Seminar 2

Seminar 2: Place in sound and music

May 2-3 2013

The Grieg Academy, University of Bergen
Stein Rokkans Hus, Nygårdsgaten 5, 5007 Bergen

This is the building that formerly belonged to the BT newspaper. A map is provided at bottom of this page.


The second Re:place seminar examines how issues of place are being negotiated in contemporary sound and music, and questions how this resembles or differs from the dealing with place in fine arts. 

Participants in the Re:place project will also use the workshop for further planning of the upcoming exhibition at KinoKino and Sandnes kunstforening, and discussions on how to proceed on the issue of critical reflection within the project.

Spatial audio is an important aspect of contemporary electronic music, but composers tend to put a stronger emphasis on space than place. The term "spatial composition" suggests authoring and sculpting of (moving) sound in space, but what do this spatial sound and music really mean? Is it aiming at "placemaking", or is it rather a more abstract and performative choreography of synthesised sound movements within abstract and formal space? If so, why?

In recent years composers of electronic music have explored object-oriented approaches towards spatial sound authoring. Similar approaches are now being adapted by emerging high-resolution spatial sound formats for the film industry, such as Dolby Atmos [1]. Discussions on spatial mixing of mainstream movies for Dolby Atmos have an almost single-minded emphasis on storytelling [2]. What is the role of place in such storytelling, and how are impressions of place created through sound and music in film and game audio? Are places created explicitly in film sound, or only implicitly through spatial location and movement of the numerous sound FX objects of the sound mix?

From Musique concrete onwards, acousmatic music has made use of "found sound", sound recorded in the real world. Acousmatic music encourages reduced listening, a listening "to sound for its own sake, as a sound object, by removing its real or supposed source and the meaning it may convey" [3]. This listening mode will also serve to remove or downplay any links and references to the places of the original recordings. At the same time acousmatic music is commonly performed as spatial projections prepared for or mixed live to large arrays of loudspeakers distributed throughout the concert hall. How is place then being conceived within acousmatic music?

Soundscapes might seem to take a radically different approach; capturing, documenting, studying and rendering place through sound. Sound walks extends this further by superimposing additional sound on specific places and sites, often making use of geolocation. Are these positions of soundscapes and acousmatic music negotiable?

Spatial music might appear as being invisible and immaterial, but is often linked to research into music and body movement. In sound arts many artists prefer working on physical objects with an emphasis on their material, tactile, bodily and cultural qualities. How do issues of sound, space and place relate to embodiment and perception, and to more subjective qualities relating to emotion and memory?

This is a workshop seminar. The invited participants will be presenting their own projects and practise as related to the above questions, and this will serve as input to an active discussion that primarily will take place between participants in the Re:place project and the invited guests.

[1] Dolby Laboratories, inc (2012): Dolby Atmos. Next-generation audio for cinema. White paper. Available online
[3] Chion, Michel (1983): Guide to sound objects. Translated by J. Dack and C. North. Available online at The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS). Available online. Page 30.


Thursday 2, May

  • 09:30: Morning coffee
  • 10:00: Welcome. Morten Eide Pedersen
  • 10:15: Introduction - Project status and presentation of the overall topic of this workshop-seminar. Trond Lossius
  • 11:00: Suk-Jun Kim
  • 12:00: Lunch
  • 13:00: Brief presentations of project ideas and progress from Re:place participants:
    • Ellen Røed & Signe Lidén
    • Anne Marthe Dyvi
    • Bull.Miletic
    • Jeremy Welsh
    • Trond Lossius
    • Morten Eide Pedersen
  • 14:00: Jan Schacher
  • 15:00: Coffee
  • 15:15: Ruben Sverre Gjertsen
  • 15:40: Signe Lidén: Resonance project
  • 16:00: Dinner break
  • 18:00: Sound check at Landmark. Signe is in charge of this.
  • 18:00: Re:place steering group meeting (concerning budget and administration of the project). Only applies to Jeremy, Signe, Morten and Trond
  • 20:00 Evening program @ Landmark:
    • Daniela Cascella
    • Pete Stollery
    • Sun-Jun Kim

Friday 3, May

  • 09:30: Coffee
  • 10:00: Natasha Barret
  • 11:00: Pete Stollery
  • 12.00: Lunch
  • 13:00: Gerhard Eckel
  • 14:00: Concluding discussion
    • General discussion of topics raised in this seminar
    • How will we be approaching critical reflection in the Re:place project?
  • 15:15: Coffee
  • 15:30: Practical planning for KINOKINO (closed session)
  • 17:00: Seminar ends

Invited guests

Natasha Barret
Contemporary sonic art: Overlapping, multi-disciplinary yet spatially dislocated.

