October 23, 2020. Residual Noise is a sound studies and sonic practice conference that focuses on a concise set of perspectives on the current discourse on sound from both scholarly and creative standpoints. This one-day conference allows for a presentation and exchange of perspectives on contemporary sound practices and related research and inquiry. The title is the term for the noise level left on recording tape after it has been erased, it is also used as a reference to background or ambient sound – sounds that are present but not actively listened to, and that have a pronounced effect on the local acoustic terrain. This conference takes the idea of this kind of sound, one that has a presence but is also subject to a kind of erasure, as a springboard for consideration of how sonic practices and audio cultures utilize and navigate this form of acoustic space.
Conference Convener: Ed Osborn
Concert Programming: Shawn Greenlee and Ed Osborn
Schedule of Events
Presented with the support of the Brown Arts Initiative, the Music Department, the Visual Art Department, and the Rhode Island School of Design Program for Experimental and Foundation Studies.
Panelists: Erik Deluca & Elana Hausknecht, Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, Stephan Moore
Moderator: Kristina Warren
Ears to the Ground: public art in sound, listening, and collective voice
Erik Deluca & Elana Hausknecht
Synthesizing socially engaged art, critical/creative approaches to sound and listening, and democratic education, the authors led an art collective in a participatory project in Rhode Island (USA). Focusing on process, power, and positionality, the collective produced sound art as dialogue-in-process: we performed Fluxus-inspired event scores that responded to Providence Public Library’s special collection about the nearby, “empty” space of Cathedral Square; crafted augmented reality soundwalks that remixed an historian’s work on racial justice and reconciliation; formed an experimental task force that worked through issues of indigeneity, spatial politics, and community music education; and hosted a listening event at a feminist art space that celebrated electronic music composer and inventor Wendy Carlos. By blending analytical and theoretical approaches with poetic and ethnographic description, this dialogic essay traces our dematerialized, anti-capitalistic, art-life blurring project that is unfinished and evolving.
Erik DeLuca is an artist and musician working with performance, sculpture, text and social practice. He has lectured, performed, and exhibited at a variety of places including MASS MoCA, School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, Sweet Pass Sculpture Park, The Contemporary Austin, The Living Art Museum (Iceland), Columbia School of the Arts, Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture, CalArts, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Fieldwork: Marfa, and Yale University School of Art. He received a PhD from the University of Virginia, lectured at the Iceland University of the Arts (2016-18) and was Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Multimedia at Brown University (2018-20). He currently teaches in Experimental and Foundation Studies at RISD.
Elana Hausknecht is an undergraduate studying music and urban studies at Brown University. Currently, she’s been taking time away from school to work in public parks with Americorps and, more recently, to participate in political organizing in RI and NY. Elana plays trumpet with Mariachi de Brown, rides the RIPTA, dialogues through (and about) writing, and listens to construction sites.
Summoning the Will to Live: Soundwalking Across 2020
This paper is a rumination on the personal, creative, and professional challenges faced by the presenter, Enongo, over the past six months, as a way of reflecting on the unique experiences of many scholars / artists who have found themselves sitting at the intersections of sound studies, art, and activism in the incredibly challenging year 2020. Drawing on Allie Martin’s use of the concept of soundwalking as a Black feminist method, ethnomusicologist Cherie Rivers Ndaliko’s work on art-based activism in the east of Congo, and the author's own research on the politics of community based recording studios, this paper explores complicated questions about an artist’s “responsibility” to their community, and the cost of acting on this responsibility. By framing listener's experience of the text as a soundwalk, this paper becomes situated within Hip Hop feminist and Black feminist discourse, which often seek to play with the gaps between sonic information and the textual (as in the case of papers presented as mixtapes).
SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is a rap artist and producer from Ithaca, NY with a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Brown in the music department. Since 2010 Sammus has written, produced, and recorded three full-length albums (one of which has charted on Billboard), three EPs, a collaborative video-game themed concept album with the MC Mega Ran, a critically acclaimed beat tape, and countless one-off collaborations with artists from a variety of genres as well as video game developers, podcasters, and filmmakers. Her story as an artist at the intersections of academia and Afrofuturism has led to performances and speaking engagements at a range of conferences, conventions, festivals and campus events. Her live shows, characterized by her explosive energy and the inclusion of elements of cosplay, bring together a diverse array of activists, hip hop heads, punks, and self-identified nerds and geeks, among others. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Sammus “has a gift for getting a message across.”
Transforming Urban Noise
This talk considers the potential for sound art to mitigate urban noise through transformative processes, providing alternative approaches to physical barriers, acoustic absorption, and noise cancellation techniques. I will focus first on a unique research project for urban noise transformation in Australia in 2016-17, and trace how that research led to a sound installation called Six Accompaniments for Solo Voice in Chicago in 2019.
Stephan Moore is a sound artist, designer, composer, improviser, coder, teacher, and curator based in Chicago. His creative work manifests as electronic studio compositions, improvisational outbursts, sound installations, scores for collaborative performances, algorithmic compositions, interactive art, and sound designs for unusual circumstances. He is the curator of sound art for the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, organizing annual exhibitions since 2014. He is also the president of Isobel Audio LLC, which builds and sells his Hemisphere loudspeakers. He was the music coordinator and touring sound engineer of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (2004-10), and has worked with Pauline Oliveros, Anthony McCall, and Animal Collective, among many others. He is a senior lecturer in the Sound Arts and Industries program at Northwestern University.
Kristina Warren is a composer, improviser, and maker. She writes and performs acoustic and electronic sound using instruments she and others made. Her first solo album, filament (2019, released as petra), is “precise and unpredictable, making repeat listens irresistible” (Marc Masters), while her bespoke wearable electronic instrument Exo.Rosie sees her rolling around on the floor.
Warren presents work locally in Providence, Rhode Island, nationally, and internationally. Recently: the Chamber Music Conference of the East [US], the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition [US], Espace des arts sans frontières [FR], ICMC [GR, NL], Interfaces [CY], ISSTA [IE], Mise-En Music Festival [US], Movement and Computing Conference [US], NIME [US], NYCEMF [US], PVD Loop Fest [US], Sound and Music Computing conference [CY], Spektrum [DE], and TENOR [CA, ES].
Warren's music has been performed by ensembles such as Chartreuse, Dither, Ekmeles, JACK Quartet, loadbang, Meehan / Perkins Duo, So Percussion, and Yarn/Wire. She has been selected as a PEO Scholar Award recipient (2016), an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2016), and a finalist in the American Composers Forum National Composition Contest (2014).
She has been teaching electronic music and multimedia as Visiting Assistant Professor at Brown University since earning her PhD in Composition & Computer Technologies in 2017 from the University of Virginia.
Panelists: Clara Latham, Marcel Zaes
Moderator: Ed Osborn
When Noise is Temporal: Drum Machine Histories Between Failure & Gain
In 1973, Sly and the Family Stone featured a drum machine as a band member on their song ‘In Time’— one of the first commercial records to include a drum machine alongside a human drummer. Andy Newmark, the drummer who played along, established a style of playing that both doubles as well as contrasts—and thereby complements—the drum machine. A huge potential opened up, that of having two categorically different time agents in a song, rarely seen in the years to follow, but becoming prominent again in the early 2000s. ‘Bedroom’ producers started to use software time grids along with manual percussion playing, for instance via finger pads, to complement the technological time grid. My talk is based on my dissertation research that argues for mechanical/technological time grids as a much broader cultural phenomenon than just being about on or off the grid—but rather as a fundamental cultural logic through which we, depending on our sociocultural background, hear music and sound, even if it does not involve technological time grids at all. Yet, in this talk I use the term “noise,” an ambiguous term in sound studies, and a term that I do not otherwise use in my dissertation research. But if we think of temporal deviation from a periodic time grid as “noise,” then we can productively think of this temporal difference in a way akin to the theorization of “noise.” Namely, in terms of it holding an ambiguous position between a failure that must be avoided and a gain that needs to be emphasized. But what if two categorically different grids are at work simultaneously, such as with Sly Stone? As an artist-researcher, I am interested in learning from these histories and then producing critically engaging experimental sound works; I will thus move from a historical example to an example of my own work with drum machines in order to explore how “noise” as temporality is connected to the relational and social properties of musical time.
