0 syllabus: SoundSCAPE

SOUNDSCAPE & SCORE: Radical Ambience

Towards an Ethology of urban, immersive, synaesthetic augmented reality landscapes
Faculty: Ed Keller                     External Partners: TBA
Tuesday: 4:00pm - 6:40pm       66 5th Ave   Room: 710
The New School   UTNS5200

Brian Eno, liner notes for Discreet Music

  • _ READINGS [PRIVATE LINK: Google docs- pdfs etc.]

“There is an extraordinary passage at the end of Alexandr Blok's lecture on the 84th anniversary of the death of Pushkin: 
  • 'In the infinite depths of the spirit where man is man no longer, in those depths inaccessible to the state and society, there are sound waves similar to the ether waves which surround the universe. There, rhythmic vibrations pulsate like those that shape mountains, winds, marine currents, the animal and vegetable worlds.'

"Scelsi understands a single sound as a limitless sonic world that can stand by itself as independent from any other sound. Each sound is almost like a unique organism characterized by its inner life consisting of various organic materials. ….”
from Tanmatras: The Life and Work of Giacinto Scelsi by Robin Freeman

This collab seminar will develop sonic, filmic, urban, XR and/or AR projects drawing on and amplifying musical, filmic, and field sonic/visual experiences in the city and in virtual reality. We will conduct a mini-seminar for 5 weeks at the start of the semester surveying cinematic, sound, and VR precedents. Projects will then develop manifesto driven responses using sound, video, spatial design, and/or XR tools such as Unity as the engine for immersive audio/visual experience.  

An underlying thesis which the seminar will explore follows the idea unpacked in Gary Tomlinson’s A Million Years of Music, which effectively contends that human cognitive evolution [the emergence of sapient self awareness] was a result of countless interactions with a sonic landscape and taskscape. Our design work [sound, image, VR, XR] in this seminar will re-site this evolutionary model of gesture/perception in the contemporary techno-scape by framing against the very long arc of cognitive evolution.  The collab folds blockchain and AI into the mix, as an external partner, RealityCode, is a new artist-focused, blockchain based platform launching this year. The semester will conclude with presentations, performances, and installations as well as a conference. 

The semester ends with a full day+ conference in December showcasing all work and bringing guests/sponsors. 

‘The world… is sound…’

αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων, πεσσεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη. 
Time is a child at play, playing draughts; a child's is the kingdom.
-Heraclitus (fragment B 52 DK) 

‘From such impressions you gather yourself, you win yourself back from the clamoring multiplicity, and slowly learn to know a very few things in which the eternal is reflected, which you love and in which your solitude allows you to take part.’  Rilke, letters

What role has our sonic landscape played in the emergence of planetary sapience/self awareness?  Across the human, animal and plant kingdoms, to entire cities and ecosystems, we are formed by the OUTSIDENESS of SONIC scapes- from ropy interlocked strands of drone to spectral atmospherics… opening of Musil’s ‘Man Without Qualities’… city as cognitive machine, exosomatic DNA, ontogeny/phylogeny, sonic pharmakon… What deep empathies are possible through sonic practice? Relations between others- human and non human? 
How can sonic practices resist the inexorable flows of capital? Should they? What would a radical ambience be? How can we articulate projects across the spectrum of 
soundscape- a found landscape- and score- an intentional, prethought, predesigned, determining mode of sonic production?  

As Gary Tomlinson says: ‘…they arose from the necessities facing groups of nonmusical, nonlinguistic hominins as they together sought subsistence or survival in the material ecologies around them. Modern musicking and language, in a real sense, did not develop at all. Instead they fell out, as belated emergences, from patterns of sociality and communication neither musical nor linguistic that can be traced to periods long before Homo sapiens existed. As they coalesced, they formed not only the modern connections between them that most accounts have displaced back onto their origins but also other aspects definitive of our human modernity. ‘