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25.7.13

world listening day




Started by the excellent World Listening Project, the 18th July is a day to celebrate the aesthetics of listening - music, art practice and probably theatre works which encourage the act of listening.

Commemorating the birthday of R. Murray Schafer, a composer and writer who is crucial to the study of acoustic ecology - who coined the term 'soundscape' and is influential to contemporary artistic output of music and sound cultures. WLD has been slowly building over the last few years through autonomous actions around the world.



Last year I spent it doing one of my listening sessions: 4 hours at Berlin Olympic Stadium, the site of the Summer Olympics of the XI Olympiad: a complex sporting event in modern history.

On 1 August 1936, The grand aesthetics of Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich were displayed in glorious spectacle - proof of its power and might - in the opening ceremony, and guided through the impressive film work of Danny Boyle Leni Riefenstahl.

In spite/to despite of it being a conduit for Nationalist-Socialist Party propaganda, Jesse Owens - a fine, fit black man from the United States won the most medals, killing it on the athletics field, with the hyped 'snub' from the Chancellor on his victory in the 100m sprint.*

Reading the Wikipedia entry on the games and the efforts to 'clean up' Berlin including signs saying: "Jews Not Wanted" sent a chill through my spine in light of this going around town at the moment:



I digress. World Listening Day.


So, on 18 July 2012, Berlin Olympic Stadium was the site of a few school tours, incessant rain and the miserable sound of a super-sopper on the blue track going around and around in circles. No birds, no traffic even and a smattering of sociality as teenagers flirted with each other in bleechers. It was the most depressing list/listening project I've done to date.

I didn't realise that the sound such emptiness could exist on the site of such grand spectacle. It's almost like the more image-focused a site is, the less connected it is to a sound of humanity. Perhaps this year I should have listened at Queen Elizabeth Stadium to see...



This year, World Listening Day 2013, however, I was unable to make a work for it.b
But I did make sure I participated in other projects and want to post about my experience of WLD occasions - some of the cool things I heard and saw and a general list of recent rad listening-based things that are in my radar at the moment.


Sounding the Body Electric
Experiments in art and music in eastern europe 1957 - 1984
Calvert 22




My favourite musicologst, Huw Hallam and I went to see this show together. He's always got a great perspective on works, we always have exciting chats about it afterwards, good times. We didn't go on World Listening Day itself, but the week before.

Which is close enough for the purpose of this post, thanks.

I hadn't heard of any of these artists before, which is unsurprising because my understanding of experimental music (especially that which crosses over into art) is self-taught and only through the experience of seeing shows like this.

Highlights included the great readin section, which I wanted to just lounge around all day in, the proto-Marclay records and music by Milan Knižak (pictured), which made me want to spit rhymes all over it, and the graphic scores by Katalin Ladik and Milan Grygar, as well as his music. Musically, I noticed my complacency, feeling like I'd heard a lot of the works on film soundtracks already, yet fascinated by the link between post-war Socialism/Iron Curtain and electronic music, obviously sanctioned by the State's ideology through the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio.




On the day of WLD, after checking out some of the tweets posted by World Listening Project, reading some of the Sounding Out blog I styled up, put on my I'm Listening dress/shirt**and big-ass earings and headed south to a show I'd been looking forward to:



At the moment of being heard
South London Gallery




I had heard about this show almost 6 weeks before it opened. as soon as any of the promo came out about it, i had tweets, FB posts and emails from everyone emailing me about it and i was looking forward to seeing it on my return from Australia.

Especially given that it featured some artists who I have admired for a while and some that I was looking forward to learning more about.

I enjoyed the exhibition - there were some typically subtle and gentle works that combined softness and tension - Rolf Julius's pigment-filled speaker cones (pictured) and crys cole's salt speaker combination were beautiful. And actually I really loved the photographic work of Reiner Ruthenbeck for the documentation of those daily sounds, without a sound.


And, having said that, I thought it was going to be a little more about the act of listening - a more philosophical or even theatrical look at that moment of being heard - not just changing what is heard, but on a deeper level of how.

Granted, it's not easy to make work about listening, (I know, I suck at it), but I was hoping for some guidance, from people who'd been doing it for years. It was a bittersweet show.


