Call for paper : ESSA conference, 27-29 June, 2014 (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Panel proposals for the 2nd international

ESSA conference: Mapping the Field

University of Copenhagen, 27-29 June, 2014

In 2005, radio scholar Michele Hilmes raised the question whether there was a field called Sound Culture Studies? Her answer was a cautious ‘yes, there is a field’. We agree, even though it has become increasingly difficult, even for an avid reader, to have a genuine feeling of a single field of sound studies. We see developments that call for institutional change within the academy. And outside academia we witness a growing interest for sound artworks, sound archives, sound designs, audio books etc. All these examples testify to a vivid, exiting, and rapidly changing field or fields of sound studies. Having emerged from various traditional disciplines within the humanities and social
sciences (musicology, art history, media and cultural studies, psychology, architecture, urban planning, and many more), sound studies has been associated with inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches. Holding on to such positions between, under, or above accepted pillars of knowledge remains important. Future sound studies should maintain its place in an inter-disciplinary transit zone, ’ a central meeting place where the sonic imaginations go to be challenged, nurtured, refreshed and transformed’ (Jonathan Sterne). This calls for a restless testing of the epistemological, theoretical, methodological, and historical premises defining the field of sound studies.

The 2ndESSA conference will address such developments and ideas of what a future sound studies will or should be and how we are to understand them? What kind of theoretical apparatus is needed to analyze and contextualize disciplinary, artistic, political, and societal changes? And what kind of methodological approaches do they call for?

We invite papers on the following topics (but not restricted to):
– Case studies that testify to the recent changes within sound studies
– Theoretical reflections on sound studies’ futures
– Methodological papers testing the inter- or trans-disciplinary approaches of sound studies
– Historical papers that may help understand and contextualize the current developments
– Demonstrations of changing relations between what is studied and how it is studied
– Papers addressing how the sound industries take part in the recent developments
– Sound design futures
– Presentations of contemporary artworks that incorporate sounds
– The current state of sound aesthetics

Individual papers and presentations
Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words by March 15, 2014 to the organizers at
ESSA2014@soundstudies.eu. Please indicate whether the abstract is an academic paper or an artwork presentation.

The conference will offer a number of different presentation formats. Traditional academic
papers (20+20 minutes), artwork presentations (20+20 minutes), and exhibitions.

Along with the open paper sessions, we strongly encourage proposals for panels.

If you want to participate in one of these panels, please send in an individual abstract of no more than 300 words to the organisers at essa2014@soundstudies.eu by March 15 at the latest. Please indicate clearly which panel you want to participate in. You will find the details on each panel below the list.

Panel no. 1: Methodologies of Sound Studies
M.Cobussen & H.Schulze

Panel no. 2: History within Sound Studies and Sound Studies within History: Towards a Cohesive Methodology
Maarten Walraven/Kaarina Kilpiö

Panel no. 3: Film, Sound Studies, and the Post-digital
Budhaditya Chattopadhyay

Panel no. 4: Blue Skies and Bottom Lines: Friction and Frisson between the Audio Industry, Sonic Artists and the Academy
Martin Parker

Panel no. 5: Bringing Radio Back into Play (Current Explorations in Radio)
Kate Donovan & Séamus O’Donnell

Panel no. 6: Of Futures Past. Contemporary Sound Works with Obsolete/Outdated/Analogue Technologies (Artist Presentations, Installations and Performances)
Kate Donovan

Panel no. 7: Resonating Pasts: Sounding out Acoustic Archives
Anette Hoffmann/Britta Lange/Regina Sarreiter

Panel no. 8: Performing silence
Justyna Stasiowska/Isabelle Delmotte

Panel no. 1: Methodologies of Sound Studies
M.Cobussen & H.Schulze

Sounding and hearing are not simple entities to be researched on. The specific corporeal as well as situative character and the historically and culturally relative nature of the sonic demand further developments of existing methods: how can we manage to integrate this rich corpus of everyday and in situ sounds into research? How can we avoid simply objectifying and reifying such processual and situative entities? What heuristics and methods are already in use and prove to result in insightful and inspiring research publications? Are there forgotten or overseen references in the history of epistemologies which we could take up and elaborate for sound studies? Are there research institutes or environments which are maybe overseen by current research and need to be reviewed? How can sound practices - be it in traditional sonification techniques or in daring and advanced forms of sounding art - themselves be used as experiential sites through which (sonic) events are investigated? This panel explores the diversity of approaches, methods and heuristics applicable to research into as well as through sound.