We tend to regard acousmatic composition, instrumental composition using electroacoustic sound or live processing, and sound-art, overlapping and multi-disciplinary. Yet dispute audio technologies becoming cheaper, more readily available and easier for a non-technical person to quickly grasp hands-on practical use, there remain enormous differences in the extent that spatial ideas, the artistic use of composition and spatial techniques have been embraced in the different fields of contemporary music and contemporary arts using sonic media. In terms of space, these genres are as far apart as they were 40 years ago.
Why is this the case? Can the gaps be bridged?
In my own work I have recently embarked on a project to address these problems through artistic investigation, collaboration and practical work in all three areas.
In this presentation I will address the connection between space and place by drawing on examples from my work, delve into history, highlight areas for future development and open up ideas for discussion and collaboration.

Natasha Barrett is a freelance composer and performer of electroacoustic music. Her work spans instrumental and electronic concert composition through to sound-art, sound-architectural installations, interactive techniques and collaboration with designers and scientists. An awareness of auditory perception and sound's spatio-musical potential features strongly in her work, involving research and practical application of ambisonics, acoustics and 3D sound. Recent projects include the use of scientific data and geological processes in sound-art, spatial composition for hemispherical loudspeaker arrays, interactive live electronics for performers both inside and outside traditional concert settings and her third installation project with the architect-design group Ocean.

Barrett studied in England for masters and doctoral degrees in composition. Both degrees were funded by the humanities section of the British Academy.

Her works are performed and commissioned throughout the world, receiving numerous recognitions, most notably the Nordic Council Music Prize (Norden / Scandinavia, 2006).

Daniela Cascella

Daniela Cascella is a London-based Italian writer. Her research is focused on sound and listening. Her work explores Writing Sound in connection to voicing, memory, archives and the ephemeral, and the interplay between fiction and criticism. She is the author of En abîme: Listening, Reading, Writing. An Archival Fiction (Zer0 Books 2012).

Gerhard EckelZeitraum - Sound Environment

Zeitraum (German for timespan, literally time space) is a sound environment 
exposing the interrelation of time and space in acoustic communication. The 
environment is composed of many identical sound sources dispersed irregularly 
in a large space, playing an aleatoric ostinato of percussive sounds. When 
listened to from a particular location (the sweet spot), the pattern is perceived 
as a syncopated but steady beat. The ostinato is structured such that the 
sounds from all sources arrive with the same delay at the sweet spot, 
compensating for the differences in propagation time. When walking away from 
the sweet spot, the regular pulse gets more and more distorted as the distances 
to all sound sources change and with them the propagation delays from the 
sources to the listener. What starts as almost imperceptible deviations and 
passes through various areas with different kinds of grooves, ends up in a 
rhythmically completely disrupted and apparently chaotic sequence of events 
when listened to from far off the sweet spot. By moving about the space, the 
audience explores a space literally made out of time, a time space – a 
bewildering experience enacted through one’s locomotion, revealing the always 
baffling relativity of observation.

Although the time lag between lightning and thunder is a well-known 
phenomenon – being evidence of sound's relatively slow propagation speed of 
about 1200 km/h, which is almost a million times slower than the speed of light 
– it is surprising to experience that this fundamental condition of acoustic 
communication can completely disrupt the rhythmical integrity of a regular but 
spatialised muical structure. What skilled musicians unconsciously compensate 
for when playing together over bigger distances is exposed in Zeitraum: the fact 
that sound takes a considerable amount of time to reach our ears – 
considerable with respect to rhythmical structures in music and occuring already 
in smaller concert halls. It also exposes the ear as a high-precision 
measurement instrument for time intervals. Once synced on a pulse, it can 
distinguish very small deviations from an expected next beat. Such deviations 
may be experienced as pleasant groove or irritating irregularity depending on 
the context and listening habits. Most of these aspects may remain unconscious 
to the listener, which will not lessen the pleasure of exploring how the time 
space keeps transforming the ostinato. Thus the environment offers both a rich 
aesthetic experience and much to reflect upon for those inclined to do so.

