art architecture urbanism landscape culture
architecture urbanism +
Landon Mackenzie. Pink Dot, 2012
© Scott Massey
LANDON MACKENZIE: NERVOUS CENTRE SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 - JANUARY 5, 2013
Esker Foundation’s first solo exhibition, Landon Mackenzie: Nervous Centre presents a compelling survey of Landon Mackenzie’s work from 1993 to 2012. It highlights her abstracted study of cartography to map out human systems of movement, thought and convergence. The exhibition presents rarely seen drawings, a selection of her ‘suitcase paintings’, and several of her better-known, large-scale cinematic canvases. Mackenzie has spent a lifetime looking at land, how it is shaped, how we shape it, how we remember it, and how we tell its stories. Her research has taken her to remote locations such as the Cumberland Delta, as well as map rooms and archives including the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, UK. Like an esker formation, Mackenzie’s stories can be narrow and sinuous or broad and flat-topped; they can have multiple crests or can be segmented like a string of beads. Her recurrent use of bridges, nets, ladders, balloons, filters, neural pathways, branches, leaves and subway maps, and her exemplary use of color, scale and sound, encourages viewers to make the leap to other places and times. Landon Mackenzie has received numerous awards and is an influential artist and educator. Her work has been exhibited in over ninety exhibitions across Canada and internationally, and is collected by many museums including the National Gallery of Canada and the Vancouver Art Gallery. She began her education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax (1972-1975), and received her MFA at Concordia University (1976-1979). Based in Vancouver, she is a Professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
444, 1011 - 9th Avenue SE | Calgary, AB, Canada T2G 0H7 | +1 403 930 2490 | www.eskerfoundation.com Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday 10-5 | Thursday & Friday 10-8 | Sunday 12-5
letters Islands of the Imagination re. Shannon Wiley’s article, ‘Vanishing Lands: Shishmaref, Alaska’ (On Site review 27: rural urbanism) 1 As Sarichef Island continues to erode, and rising temperatures leave Shishmaref vulnerable to storm surges, I was struck by a perverse double of Shishmaref ’s efforts to preserve itself. Thousands of miles south of the receding ice flow, some of the world’s richest capitalists are imagining other islands, where they can be safe from the damages they have wreaked. In 2008, The Seasteading Institute was founded by an influential group of libertarians. While many around the world have fled real state harassment, the seasteaders instead imagine a utopia free from government intervention in their business plans: a sort of Shenzhen-on-sea. For those who think America – with its government, its social security, and its medicare – is now lost, the seasteaders offer a dream of mobile platforms, resting outside the control of government. Available to all. For a price, of course. II For the Inupiat, Sarichef Island and the Arctic landscape are not empty – places to be filled by utopian dreams – but full of meaning, and bound up in the Inupiat way of life. So much European thought has imagined islands differently. The island has been a place of absence, where a new world could be imagined. Think of the success of Robinson Crusoe, who James Joyce named as the calculatingly taciturn exemplar of the British colonialist, or the continuing appeal of the fantasy of the desert island, where, apart from the humdrum of our working lives, we can finally be free. Or so it seems.