Marcel Zaes is an artist and artistic researcher with degrees from Bern University of the Arts and from Zurich University of the Arts, and who has completed additional composition studies with Alvin Curran in Rome and with Peter Ablinger in Berlin. Marcel is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Music and Multimedia Composition at Brown University, working with Paula Matthusen, Kiri Miller, Ed Osborn and Butch Rovan. In research and practice, he explores time grids in an interdisciplinary framework that encompasses its sociocultural backgrounds, its politics and perception, and the use of mechanical rhythm machines in music making – such as metronomes, drum machines and step sequencers. Marcel develops deviant and “defiant” time algorithms that lie at the heart of his sound works with which he critically explores rhythm as always relational and social. His work is regularly shown, performed, published and discussed internationally.
Aural Interiors: Radio, Theremin, and Domestic Modernity
In 1929 the Radio Corporation of America established a new division for the production of musical instruments, whose first commercial product was the RCA Theremin. Invented two years earlier by a Russian scientist of the same name, the Theremin utilized radio technology to produce tones electronically by waving one’s hands in the air. Early accounts of this electronic instrument describe it similarly to early accounts of radio, as a machine bordering on magic.
Like the radio, The RCA Theremin was marketed as a domestic product, but the instrument’s brochure distinguished it from radio, claiming
Radio, in the development of which RCA has played so vital and so large a part, knows no limitations of space...of repertoire; and radio reaches everyone. Having made the enjoyment of music universally possible, RCA takes another tremendous step...the actual creation and performance of one’s own music!
Through analysis of both journalistic accounts and commercial advertising of two catalogs produced by the Radio Corporation of America, I compare these two commercial products to learn what kinds of assumptions and claims were made about the ability for these machines to bridge the gap between machines and spirituality (Douglas, 1987). I argue that the belief, advocated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that messages from the other side would come via radio, manifests in the widely held assumption that the Theremin allowed for the automatic expression of an individual’s soul. In this way, both machines propagate the modernist ideology of an unconscious that is collectively shared and yet fundamentally unknowable.
Composer and musicologist Clara Latham’s research and creative practice focuses on the relationship between sound, technology, sexuality, and the body. She has published articles in Sound Studies, Women & Music, Contemporary Modern European History, the Opera Quarterly, and the edited volume Sound, Music, Affect: Theorizing Sonic Experience. She is currently working on a monograph that studies the shifts in listening both to musical tones and to the voice that took place alongside the development of sound recording. The book questions the role of sound in different technologies that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, exploring the intersections between psychoanalysis, listening, and musical instruments. Latham’s opera about the birth of psychoanalysis, Bertha the Mom, was supported by the American Composers Forum and premiered at Roulette Intermedium in 2018. She is currently working on a collaboration with the dance company Ballez on the evening length work Giselle of Lonliness that will premiere at the Joyce in June, 2021. Before joining the faculty at the New School, Clara taught at MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth. She is currently a fellow in Sound and Music at Akademie Schloss Solitude.
Ed Osborn works with many forms of electronic media including installation, video, sound, and performance. He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, and Arts International and been awarded residencies from the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, the Banff Centre, STEIM (Amsterdam), and EMPAC (Troy, NY). He has presented his work at SFMOMA (San Francisco, CA), the singuhr-hörgalerie (Berlin, Germany), Artspace (Sydney, Australia), ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany), Kiasma (Helsinki, Finland), and MassMOCA (North Adams, MA). He is an Associate Professor of Visual Art and Music at Brown University.
