Museum of Portable Sound Conference: Sound Beyond Music

A new take on Sound Studies.

The Sound Beyond Music 2021 conference challenged presenters to think about sound-related issues that did not overtly foreground music or ‘sound art’ in hopes that we would shine a spotlight on other areas of Sound Studies that are usually eclipsed by musical sound.

Listen to our conference’s Audio Trailer at our YouTube channel

The conference took place exclusively online in an attempt to include as many people in as many geographic locations as possible. It was held online via Zoom on two consecutive Friday evenings, 12 & 19 November 2021.

Conference papers were presented as pre-recorded videos which attendees watched before each of the two Zoom sessions. Presentations took the forms of traditional conference papers, audio papers, and essay films.

Each of the two conference days featured an invited guest speaker who spoke live via Zoom. Day 1 also included a guided tour of the Museum Of Portable Sound led by conference organiser and MOPS Director John Kannenberg.

Conference Schedule

Our official Conference Theme Tune, written & performed by Andy Cruel & His Cruelettes

DAY ONE

took place Friday 12 November • 5–8pm UK Time • Online

LIVE GUEST SPEAKER
Bruce Drinkwater@sonic_bruce
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol

LIVE Acoustic Levitation Demonstration

Abstract: If you have ever heard really loud music, you will have experienced the physical force that sound can exert. If such loud sounds are more carefully controlled, then they can cause objects to become levitated: as the sound field moves, so do the objects. This amazing effect is demonstrated in this talk and the basics of how to build your own acoustic levitation device are explained. The approach taken is to build a levitator live in real time from basic components and explain what is happening as I go. This will take the form of build/demo segments within a more traditional talk. Future applications of this technology, for example in levitated manufacturing production lines or remote medical procedures, are also discussed.

The talk demonstrated 4 devices:

1) Simple levitator made from loudspeaker and audio technology

2) More capable DYI levitator made with parking sensors – can levitate water drops.

3) A tractor beam device – who does not like tractor beams?

4) Ultrasonic haptics – sound you can touch!

Bruce Drinkwater levitating styrofoam with sound

PRE-RECORDED PRESENTATIONS:

Web Audio and the Democratization of Audio Production

This audio paper illustrates a narrative and case for the expanded use of the web browser as a means of audio production. It will appeal to those who build, design, create, and use audio production tools and encourage exploration of constructing and adapting existing toolsets for the web browser. Please note that this case is not centered on expanding these tools themselves, but rather to further accessibility to these tools to those who may not have previously had it. The web browser is available on almost every consumer tech device and every year sees an increased accessibility in technology across socio-economic classes. What has not been growing at the same rate, is the accessibility of audio production tools, in turn giving more people the ability to realize thoughts and ideas through sonic means.

The resulting audio paper will walk through some of the core features of Web Audio including but not limited to: sound production, effects processing, spatialization, recording, playback, synthesis, and collaboration. It will frame these features not in a way to show their capabilities, but instead to illustrate what benefits that could be seen should these tools be available to everyone. And a call to action for those capable of building these tools to band together and create something for the greater good.

An audio paper by Daniel McKemie

Daniel McKemie, Q&A session screenshot

Daniel McKemie is an electronic musician, percussionist, and composer based in New York City. Currently, he is focusing on technology that seeks to utilize the internet and web browser technology to realize a more accessible platform for multimedia art. He is also researching and developing new ways of interfacing handmade circuitry, modular synthesizers, and embedded
systems to various softwares, including the web browswer. This recent work has allowed for complex, interactive performance environments to emerge, in which software generates compositional processes and actions in the form of control voltage generation sent to the hardware, and conversely can analyze control voltage signals from the hardware to determine future activity.


PSA: Radio Art in Iowa City 2020

Sound can access inaccessible spaces and illustrate radical alternatives. This presentation tells the true story about an artist couple who turned their apartment into a college radio station during the COVID-19 quarantine in Iowa City, Iowa. While everyone is developing more intense relationships with virtual space and their artistic practices are shifting in response to COVID-19, what does it mean to be using radio as an artistic medium? What comparisons can be made between radio and other artistic mediums during this time? How do we build or sustain communities? Jacob Harrison Jones (Jake Jacobs) and Kaylee Lockett took advantage of the remote broadcasting equipment for KRUI Iowa City 89.7FM and through a series of performances, artist collaborations, and sound pieces, sought to answer these questions by broadcasting to the city of Iowa City from quarantine. Radio offers an alternative to virtual spaces and our practice challenges the concept of the radio station as a remote space. From our apartment we could reach out to potentially thousands of listeners, the radio station becoming an ephemeral bodied experience. This presentation will utilize the audio paper format and include documentation from a radio art show co-curated by Lockett and Jacobs titled “PSA: People Speaking Art” and a series of solidarity broadcasts that were performed concurrently with Black Lives Matter protests in Iowa City organized by the Iowa Freedom Riders.