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III Island thinking reached its apex in the early modern period, as European thinkers struggled to come to terms with the existence of the Americas. What did it mean that these people lived so differently? Were they even human? In part, the tradition of natural right exemplified by the work of Hobbes and Locke was a way of coming to terms with this discovery. If tradition and custom could no longer be used to justify the way life was lived in Europe, perhaps by analysing man in his most basic state, one could arrive at basic rights and laws that applied to all humans. IV It is no mean feat, however, to get back to man in his most basic state. This is where the islands come in. In book six of De Architectura, Vitruvius writes of the philosopher Aristippus, who is shipwrecked on the coast of Rhodes. On the beach, with not a person in sight, he sees geometric shapes traced in the sand – signs of habitation. In the early modern period, this story was reinterpreted. What is important in the retelling is the not that the geometric shapes are a recognition of proximate humanity, but that they are recognisable at all. Even on a deserted island, humans can recognise those most basic shapes dear to Descartes. Even alone, we have reason, which binds us into the human community. The thought-islands of the early modern period were places designed to strip man to his most essential, outside of tradition and culture. Grotius, the Dutch legal theorist influential in shaping natural right theory, wrote that in the natural state, man would have dominion over animals, nature, and his wife. Suddenly, the deserted islands began to look rather like 17th century Amsterdam. These island utopias may have been empty of people, but they were full of significance. Imagining man in his most basic state was also a way of imagining what the world should look like, and the world that was imagined looked much like a real world of increasing European domination, and the marginalization of those for whom islands were not empty, but places full of memories, ancestors, and ways of life. V Seasteading, with its incredible dreams of “permanent, autonomous, ocean communities” full of the “entrepreneurial spirit” seems rather like the thought-islands of the early modern period: both reimagine contemporary economic arrangements into a fantastic vision of what man could be. Unlike the early modern experiments however, Seasteading is based on a creaky ideology: government has made capitalism impossible; the old world is dead, and the new world at sea. As more and more of the world is opened up to resource extraction, and Sarichef island increasingly feels the cost, it was refreshing to read Shannon Wiley’s article, which did not imagine fantasy islands, but thought poignantly about how to live on the islands we have. Joshua Craze Toulouse
Suburban Drivers So much of architectural and urban thought is a disguised rant against the suburb. There is much that is inherently wrong with suburbia including the underlying economic incentives and biases. However most North American people choose to live in suburbs. Askew’s Salmon Arm (On Site review 27:rural urbanism) is a thoughtful attempt to weave broader community sensibilities into the suburban reality. Our current design culture is focused on the religion of high art with a resultant emphasis on art galleries, museums, libraries and theatres as the vessels of culture. But these are the formal expression of a culture that also resides in the matter-of-fact realities of daily living that includes buying groceries. Of course this current architectural predilection has not always been the case. Modernist architects of the 1920s up to the 60s did pay attention to domestic and community design. Perhaps as a result of some of their well-documented failures, architects have abandoned these areas of investigation. I applaud Allen+Maurer and Fasr+Epp for approaching this prosaic commission as an opportunity to create a meaningful experience in a suburban grocery store and parking lot. Fundamental to this type of design exercise is how to accommodate the car. The challenge with suburban development is in responding to the standard metrics of parking stalls per square foot of retail space. An architect’s ability to effectively design around these limitations is key to managing all the economic drivers of suburban development. In other communities there are recent trends away from the big store surrounded by acres of parking. It would have been informative to see an actual parking plan and the relationship between the topography, parking and the proposed buildings on site. I look forward to seeing the finished project documented to better understand how well the architecture has advanced the too-quiet suburban design conversation. Paul Whelan Toronto Florian Maurer, of Allen Maurer Architects, replies —