Variations of Silence by Boudouin Oosterlynck was more about the action of listening, of the collection and pursuit of silence using the variety of ways one listens - a detailed dossier of quiet sites, on paper. Aesthetically, I found it difficult to really enter into, possibly a language barrier, or a resistance to a particular aesthetic, but I still spent time hanging out with his journey. it is a work that has a nice little hand-holding link to Jason Sweeney's Stereopublic app (which i'm gonna start populating for London, soon).


Tom White's Public Address is also a work that intrigured me,*** but because I went on a Thursday, wasn't able to see it in the flesh - it's installed in the housing estate that the gallery backs onto and only accessible on Saturdays.

The public programmed for the exhibition is pretty exciting. I wish that I was a 12+ teenager, so that I could do Barby Asante's workshop at the end of August (I couldn't get to do her DIY one as an adult either, so I just have to press my nose to the window for a while) and the Ambarchi and Umeda gigs, of course, look great.



Reading and Being list


Both of these exhibitions had supporting reading lists and publications, which I really appreciated. And I have some more to add - bits'n'pieces which relate to listening that I think are great:


The Hush at The Shed National Theatre
According to the blurb on the The Shed site, "The Hush asks audiences to listen in a way they never have before. Performers interact with live foley and immersive sound design to recreate the past, imagine the future and give voice to The Shed itself."

Again, i'm looking forward to seeing this work, to see how others create work about the action of listening. Sadly, I can't make the Thursday Q& A (which looks great), but I'm going to see the show soon.

A Listening Mind: Sound Learning in a Literature Classroom by Nicole Furlonge on Sounding Out

When I read this post, I wanted to be Nicole. Her understanding and interesting in pushing pedagogy and teaching and experience of the world outside a dominant visual paradigm (yes, i just used that phrase) is inspiring, and exactly the kind of thing I'm into.

The way she speaks about it is amazing and a deeper undestanding of listening and why World Listening Day needs to keep existing. It also inspired me to be more and more proactive about being involved with education and youth work - something that moving to the UK has changed in me.


The Sounding Out blog consistently posts stuff that I love reading about. They posted about the Afrika Bambaata record collection being catalogued at Gavin Brown Gallery and I almost wet myself. And through that I found out about..

Hip Hop Aesthetics Summer Course by Shante Paradigm
As if this wouldn't be a RAD way to spend the summer...

I've been following the progress along of each day's topics (including, unsurprisingly, the verdict on the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer. What's Hip Hop without Hoodies...).
They've covered some ace stuff like Big Freedia's Azz Everywhere, Lil Mama's Lip Gloss, Black Aesthetics, Feminist Aesthetics and Opposition Discourse, Total Chaos and Ian Maxwell's thesis about Hip Hop Aesthetics and the Will to Culture -  which I loved reading about, not just for the generic content, but because I knew some of the peeps mentioned in it; a bit of home-town pride and nostalgia for my time with Quiz and the writers and MCs of inner city of Sydney in the 90s.

Plus, it has given me some new mulch for the new project I've got lined up for two events in the next few months - the Hip Hop Arts Club. It's gonna be fun times.


Other links to cool listening peeps and tings

Surfacenoise's Peter Lenaerts
Dan Scott
Sam Underwood
Stan's Cafe's The Commentators and their Cult Listening
The Soundscape
Hearing Cultures
Audio Culture (which i'm ASHAMED to say I've not read nor do i own)
Resonance by Susie MacMurray at Fabrica, Brighton
This year's Primavera featuring Kusum Normoyle




*Who needs that to be a 'thing', really, to highlight the gross racist antics of the regime - they only 'allowed' black and jewish competitors after a bunch of people pressured them into it, for goodness sake. Is Jesse Owens really that heartbroken over not having his hand shaken by that pariah? Surely not.
**The stock of which I brought back from Australia, so watch this space
***Partly for selfish reasons, it being the name and similar idea of a work I planned for Electrofringe festival years ago, but it fell through. Thank goodness i don't have to make that work anymore.


image credits:
Migrant Rights UK and Home Office YouTube
Milan Knižak, Destroyed Music, Calvert 22 website
Rolf Julius, Singing, 2000/2013, South London Gallery website

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