Zeitraum can be realized as installation using 20 to 30 loudspeakers or snare 
drums played by simple robots or it may be performed by 20 to 30 
percussionists, mainly depending on the intended duration of presentation (a 
minimum of 20 to 30 minutes is required for a larger audience) and means 
available. Ideal is an indoor or outdoor space with dimensions of at least 40 by 
20 meters

Gerhard Eckel (* 1962) is a composer and researcher, working as a Professor of Computer Music and Multimedia at the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM), University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria. Eckel holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Vienna and studied Composition of Electro-acoustic Music as well as Sound Engineering at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Vienna. In the past Eckel worked at IRCAM, the computer music department of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and at the Fraunhofer Institute for Media Commu-nication IMK in St. Augustin, Germany. Eckel takes both an artistic and scientific interest in matters of sound. His research topics range from psychoacoustics, over sound analysis, visualization, processing, spatial rendering and synthesis to virtual and augmented reality systems. His artistic work focuses on the possibilities of installations to convey formal openness to the audience in a tangible way. He creates sound and music installations for real and virtual spaces, which are presented at international festivals, conferences and trade fairs. He initiated and coordinated the EU-IST-project LISTEN, which defined and explored Immersive Audio-augmented Environments from a scientific and artistic perspective. In a recent artistic research project he developed a new form of intermedial expression: Embodied Generative Music. His current artistic research project (The Choreography of Sound) funded by the Program for Arts-based Research (PEEK) of the Austrian Science Fund FWF explores the spatial in electroacoustic composition. Since 2012 Eckel serves as Professor Affiliate at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Suk-Jun Kim and Pete Stollery
Three Cities (2012)

Three Cities is part of the Three Cities Project, a multimedia research project undertaken by members of SERG (Sound Emporium Research Group) - Suk-Jun Kim, Pete Stollery and Ross Whyte – at the Department of Music, University of Aberdeen.

The project involves contribution, participation and experience from the three cities of Aberdeen, Bergen and St Petersburg with the main aim being for participants (composers, listeners, general public) to learn about and engage with audio culture from each city through engagement with sound recordings at the three locations.

Two central ideas drive the project. The first is Edward Casey’s phenomenon of “re-implacement” within visual representations of place and his three distinctions of:

place at - exact depiction;
place of - representational transformation;
place for - contemplating the ideal, the vision, the “poetic truth”.

The second is Suk-Jun Kim’s three “engagements with place” when creating soundscape

1 - visiting, dwelling on and experiencing a place;
2 - composing with sounds recorded at the place;
3 - listening to the recreation/representation of the experience of the place.

Sounds were captured from visits made to the three cities but only Kim and Whyte visited Bergen. They had a different engagement with the sounds of Bergen from Stollery; similarly Stollery and Whyte visited St Petersburg without Kim. Future research, following the creation of works using the sounds recorded in the cities will investigate how these different “engagements” affect
compositional approaches.

Three Cities was commissioned by the sound festival.

Suk-Jun Kim has been examining the sense of place through his compositions and sound installations. HIs research interest includes imaginal listening and phenomenological approaches to listening and composition. Kim has been awarded first prizes by the Bourges Competition, Metamorphoses, and CIMESP for his compositions and was a resident composer of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program in 2009. Kim is lecturer in Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art at the University of Aberdeen.

Pete Stollery (born 1960) studied composition with Jonty Harrison at the University of Birmingham, where he was one of the first members of BEAST in the early ’80s. He composes music for concert hall performance, particularly acousmatic music and more recently has created work for outside the concert hall, including sound installations and internet projects. He has collaborated with practitioners from other artistic disciplines, particularly dance and sculpture and has produced music and sound design for a number of UK visitor attractions including Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, Magna in Rotherham and St Patrick’s World in Downpatrick (Northern Ireland). He is Professor of Composition and Electroacoustic Music and Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studio at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), delivering courses on the creative applications of technology in music and music education to students, schoolchildren and the general public.

Jan Schacher

For the Re:Place seminar, I will expose a number of my works that deal with location, space and immersion. In addition, I will attempt to show how the central topic of my doctoral research and its dissemination forms connect to the concepts of place and space.