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2 Paul Whelan makes many good points in his letter, for instance, that ‘serious’ architecture has largely abandoned suburban architecture in general, and shopping centres in particular, being more interested in cultivating its ego through signature buildings that have little effect on the life of the ordinary guy. However, that this may not have been so much the choice of the architectural profession, but the business reality driving these developments in our particular economic and political system: developers want to first and foremost turn a profit, and going against the grain and proposing alternatives to proven (in the economic sense) development models is not part of their game plan, nor is engaging the architect to do more than the absolute minimum required to perpetuate the status quo. I credit our client, Mr. David Askew, for breaking this cycle. Without being allowed to do so architects cannot do good work. I would also like to comment that most North American people started choosing to live in suburbs at a time when even Le Corbusier thought this was the way of the future and that the automobile was the greatest invention since sliced bread. Half a century later we are not so sure anymore, but the reality that has been created since then has changed the world profoundly and has an inertia that may be impossible to stop, if we want to be pessimistic (which I don’t). Finding a way back (or forward, if you will) is a long and painful process. Our Askew’s project is a baby step in that direction. The Askew’s store is phase one of a much larger mixed use development. We do have a master plan that will not only show the final parking configuration, but also how we use buildings to enclose streetscapes, rather than being the usual ‘islands unto themselves in a sea of parking’ so typical of suburbia. This master plan also shows how we could successfully argue a significant reduction of parking, based on the argument that the new development is in the precise centre of a large area of residential use within easy walking/cycling distance. This is another baby step. If we keep making these, we’ll get somewhere. The irony of the culture that has created ‘starchitecture” is that it has had profound influence on how the anonymous architecture of suburbia gets its form: every strip commercial is an accumulation of solitaires that badly want to stick out amongst the other solitaires, shout each other down, with larger neon signs, more garish colours, glued-on attributes whose only purpose is to say “look at me!” To find a way back to a culture that joins buildings to create streetscapes would not violate people’s desire to live in suburbs. Florian Maurer Penticton
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Location, Location, Location
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Miriam Ho’s essay ‘Fictional Terrain’ and Dana Seguin and Christopher Katsarov Luna’s essay ‘Heritage Village: an embedded collective memory’ unearthed in me some uneasy memories and musings about the rural ideal and the urban gaze. Though I have lived for nearly a decade in the busy urban centre of Montreal, I grew up on the shores of the Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia. Before the construction of the Confederation Bridge joined Prince Edward Island to its Maritime sister provinces, and when school let out for the summer, I was often rolled into our family car for a ferry trip to ‘the Island.’ There we joined the other tourists in the dream of an isolated place where the sun always shone, the land was always green, the water warm and the people quaint. I sincerely remember it being so. At least on one occasion we stopped to take a tour of Green Gables National Park and of Anne’s house. I was an intense fan not only of the Anne of Green Gables character, but also of the characters and village of Avonlea, immortalised by Montgomery’s novel and CBC’s long-running drama, The Road to Avonlea. Miriam Ho comments that “visitors to the Green Gables house negotiate the actual, historical and fictional, projecting their story onto the site, altering how it will be shaped”; however, as I imagine was the case for many child(like) tourists to this mythological place, Anne’s house destabilised me. The limbo between fiction and historical fact was uncomfortable. I was horrified when I realised that the green-gabled house in Cavendish was not ‘the real thing’. As Ho mentions, Montgomery’s childhood house now lies in ruins, its protection trumped by the tourist-driven desire to preserve the myth of Anne. It was amusing to experience a hint of this brand of agitation when I read Seguin and Katsarov’s essay about the Town of Markham and the heritage planning policy that has transplanted hundred-year-old houses to the suburbs. Seguin and Katsarov Luna argue that Markham’s transplanted houses exhale “a sigh of relief that that their community still validates a particular moment of rural Canadian history”. As much as I appreciate the impetus to preserve these fine examples of rural architecture, I cannot suppress the feeling (and to quote Anne Shirley) that “this is the most tragical thing that has ever happened”. Would not these houses be ultimately more comfortable decaying in solitude on rural properties than corralled into a suburb? I admit I am probably projecting my own inner conflict about my rural and urban identities on these inanimate centenarian houses. I choose to live in the city because it offers so much in terms of proximity to cultural life, ease of mobility and varied architecture. And it is easy to expect that by making this choice I can ‘have it all’; however, it seems unfair that the prizes of rural life, such as the Markham Heritage Estate farm houses, are appropriated by those who do not weather its inconveniences. Meaghan Thurston Montreal
Send comments, critiques, corrections, rejoinders, footnotes and further discussion on anything you find in this issue of On Site review 28: sound, to firstname.lastname@example.org
sound on site 28 fall 2012
contents urban listening Nick Sowers Caelan Griffiths Will Craig
8 10 12
Listening Practice A Stratigraphy of Skoundscapes Sound Control
the sounds of belief ChloĂŠ Roubert Paul Whelan and Ryan Bessey Jason Price
14 17 32
For Whom The Bells Toll Sacred Acoustics Holy Ghost ...FIRE!