Panel no. 2: History within Sound Studies and Sound Studies within History: Towards a Cohesive Methodology
Maarten Walraven/Kaarina Kilpiö

As the general CFP for this conference explains, Sound Studies is not so much a field, but ‘an inter-disciplinary transit zone.’ Yet, within the discipline of History there are a growing number of scholars working to make history more audible, which requires specific methodologies to uncover the sounds from the past in what are often written, printed and visual, archives. Historians have frequently justified their work by setting it up against a perceived ocularcentrism. This panel, however, aims to demonstrate that studying sound has more to add than balancing out the sensory scale. What historians seem to agree on when it comes to sound is that contextualisation is important (Smith 2001; Sterne 2003; Morat 2010). This panel will bring together historians working on past soundscapes from different periods to encourage the development of a more integrated methodology. In order to achieve this, we ask for submissions which focus on either ‘methods’ or ‘methodologies’ but move beyond the speculative and present their approach through a case study. We hope that this will trigger discussions that explore what historians can take from sound studies broadly, as well as providing a springboard towards building a consensus for what historians need to consider when they approach the echoes in the archive.

Panel no. 3: Film, Sound Studies, and the Post-digital
Budhaditya Chattopadhyay

Contemporary cinema in its essentially digital realm incorporates novel techniques such as digital multi-track ‘sync’ recording, multichannel surround sound mixing and digital distribution that reorder the typical organization of cinematic sound. These practices manifest themselves in novel modes of cinematic experience, thereby contrasting with the earlier mono-aural or stereophonic formats by reconfiguring the linear construct of a ‘soundtrack’ toward a spatially evocative sound environment. The ramifications of this, cinema adapting to a new technology, is far-reaching, though it is particularly evident in the way filmmaking has changed through the production practice of sound in cinema in its present digital realm. The digitalization of cinema also makes a substantial impact on aesthetic choices and creative strategies made with cinematic sound. In turn, at the point of reception, these transitions reconfigure audience perception of the cinematic space contrasting considerably with earlier cinematic experience in the mono-aural and stereophonic settings.

Therefore, it is necessary to consider these changes in practice or technique and the resultant transformation in the aesthetic choices, strategies and spatial experiences they trigger if we want to obtain a thorough understanding of the implications digital technologies infer on film sound. The proposed panel invites contributions from film sound scholars to instigate renewed discourses to this end.

Panel no. 4: Blue Skies and Bottom Lines: Friction and Frisson between the Audio Industry, Sonic Artists and the Academy
Martin Parker

This panel hopes to interrogate the questions below with representation from across the sector. If you’re working in the business, a freelance sound designer, an academic involved in sound studies or a sound artist and these questions irritate, inspire or worry you please submit a single paragraph position statement to ESSA for consideration.

The main questions are these: What defines a career in sound in 2014? Can the academy offer an experimental playground and simultaneously train its students for such a career? Where are new genres, forms and formats being imagined, tested and realised? This panel aims to examine the complex interrelationships between the audio industry, the sonic arts and contemporary sound studies.

These may be stated in more detail:

- What is it that students want from their education?
- What is it that they need?
- What does ’The Industry’ need from them upon graduation?
- What does ’The Academy’ want its students to learn and is this compatible with current employment contexts?
- Are the industry prepared to talk to the academy about their needs by relaxing NDAs, sharing software, skills, techniques and methodologies, offering internships and entry points to graduates?
- Are there any stable jobs for sound studies graduates or is this model collapsing in favour of freelance casual work across the sector?
- How does the industry treat its freelancers?
- How are sonic artists and freelancers supported by the academy, the industry and the state?
- As governments begin to encourage privatisation of higher education via state-imposed competition, universities are under increasing pressure to run parts of their business at a profit, this includes the education itself (read Stefan Collini’s article ”Sold Out”, 2013 found in the London Review of Books http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n20/stefan-collini/sold-out as a starting point).
- How is this changing the University’s own understanding of itself in relation to sound studies and how can Universities reconcile their business heads with their experimental hearts?
- Can sonic artists, the audio industry and the academy collaborate in a healthy way, if so how?