In the first category of works, two location-based pieces were embedded into a natural environment {\davos soundscape" (2007) { or in man-made topographies in \the left-hand path" (2011). The pieces were GPS-driven and non-linear interactive processes based on topographical maps, where the visitor has an active part in constituting the experience (relating to the `Opera Aperta' idea by Eco). The two pieces had di erent concepts concerning audio content, but shared the exploratory nature related to the visitor's actual place in the landscape. For these works, I will try to clarify the experiences especially concerning the perception of place and the body in the landscape.

The next category of pieces are immersive and interactive audio-visual installations that create an articial spatial situation for the visitors. The rst piece was \Flowspace" (2009/2010), a dodecahedral and spherical space with surround audio, video and touch interaction, where a virtual simulation space was over-laid with an physically constructed space. The content was based on abstract models of ocking algorithms rendered audible, visible, and interactive. The second work in this category is the current \Immersive Space" at ICST. Here, a cylindrical space o ers 360 degree audio and video projection and full touch interaction.

The central theme here is immersion and interaction. This environment generates a constructed space, where di erent media-contents can be presented spatially and the spatial interaction concepts for sound, image and interaction are explored through artistic projects.

Listening as a fundamental mode of engagement is thematised in the current project \sonozones". The emphasis is put on public and urban spaces and private and public acts of listening. This practice-based research project aims to explore forms of sound practices that relate to urban and social places. Through addressing the phenomenon of listening in an urban context, the possibilities for a social dimension of sound art are investigated. This project is in its planning stages. It will therefore be interesting to discuss the ideas and concepts within the seminar and observe the convergences with the Re:Place project.

The research for my Artistic Doctorate deals with the Body and Technology in Performance. Currently, I'm investigating three central topics: Awareness, Presence and Agency. I'm interested in how self-awareness and agency constitute a performance and how the sense of presence and the projection of intentionality inform and shape the space of the stage. I will discuss how `performativity' represents a fundamental mode of generating a presence and how it generates a space that belongs not only to the artist on stage but to any active perceiver, be in a concert venue, an art gallery or an outside space. I will try to show how this constitutes an intrinsic link between performing- and sound-arts and how the question of physical agency in perception belongs into both domains, providing the link between places on stage and places of perception in everyday situations.

Jan Schacher is a double-bass player, composer and digital artist, and active in electronic and exploratory music, in jazz, contemporary music, performance and installation art as well as writing music for chamber-ensembles, theatre and film. His main focus is on performance works combining digital sound and images, abstract graphics and experimental video and gestural interaction in the field of electro-acoustic music and in electronic arts projects for the stage and in installations. Jan Schacher has been invited as artist and lecturer to numerous cultural and academic institutions and has presented installations in galleries and performances in clubs and at festivals such as the Résonance Festival (Paris), Sonar Festival (Barcelona), Transmediale Festival (Berlin), the Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Singapore Arts Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Sonic Circuits Festival (Washington DC), the Ultima Festival (Oslo) and many other venues throughout Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in the Arts at the Orpheus Instituut, Ghent, Belgium. In addition to his artistic work, Jan Schacher holds a position as a Research Associate at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST of the Zurich University of the Arts.

Some relevant links:

  • Three Cities Project
    This project involved the contribution, participation and experience from the three cities Aberdeen, Bergen and St.Petersburg, and took place over a period of months, involving different communities from each country.
  • Aberdeen SoundSites
    A mapping of the soundscapes of Aberdeen.
  • Davos Soundscape
  • A topographical composition by Jan Schacher and Marcus Maeder for the Davos Festival 2007, Switzerland. The experience and composition of .ds – davos soundscape emerges from the movement, peregrination and strolling of the listeners throughout the landscape of Davos and surroundings. Ten microcomputers equipped with GPS were available at the Davos Tourist Office. Together with the device the visitor received a map (see image on top) with the proposed routes and a diagram showing the locations of sound fragments. These sound-zones or so-called “sweet spots” were placed in the landscape with a surveyor’s stake painted in a fluorescent color to mark the area where a piece of music or sound is located and to simplify the acoustic “treasure hunt”.
  • The choreography of sound
    The Choreography of Sound (CoS) is an arts-based research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (PEEK AR41) and carried out at the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics IEM. The project started in September 2010 and will be active for 36 months.
  • Daniela Cascella (2012): En Abime: Listening, Reading, Writing. An archival fiction. Zero Books.

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