Frequently Asked Questions

Q: So, this is just a joke, right?

A: No.

Q: But your social media accounts and videos are full of jokes and stuff. Museums are serious.


Q: Well, ok. But it’s definitely not a real museum, right?

A: No, it’s a real museum. It just collects things that most other museums ignore, and displays those things in a way that most other museums wouldn’t. But it is definitely a real museum.

Q: Why make a museum of sounds?

A: To see if it was possible. It is.

Q: Who recorded all these sounds?

A: The vast majority of recordings were made by our Director and Chief Curator, John Kannenberg. A handful of recordings have been donated to the permanent collection by other contemporary field recordists. An even smaller handful are historical recordings the Chief Curator has acquired in order to tell the curatorial stories that best fulfil our institution’s mission.

Q: I see. So it’s a field recording record label!

A: No, it’s not a record label. It’s a museum. It’s different.

Q: I make field recordings, you should include mine.

A: Probably not, actually, but thanks for offering. We look for very specific things to add to the collections. We usually request specific objects from specific people.

Q: But you don’t have any of the things I have!

A: We’re not looking to include every sound ever heard. That’s why we have a curator.

Q: Why isn’t this just a crowdsourced sound map instead like everybody else?

A: Because we wanted to explore the ways a museum could uniquely work with a collection of sounds. Plus, you just answered your own question.

Q: This is some kind of ‘Sound Art’ project, right?

A: Probably not, actually. It’s more than likely close, but not exactly representative of, whichever of the currently debated potential definitions of ‘Sound Art’ that you’re thinking about. Plus, since no one can come to an agreement on what Sound Art is, we prefer to consider our project outside the realm of contemporary Sound Art; if you must know, we consider this museum to be an amalgam of authentic museology, conceptual art, performance art, and grumpiness.

Q: So what kind of music do you collect?

A: We don’t necessarily collect any music, though some might occasionally slip through the cracks. Most of our sounds aren’t musical, and we will never allow anyone to remix our sounds into musical compositions. If you or someone you know manages to do that somehow, we’d probably become pretty darn unhappy. And litigious.

Q: Why do you hate music?

A: We don’t.

Q: But you always talk about ‘non-musical sound’ and you act like music is annoying to you. Plus John Cage said music is everywhere.

A: Music is annoying to us in only one respect: it’s become generally believed to be interchangeable with the concept of ‘sound’. It’s not. Only composers think it is. Normal people have opinions about whether a particular sound is music or not. John Cage was a composer, so he viewed the world through the perspective of a musician – of course every sound is available to be used within music, but that doesn’t mean they have to be – sounds can have other purposes beyond music. Just because John Cage said he wanted to use them to make music doesn’t mean that they are music. We also enjoy the concept of free will, so our approach to sound takes this notion into account. We’re interested in communicating the importance of listening to as broad and diverse an audience as possible, even if we insist on meeting that audience one listener at a time. So we don’t claim every sound is music (or musical) and our curatorial perspective focuses on each particular sound’s cultural connections rather than its musicality (or lack thereof). We find that thinking about sounds as culture rather than as music (or source material for music) is infinitely more rewarding, and allows us to connect with more than just composers or Sound Artists. The Museum of Portable Sound is as much about research as it is about creativity.  

Q: But why do you even bother talking about sound if you hate music and Sound Art so much?

A: Because we’re passionate about it. We just don’t want to have to go to an art gallery and watch yet another white dude rub some stones with sandpaper or whatever and then loop it in MAX/MSP and pretend that it’s Art instead of just music (which is absolutely fine and we don’t hate it).

Q: Why do you make people meet you in order to visit the museum? Isn’t that massively egotistical and colonialist, especially since you’re a cis white dude?

A: We feel that the idea of a museum that collects and displays sounds is probably a bit weird to most people. Having a face to face meeting with our visitors allows us to explain what we do and why. It also makes each visit to our museum an opportunity for our audience to directly address the management and curator, so they can provide feedback that in some cases can be acted upon instantly. We like being held accountable for what we do, and we’re not interested in hiding behind the identity of an ‘institution’ as an excuse for us to be able to get away with immoral things like so many other museums do. By humanising our museum in a very literal way, we’re showing that we believe museums are human constructs with human failings, and as such should be treated accordingly: museum staff of all levels, not just Front of House, should meet regularly with their institution’s audience members, and be open to not only listening to what they have to say, but also acting on it in a direct, non-bureaucratic way. We apologise that our Director can’t change the fact that he’s a cis white dude – he’s not Rachel Dolezal.

Q: What is all this museology crap? That’s not why I came here, I thought you were an experimental record label that specialises in noise music.

A: No, we’re a museum. And we hate noise music.

Q: Can I buy a Soundscape™ Barbie®?

A: No, she’s just a Photoshopped picture. But feel free to print her out.

Q: I recorded some awesome empty playgrounds/carparks/pubs/etc during Coronavirus lockdown. How much will you pay me for them?

A: We don’t want them. Every other sound project imaginable is doing that already, so we’d prefer not to, thanks.

Q: Why an iPhone 4S?

A: It was laying around unused because it was purchased in the US and couldn’t be unlocked to be used on UK mobile networks. And the Director was too stingy to buy an iPod Touch.

Q: Yeah, ok, this is all kinda cool, but have you ever thought about making it an app?

A: Please go away.

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