Download a Transcript provided by the presenters.

An audio paper by Jake Jones & Kaylee Sue Lockett

Jake Jones + Kayl Lockett, Q&A session screenshot

Jake Jacobs (Jake Jones) is a transgender artist currently completing their MFA in Intermedia at the University of Iowa. Born in Oklahoma City, Jacobs grew up playing in bands as a drummer in a variety of styles from punk to math rock before performing in more experimental settings, and eventually earning a BFA in New Media from the University of Central Oklahoma. Jacobs is now invested in exploring sound in the visual arts in various capacities including radio, electronics, performance, and video.

Kaylee Lockett is a translator, poet, and sound artist from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She is currently an MFA candidate in Literary Translation at the University of Iowa where she translates from Arabic into English and edits Exchanges: Journal of Literary Translation; she also serves as an audio editor for the Exchanges podcast. Kaylee holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Bard College. Her poems have appeared in Taos Journal of Poetry and Art and Acta Victoriana, and her translations have appeared in ArabLit Quarterly and 91st Meridian.


DAY TWO

took place Friday 19 November • 5–8pm UK Time • Online

LIVE GUEST SPEAKER
Sarabeth Mullins@SarabethMullins
PhD researcher, Sorbonne Université

Archaeoacoustics, Acoustic Heritage, and the Acoustic Restoration of Notre Dame

Abstract: Although non-musical sound is a nearly ubiquitous aspect of daily life, the documentation of its cultural significance is a developing field of study. This line of inquiry is complicated by the pervasiveness of sound: disciplines as far-flung as anthropology and digital signal processing hold important insights for the study of acoustic heritage, but cooperation is required to advance the field. The study of acoustic heritage began developing in the latter half of the 20th century and has been aided in recent years by advancements in computer processing. It can be both speculative as well as empirical and its applications hold significance to the public as well as to academics. In this talk I will discuss developments in the field of archaeoacoustics with applications to ongoing research I’m conducting as a part of my doctoral studies into the acoustic heritage of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Acoustician Sarabeth Mullins is currently researching the acoustic heritage of Notre Dame Cathedral as part of its post-fire restoration.

PRE-RECORDED PRESENTATIONS:

The Cultural Construction of Intimacy in Podcasting

The presumption that sound provides a uniquely intimate experience has become so commonplace within much of Sound Studies that pulling a quote from any single researcher seems unfair. Audio’s apparently natural intimacy has been used to describe the specificity of a variety of sound media, including podcasting and its associated technologies. This paper seeks to specifically challenge that assumption within academic research while respecting popular descriptions of podcasting intimacy and examining the cultural work these descriptions do. I begin by destabilising the assumption that it is possible for anything to be inherently intimate. Drawing on Giddens and Luhmann, I argue that the concept of intimacy itself is a continually negotiated cultural code that people use to communicate complicated emotions. These negotiations are not neutral in terms of power and I will turn to work in Disability Studies to consider how naturalising sound intimacy is informed by ableism. In the second section, I will look at podcasting specifically to ask what texts purporting the medium’s intimacy mean when they say “intimate.” I will then analyse the intimacy of podcast sound using these self-definitions. Denaturalising intimacy here does not downplay the importance of sound, but highlights how audio works within a larger system of cultural codification to help us understand, and feel close to, each other.

A traditional conference paper by Alyn Euritt

Alyn Euritt, Q&A session screenshot

Alyn Euritt, PhD studyies intimacy in podcasting at the Institute for American Studies, Universität Leipzig. She is currently editing a themed section of Participations entitled Podcasting’s Listening Publics with Dario Llinares and Anne Korfmacher, co-organized the Podcasting Poetics conference in Mainz with Patrick Gill, and has either published or has upcoming work in The Routledge Companion to Radio Studies, Popular Communication, Gender Forum, and kommunikation@gesselschaft.


Negative atmospheres: sound as affective contraction in Contemporary Argentine Cinema

María Alché’s Familia Sumergida (2019) accompanies the daily routine of Marcela (Mercedes Morán), a housewife mourning the loss of her sister. The film, set mosty in small interior spaces, plays with the notion of “submersive” while elaborating its own formal language of affective density, a pressure and intensification through the increase and reverb of different asynchronous machinery sounds. Therefore, as we will argue, this film creates a paradoxical atmosphere that, by using sound as its prevailing element, produces affective vectors that saturates the mise en scène, hence generating a negative space, polarized towards it’s own interior like a centripetal force. In this sense, by reading for affects through these specific uses of sounds, the film confounds Bazin’s notion of the screen as being centrifugal, defined as a mask that “participates on a virtual universe that slithers everywhere”.