I propose panel format that allows for discussion and spontaneity. Rather than a formal presentation of three or four papers, the panel would consist of a 10-15 minute position statement from each speaker. Once each speaker has presented, the chair opens up the room for discussion pushing for people to ask questions of the panelists (rather than make points of their own). The chair would keep speakers to time and be there to provoke a discussion that involves the audience and the panel members. The panel could last up to two hours.

Panel no. 5: Bringing Radio Back into Play (Current Explorations in Radio)
Kate Donovan & Séamus O’Donnell

“Today, new trends in radio programming, controversies over broadcast content and regulation, technologies such as digital and satellite radio, and convergent practices like web‐based streaming audio, Internet radio, and podcasting have brought the long invisible landscape of radio back into public focus. Radio as a medium, thus, stands at a crucial historical juncture, as these emergent technologies and new modes of broadcast delivery challenge the very definition and function of radio.” (Daniel Gilfillan)

This panel would like to present a number of practical radio projects (which could potentially coincide with radio‐based installations/performances) that deal with the intricacies of this “crucial historical juncture.” These could consist of, but are not limited to, explorations of some of the following ideas:

- Prioritizing the complex connection between production and reception (and perhaps even challenging Brecht’s infamous critique that radio is “one‐sided when it should be two‐. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out.”
- Re‐evaluating media theorist Friedrich Kittler’s statement “Nobody listens to radio. What loudspeakers or headsets provide for their users is always just radio programming, never radio itself,” by questioning mainstream programme scheduling, and/or literally bringing the sound of radio back into play.
- Creatively utilizing/hybridizing various radio technologies to provide meaning for content and/or using innovative ways to create original content.
- Being aware of, and directly applying, the ability of radio to infiltrate local and international contexts simultaneously.
- Dealing with the complexity of assimilating theory and practice.
- Redefining what ‘radio’ is and has the potential to be.

There are numerous current radio projects (and sound art works), which are innovative in terms of content, format, and means of distribution. These projects deserve recognition in the academic field of Sound Studies.

Panel no. 6: Of Futures Past. Contemporary Sound Works with Obsolete/Outdated/Analogue Technologies (Artist Presentations, Installations and Performances)
Kate Donovan

The vast majority of contemporary arts festivals are centred around digital culture, digital technologies and the latest advancements in technology. Despite this, currently there is a plethora of artists who choose to work and experiment with analogue media, obsolete, outdated or abandoned technologies. In this panel of artist presentations, installations and performances, the research and practice of such sound artists will be introduced and discussed in an attempt to expose and understand prevalent working methods that are sidelined all too often.

Such works are not limited to, but could employ mediums such as:

- Outdated/historical recording devices. The phonograph cylinder/disc, electrical recording, optical recording, magnetic recording (wire recorders/reel to reel tape/cassette tape), obsolete or early digital devices (mini disc/compact disc).
- Obsolete technologies. Dot‐matrix printers, discman/Walkman, fax machines, video recorders, OHP, floppy discs, Gameboy or other gaming devices, early computers (Atari, commodore64, amiga, etc).
- Hacking, circuit‐bending or recycling.

On a more theoretical level, themes such as perception, historicism and materiality can be considered. All of the aforementioned technologies were, in their time, cutting edge, and all of them were replaced or ‘improved’ usually by faster, smaller, more functional versions. Is artistic expression the only remaining use for such obsolete technologies?

What can we learn about contemporary society by looking at artistic uses of the remains of futures past? What are the conceptual, commercial, aesthetic reasons for working in this field? – the abundance of obsolete technologies? – giving meaning to abandoned technologies? Are artists working in these mediums making a statement against consumer culture? Can these technologies be used simply for novelty value? Does there always have to be a sense of nostalgia, or are artists able to ‘look forward’ by referring to futures past?

