the aggregate pattern of aural spaces. In turn, the sonic character affects social order within urban patches. Currently, borrowed epistemological concepts are integrated into both domains, where emergence of architecture and soundscape ecology form the current state-of-the-art for research on urban and soundscape design, respectively. This paper explores soundscape ecology as a point of departure to build on the theory of emergence in architecture by drawing parallels and contrasts between these two domains.

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How might the recognition of sonic awareness (and its subsequent development) affect and inform the public policy design? It is assumed that the lack of sonic awareness possessed by the citizens who constitute communities currently affects the knowledge controlled by the main stakeholders who establish the guidelines that determine the experience of sonic environment. By exploring the intersection between sound studies and public policy design we believe it is possible to reveal how audible everyday practices might help us to explore otherwise intractable urban issues and enhance the role played by citizens’ acoustic awareness within the design of contemporary cities. This investigation allows the design of alternative maps of city uses, abuses and conflicts, and could help to identify the decline of specific traditional knowledges. Furthermore, audible everyday practices could enact listening education, making collectivities realise their responsibilities in the composition of sonic environment.

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The contemporary Mediterranean Soundscape is a living organism, articulated by the ever-changing landscape, the growing building sprawl and vibrant urban activity. Accordingly, in Mediterranean Urban areas, towns’ identities are shaped partly by the rhythms of the everyday life of their inhabitants.
This article approaches the contemporary soundscape of two Mediterranean places: the city centre of Nicosia in Cyprus and the urban areas of Malta. After practicing two respective soundwalks to describe the places’ sonic environments, the research uses eighteen in-depth interviews to examine the relationship between the cities’ inhabitants and their soundscape, and to explore the way people identify characteristic sounds of their place. The people of these islands appear to identify the soundscape of their place in a parallel, if not similar, way, giving particular attributes to key features of the Mediterranean soundscape. Through this study, the article outlines such similarities, as well as differences between the two soundscapes.

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The relevance of phenomenology for arts education is explored through two multimedia arts inquiry projects. I begin by offering a brief outline of what arts inquiry and phenomenology entail. Following this, I consider a phenomenological study relevant to creative multimedia studies, and develop the relationship between phenomenology, critical pedagogy, and creative praxis in the arts. Drawing on these ideas, I then discuss the processes involved in creating the multimedia projects and consider possibilities for similar projects in educational contexts. Most importantly, I attempt to show how such projects might open arts educators and students to more reflective, imaginative and participatory ways of being-in-the-world, while simultaneously developing deeper historical, cultural, technical, and aesthetic understandings of the art forms they are engaged with.

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How is culture constituted sonically? In what ways are perception, thinking and epistemic practices as such predisposed by the sonic? These questions are being tackled in Sound Studies research but can also be experimentally elaborated in the form of organised sound itself. To (re)present and negotiate concepts and argumentations sonically is a yet rather marginal and unconventionalised form that bears a high potential for future research in Sound Studies and beyond – thereby following the recent impetus of a design turn within the humanities.

We developed this approach further at the Fluid Sounds conference in Copenhagen (2015) where we produced the audio paper Transducing the Bosavi Rainforest. Sonic Modes of Processing Culture on constitutive sonic structures in Berlin and Amager (Copenhagen) inspired by Steven Feld’s work on the Kaluli people. This article discusses sonic epistemology and thinking as theoretical background of this approach of writing through sound and describes a concept of the audio paper format alongside the example produced in Copenhagen.

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In less than a decade, the cell phone’s transformation from a tool for mobile telephony into a multimodal, computational ‘smart’ media device has engendered a new kind of emplacement and ubiquity of technological mediation into urban everyday life. This technological mediation is increasingly integrated into and co-constitutive of the very fabric of everyday experience and perception ranging from sensorial encounters with physical space to the enactment of epistemological and social practices. Leveraging a small ethnographic study in which participants used an iPod Touch to generate a series of personal media documentaries about their everyday sonic experience, this paper posits that the act of generating media artefacts is an act of mediated curation: it stages everyday life as content; it reconfigures perceptual practices and frames patterns of mediated communication. Adopting the metaphor of curation re-frames traditional notions of aesthetic sensibility through concepts such as the ‘photographer’s eye’ and the ‘recordist’s ear’ as they historically transcend the realm of specialized expertise and become the purview of a general everyday practice. In that, the boundary between art and documentation is thinly compressed into the simultaneously creative and epistemological act of curating everyday experience through the aesthetic politics of the smartphone. As a sonic ethnography, this study offers a unique model of doing research with technology that is rooted in a sensory approach to experience and cultural practices.

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