Residual Noise - Concert
8pm, October 23rd, 2020
Which elements of a story register its truth? Who gets to tell a story? And what counts as redaction? Thinking through these questions, this work uses the juxtaposition of sonic icons that have, in a way, become the voice of (digital) communications with three accounts of an event from 2015. By obscuring the semantic register of meaning in different ways, in Redacted I reflect on the ability of a testimony to (re)create an event in order to engage with questions about the legibility of truth and the right to voice.
Lee Gilboa is an Israeli composer, artist and audio engineer. In her work she uses speech, audio spatialization and vocal processing in order to address themes such as identity, gender, naming and objectification. Lee is a curator in Daniel Neumann’s New York based organization CT::SWaM, and her debut album ‘The Possibility of Sonic Portraiture’ was released by Contour Editions in 2019. Lee’s work has been shown in venues such as Roulette Intermedium, The Cube at Virginia Tech, Spectrum, Qubit Gallery, Fridman Gallery, Fourth World Festival, and Resonance FM Radio among others. She completed her BM at Berklee College of Music, and her MFA at Columbia University. These days Lee resides in Providence, RI and where she is a Ph.D. student at Brown University’s Music and Multimedia Composition program. Her recent commissions include a 30-channel composition for The Honk-Tweet, and an electroacoustic composition for the group Verdant Vibes.
Stratospheric is multichannel fixed-media music exploring spatial stratification, articulated with rhythmic counterpoint, layers of similar materials, and divergent multichannel sound processing techniques. Through these strategies, sound aggregations that would be too cluttered or dense in a stereo format present rich and clear spatial perspectives for listeners seated both inside and outside the sweet spot of the multichannel array.
Eric Lyon is a composer and computer music researcher. Lyon’s publicly available software includes FFTease and LyonPotpourri, collections of audio objects written for Max/MSP and Pd. He is the author of “Designing Audio Objects for Max/MSP and Pd” (A-R Editions, 2012), which explicates the process of designing and implementing audio DSP externals. In 2016, Lyon was guest editor of the Computer Music Journal, editing two issues (CMJ 40:4 and 41:1) dedicated to the subject of high-density loudspeaker arrays (HDLAs). Lyon also curated the 2016 Computer Music Journal Sound Anthology, which was the first binaural anthology published by the CMJ. Lyon’s creative work has been recognized with a ZKM Giga-Hertz prize, MUSLAB award, the League ISCM World Music Days competition, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Lyon is currently on the faculty of Virginia Tech, where he is a Fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, and teaches in the School of Performing Arts.
A binaural audio and video requiem for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Based on Giacomo Puccini’s “Girl of the Golden West” (1910) and Cecil B. DeMille’s film of same name (1915). Processed archival media with Gina Cigna (sound) and Mabel Van Buren (image) in the role of Minnie set with original binaural audio made with shofar and SuperCollider.
Rachel Devorah is a sonic artist and feminist technologist based in Boston. Her work seeks to reveal and reframe habits of autoecholocation (locating/situating one’s self with/in sound/space). She is an Assistant Professor of Electronic Production and Design at the Berklee College of Music and Artist Fellow at MIT’s OpenDocLab.
Ultrasonisphere is the first piece conceived for the Ears In Space wave field synthesis array. It is composed primarily of the ultrasonic sounds used by bats for hunting and communication, along with other environmental and synthesized sounds. The bat calls were recorded using various means to translate them into the human hearing range.
The Ears In Space wave field synthesis array is a linear array of 24 speakers coordinated by a Max patch, which creates sonic point sources in a two-dimensional space. These virtual sources are physically accurate and retain their position regardless of the position of the listener in the room.
Wave field synthesis is best experienced in person; however, until we can all get together in physical reality, this version of Ultrasonisphere is a binaural rendering for headphone listening, attempting to recreate the experience of the Ears In Space array. I recommend listening on headphones with the volume at a moderate level.
Thanks to Jo Kennedy for providing some of the bat sounds.