Panel no. 7: Resonating Pasts: Sounding out Acoustic Archives
Anette Hoffmann/Britta Lange/Regina Sarreiter

The introduction of the phonograph (1877) triggered zealous enterprises of recording by folklorists, musicologists, linguists, anthropologists, missionaries, travelers and colonial officers. Voices of prominent people, of so-called natives, of musical performances, but also of animals and ghosts, both ‘at home’ and ‘abroad’, were recorded and stored in newly established sound archives and collections. From the growing field of sound studies, several scholars have engaged with the histories of audile technologies (Brady, Sterne, Kittler, Gitelmann), the establishment of comparative musicology (Ames, Bohlmann & Radano), endeavours of ethnographic recording (in the wider sense) (Hoffmann, Sacken), and the politics and poetics of the history of sound /voice recording more generally (Dolar, Felderer, Lange).

Yet the recordings themselves, the form and content of, for instance, the vast collections related to projects of imperial knowledge production have seen little scrutiny. Contrary to the scholarly engagement with colonial photography, the sound recordings of similar provenance have so far been neglected as sources in the humanities.

Our own work (Hoffmann, Lange, Sarreiter) has alerted us to the status of historical sound recordings as recalcitrant, acoustic presences in the colonial archive and the complicated positions of speaking these historical voice recordings entail. Acoustic documents from the past should not simply be treated as texts but listened to as complex, mediated ‘voice-objects’. They may reveal neglected aspects of sound studies, cultural studies, history and post-colonial studies, and may serve in curatorial approaches not as sonic illustrations but as documents in their own right and media specificity.

Our panel invites scholars who theoretically engage with historical sound documents, the histories of recording and collecting, the politics involved in the creation of sound archives, and the complexities of acousmatic voices as archival material. We also invite presenters who conceptually engage with sound recordings in museums and exhibitions and the challenges of curating and exhibiting historical recordings beyond the function of ambient sound.

Panel no. 8: Performing silence
Justyna Stasiowska/Isabelle Delmotte

The basic idea of this panel is to investigate silence as a practice. Treating silence as an effect created within a framework including manipulation of audience perception helps to overcome the dichotomized opposition of silence and sound. John Cage's 4'33” is regarded as a ‘silence piece’ in which the performer is silenced in order to amplify sounds, “asking the audience to continue to be obedient listeners and not to engage in utterances that would distract them from shifting perception to other sounds” as Douglas Kahn implies. The way audience perception is manipulated helps to create a sphere of silence, as exemplified in the series of Blackout performances by the artist Tres in which all the devices in the building are gradually shut down. Concurrently, in movies, silence is not always soundless: its narration can be visually or audibly noisy to some members of an audience, but not to others.

How silence is inter-sensorially experienced within an artistic context may reflect the active role of audiences in creating silence. The panel proposes to approach silence as a multi-sensory experience: it invites papers examining the practice of performing silence through a range of media and discussing the inter-sensoriality of sound perception through theories and examples.

Keynote speakers
Georgina Born (Oxford University, UK)
Norie Neumark (La Trobe University, Australia)
Carolyn Birdsall (Amsterdam University, Holland)

Important deadlines:

– Abstracts for open paper presentations and for panel papers are due on March 15, 2014.
– Decisions regarding the review process of the open abstracts and panel abstracts will be
made by April 15, 2014.

Conference fee:

– Early bird registration for ESSA 2014 opens on April 15, 2014.
– Late bird registration opens on June 1, 2014

Conference fee: €100 (early birds €80)
Students (without grants) €60 (early birds €45)

ESSA 2014 will be a joint venture between The Nordic Research Network for Sound Studies
(http://sdu.dk/norsound, sponsored by NordForsk 2012-2014) and ESSA

The organizing committee is: associate professor Morten Michelsen, University of Copenhagen, assistant professor Jacob Kreutzfeldt, University of Copenhagen and associate professor Erik Granly Jensen, University of Southern Denmark. For questions regarding ESSA 2014 please write to the organizers at ESSA2014@soundstudies.eu