The idea of the submersive sound as contraction, a bending dynamic of forces, takes reference to Brinkema’s methodology of “formal affect”, a “self-folding exteriority” manifested through form. By exploring the well known accounts of sound in its capability of creating emotional spaces (as developed by Ángel Rodriguez, Michel Chion, Vsevolov Pudovkin and David Sonnenschein) in association with the concept of film atmosphere (Inês Gil) and Spinoza’s ethology of affects, this proposal focuses on exploring an alternative economy of film affect that pushes the boundaries of the frame. In this sense, a different reading is opened to conceptualize sound beyond its mimetic quality, defining it as an abstract dynamic vector of forces beyond representation.

REFERENCES

AHMED, Sara. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge, 2004.
BAZIN, André. “Pintura e cinema”. In: O cinema: ensaios. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1991.
BRINKEMA, Eugenie. The forms of the affects. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014
CHION, Michel. A audiovisão. Lisboa: Editora Texto & Grafia, 2011.
DEL RÍO, Elena. Deleuze and the cinemas of performance: Powers of affection. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
ESPINOSA, Baruch de. Ética. São Paulo: Edusp, 2015.
GIL, Inês. A atmosfera no cinema: O caso de A sombra do caçador de Charles Laughton entre onirismo e realismo. Braga: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2005.
MARKS, Laura. The Skin of Film. Durham, Duke University Press, 2000.
PUDOVKIN, Vsevolod. “Asynchronism as a Principle of Sound Film”. In: WEIS, Elisabeth; BELTON, John. Film Sound: Theory and Pactice. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. p. 86-92.
RODRÍGUEZ, Ángel. A dimensão sonora da linguagem audiovisual. São Paulo: Senac São Paulo, 2006.
SONNENSCHEIN, David. Sound Design: The expressive power of music, voice, and sound effects in cinema. Saline: Michael Wiese Productions, 2001.

A traditional conference paper by Mariana Miranda

Mariana Miranda, Q&A session screenshot

Mariana Miranda is a PhD Student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), school of communications and holds a Master in film studies from Federal Fluminense University (PPGCine-UFF). Her research is focused on the concept of atmosphere in cinema and the relations between negative affects and aesthetic forms in contemporary Latin American films.


Listening to People Listening to the Past: A case study in cataloguing historical sound

This essay film arises out of my current research into sound as historical material, and historical sound as the material for creative projects. Specifically, it follows directly from my recent work as 2019 Mittelheuser scholar-in-residence at the State Library of Queensland. The outcome of the Mittelheuser was a series of recommendations and methodologies for describing and making accessible sounds in the State Library’s collections, and for sounds they might collect from this point; this outcome took the form of a series of custom-created web apps I used to catalog and describe sound materials already extant in the Library’s collections.

For the MOPS symposium I will present a case study as essay film of one of the audiovisual materials I encountered in the Library’s collections; the way in which I isolated and described the sounds therein; and what implications this has for the study of sound as an affective index of past experience, both personal and historical. The case study in question is of “Palen Creek: A Changing Community,” a documentary made in 1995 by Gary Moloney, who grew up in Palen Creek (a small town an hour and a half southeast of Brisbane). The documentary is about Palen Creek both as it then was, and as it had been in Moloney’s childhood and earlier. Filled with both field-recorded and reconstructed sounds, the documentary presents an interesting record of Moloney thinking on, and listening to, his own past and that of Queensland.

An essay film by Seth Ellis

Seth Ellis, Q&A session screenshot

Seth is a Senior Lecturer in the Interactive Media program at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, where he is also Program Leader of the Master of Interactive Media program. He is an interface designer and narrative artist; he has worked with galleries and museums on their collections and exhibitions—most recently the State Library of Queensland and the Museum of Brisbane, where the interactives he developed for the New Woman exhibition were awarded a prize in the Museums Australasia Multimedia & Publication Design Awards—as well as shown his own work in Australia, Europe and the United States.


Conference Code of Conduct

The Museum of Portable Sound (MOPS) is an international cultural organisation whose mission is to bring the culture and history of sounds to the world, one listener at a time. Our conference is open to members of the MOPS audience and anyone else interested in sound studies and/or museum studies from around the globe.

We are committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all who participate in our meetings. All participants, including but not limited to attendees, speakers, panel judges, MOPS staff, and others present at the meeting, are expected to abide by this MOPS Conference Code of Conduct. This Code applies to all MOPS Conference events.

EXPECTED BEHAVIOUR

  • Treating all participants with respect and consideration.
  • Polite and courteous communication, critiquing ideas rather than individuals.
  • Mindfulness of surroundings and fellow participants.
  • Notifying MOPS staff of dangerous situations or someone in distress.
  • Respect for the rules, policies, and laws of the meeting venue and location.

UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR

  • Harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in any form.
  • Physical or verbal abuse of any participants or others present at the meeting venue.
  • Ad hominem attacks of any kind.
  • Unwarranted disruption of talks, presentations, meetings, or exhibitions.
  • Examples of unacceptable behaviour include but are not limited to: pejorative verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, disability, or physical appearance; the inappropriate use of nudity and/or sexual images, as well as sexual harassment of any kind; physical threats or stalking.
  • Sharing the Zoom session links, meeting IDs, passcodes, and/or YouTube passwords with anyone, even if they have registered for the conference, is prohibited. If you have misplaced your session information, contact MOPS Director John Kannenberg or one of the Conference Panel Judges.
  • Recording still images, video, or audio of individuals, whether in their presentation or in any other venue of the conference, without the individual’s and the organisation’s explicit permission is expressly forbidden. (Note, however, that MOPS events may be recorded by staff or their designees and the recordings archived online.)

CONFERENCE QUESTION OR COMMENT FLOWCHART

Before asking a question during the online discussion sessions, please consult the above flowchart, ‘Should I Ask My Question?’ (via @DaniRabaiotti).

Failure to abide by this chart will be considered Unacceptable Behaviour and will lead to Consequences as outlined below.

NOTE: On Day One of the MOPS Conference, our Director violated this policy by commenting extensively with a personal anecdote before asking an actual question. Disciplinary action will be taken at a future date.

CONSEQUENCES

Anyone requested to stop unacceptable behaviour is expected to comply immediately.

MOPS staff and security officers acting on behalf of MOPS or the meeting venue may remove from the meeting, without warning or refund, any person who engages in unacceptable behaviour.

MOPS reserves the right to prohibit attendance at any future conference, meeting or event.

REPORTING UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR

If you are the subject of unacceptable behaviour or have witnessed any such behaviour, please immediately notify MOPS Director John Kannenberg or one of the Conference Panel Judges.

Unacceptable behaviour can be reported at any time, during or after the meeting, by e-mailing the MOPS Director (john[AT]museumofportablesound.com).

Anyone experiencing or witnessing behaviour that constitutes an immediate or serious threat to public safety should without delay contact local security or law enforcement.

Approved by the MOPS Conference Committee on 9 November 2021.

(This document is adapted from the Antiquity in Media Studies Code of Conduct for their meetings.)


Conference Judges

A team of three judges reviewed abstract submissions for the Museum of Portable Sound Conference, and are currently assisting in the preparations for the conference.

Thaís A. Aragão

Thaís A. Aragão
Thaís holds a doctoral degree in Communications from Unisinos and works as cultural producer at Federal University of Ceará – UFC, Brazil. She developed doctoral research as visiting scholar at the University of Westminster’s School of Media Arts and Design, London, and has a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UFRGS. Her website Escuta Nova Onda includes published articles, academic presentations, interviews with other researchers, scientific communication in media outlets, field research insights and work in progress, focusing on sound, space, and media. She currently works as producer for/at the Universidade Federal do Ceará’s radio station.

Stefania Zardini Lacedelli

Stefania Zardini Lacedelli
Stefania is a PhD researcher at the University of Leicester, School of Museum Studies. Her research – funded by the AHRC Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership – explores the emerging role of sound culture in the digital transformation of museums. In particular, she investigates how the curation of sound in a platform context can foster the adoption of a new museum conceptualization: the ‘Platform-Museum’. Inspired by this museum model, in 2016 she co-founded DOLOM.IT, a participatory digital-born museum that involved more than 1000 participants in the creation of digital exhibitions, sound maps, audio tours among the Dolomites landscape. As part of her research placement at the Science Museum Group, in 2020 she designed the #SonicFriday online project, inviting people to share memories and stories around sound technologies in response to the Covid-19 emergency. She lives between UK and Italy, where she supported the digital transformation of more than 50 cultural organizations and 150 museum professionals. In 2019 she received the M4C Cultural Engagement Award for impact of her research in the museum sector.

Kwame Phillips

Kwame Phillips
Kwame is Associate Professor of Communications and Media Studies at John Cabot University, specializing in sensory media production, visual anthropology and mixtape scholarship. Phillips’s work focuses on resilience, race, and social justice. He is co-author (with Dr. Shana Redmond) of the chapter and mixtape “‘The People Who Keep on Going’: A Radical Listening Party” in The Futures of Black Radicalism (Verso, 2017). He is also co-creator (with Dr. Debra Vidali) of the multi-sensorial sound art work, “Kabusha Radio Remix: Your Questions Answered by Pioneering Zambian Talk Show Host David Yumba (1923-1990).” Learn more about his work at kwamephillips.com.