The idea of the Ears In Space array was born from a series of spatial audio workshops held at EMPAC at RPI in Troy, NY; deep gratitude to many people for hours of inspiration, consultation, and discussion, both during and after the workshops.
Recorded by Mike Bullock: early evening, front yard in Florence, MA USA; early morning, village of Aulus-les-Bains, France; and Jo Kennedy: Cemetery, Basque country, Spain.
Mike Bullock is a composer and environmental sound recordist based in Western Massachusetts. He is the founder of Ears In Space, a studio for spatial audio technology. Bullock has been creating electroacoustic and improvised music since the mid 90s, and has performed across the US and in Europe. He has presented work at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC; Fylkingen in Stockholm, Sweden; Instants Chavirés in Paris; Café OTO in London; ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; and EMPAC in Troy, NY. Bullock has received grants from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Audio Chandelier: Remainders is the latest in a series of multi-channel point-source audio works by Dafna Naphtali since 2010. Audio Chandelier works have been performances or fixed media installations with 8-16 speakers in a “point source” conception. Using just one or two audio sources at a time - one “grain” of sound per channel- there is no actual movement of sound between the speakers – only granular synthesis with carefully calibrated changes to grain size, micro pitch shifts, envelope and density to create psycho-acoustically generated shimmering motion, reverberant spaces, low crashing waves, hyper-electronic refraction of a virtual gamelan, controlled via MIDI, via Naphtali’s algorithms in a Max/MSP patch, and often with live voice and/or pre-recorded audio sources. Audio Chandelier pieces have been presented in the US and Europe including Audio Chandelier: Latitudes, at SAT CANADA during Symposium_IX June 2018 (curated by Atau Tanaka) and work presented at 2019 at CCRMA / Stanford University. In 2019 Naphtali further developed the project into an interactive installation and kinetic audio sculpture (Audio Chandelier: Polyélaios) in an ongoing collaboration with metalsmith Ayala Naphtali. The new work will be presented on Governors Island in 2021 (postponed from summer 2020).
A final note: Audio Chandelier projects were all expressly designed as site-specific sonic experience, with Naphtali playing the speakers and the room live as if it were an instrument, and always with an non-virtual immersive experience for the listener in mind. For this presentation (and due to the ongoing pandemic) Naphtali is now creating versions of the work using ambisonic/virtual audio conceptions to recreate this experience in the best way possible,and she looks forward to a time when the pieces can be heard in person once again.
Dafna Naphtali is a singer, electronic-musician, sound-artist/improviser/composer of experimental, interactive electro-acoustic music using her custom Max/MSP programming for live sound processing of voice and other instruments. She also created works for multi-channel audio, musical robots, and interactive soundwalks. She draws on her eclectic musical background to interpret Cage, Stockhausen and contemporary composers, and work with experimental musicians and video artists in the US, Israel and Europe. Projects and recordings include "Landmine" an interactive work for pianist Kathleen Supové on Disklavier piano with live processing recently released on "Ear to Ivory" (Starkland 2019), as well as “What is it Like to be a Bat?" digital punk trio w/Kitty Brazelton (Tzadik), "Pulsing Dot" duo with Gordon Beeferman (Clang), and Chatter Blip with Chuck Bettis (an upcoming release on Contour Editions). Her audio-augmented reality soundwalks (free iOS/Android apps for U-GRUVE AR and running continuously), include Walkie Talkie Dream Garden (http://walkietalkiedreams.org) at the Williamsburg Waterfront (Brooklyn, NY) and Walkie Talkie Dream Angles at Washington Square Park (NYC). She’s authored two book chapters on her work and articles on "Live Sound Processing and Improvisation” for New Music Box. Dafna was a 2019 Artist-inResidence at Harvestworks Digital Media Arts for her multichannel work "Audio Chandelier" which was to be presented on Governor’s Island in May through July 2020, and now rescheduled due to Covid-19 (projected date August 2020 or next summer 2021).