the uses of history Martin Abbott Emily Thompson Zile Liepins
20 23 26
The Sound of Berlin The Roaring Twenties Singing a Revolution
listening to buildings Helena Slosar Eon Sinclair Brian S Pearson
38 42 46
Embedded Sound Singing in the Rain Para-Site
walking sound Urs Walter and Olaf ShĂ¤fer Ron Wickman Joshua Craze
48 50 52
Audible Architectural Models Configuring Space Everything Its Own Silence
other stuff Stephanie White calls for articles masthead
6 55 56
Sound : Lyrics on site 29: geology, on site 30: ethics and publics who we are
Our thanks to Shannon Werle, who was the editorial advisor to this issue and who wrote the call for articles. Her article in On Site review 25: identity, which compared the sounds of Hong Kong and Lagos, was the spur to this issue. 1
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Individual sets of sound files have their own URLs and QR codes, but you can get to them all through the 28:sound page, left.
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There are a number of soundtracks available to accompany some of these articles: they are on the webpage for this issue: www.onsitereview.ca/28
i n t ro d u c t i o n | architecture and sound by stephanie white
firmness, commodity and delight
This issue of On Site on sound comes with an inherent contradiction: reading a print magazine is a generally silent activity, unless one’s reading is punctuated with shouts of ‘oh no, that is so wrong!!!’ And although the radio is probably on, or the tv, or your iPod, or the phone, or the train is going by, the dog is barking, the new energy-efficient sound-profligate furnace is roaring away, the kitchen tap is dripping annoyingly, we have the ability to shut out all these sounds as we read, and we begin to hear other sounds in the words themselves and what the words are describing. We intuit sound as much as we hear it. What this issue asks is that we actually listen for a while: no short cuts, no assumption we know what going up a staircase sounds like, no blocking out of the muzak of our daily lives. In this, Ron Wickman’s afternoon spent with a blind friend comes very close to Urs Walter and Olaf Shafer’s use of sound models as architectural design tools: how we use our hearing is a quite complex process we take completely for granted. That said, I’m not sure we need to actually hear a train every time we look at a Winston Link photograph. The mind fills in the sound, but one of the premises of several of the articles in this issue, is that we have forgotten how to do this, or are too lazy to do it — an example of our etiolated relationship with the real, rather than the virtual, world. The delight at the sonic revelations found by Helena Slosar, Caelan Griffiths, Will Craig — the experience of hearing places, not just seeing them, and Nick Sowers who records places he visits rather than photographing them, his binaural microphones the equivalent of the viewfinder: these are all about the experience of sound. Whatever is heard is what is there: the filters that assign value to certain sounds have been dropped. Joshua Craze walks some empty streets of Paris and finds that the architecture
lis te n in g h e ar in g filte r in g in te r pre tin g s pe akin g
itself filters out meaningful sounds, and Martin Abbott interviews Plastique Fantastique, at the audial centre of Berlin’s club scene. Zile Liepins, Jason Price and Chloé Roubert, each in quite different ways, discuss the use of sound, usually in song – but not always, to achieve some end: a revision of history, or a suppression of identity, or an assault on all rational thought processes. I was hoping someone might write on the use of seemingly trivial American pop anthems in torture, but much has been written about it elsewhere: banality in extremis. Sound manipulation, other than mind-blotting amplification, is examined minutely by Brian S Pearson and Eon Sinclair: precisely how does sound sound? In a post-structuralist reading, a sound is not an absolute, cannot be precisely and accurately defined; it is a matter of context. Paul Whelan listens to a parking garage and hears a church. Which brings us to the cover, Lady McCrady’s Daddio listens …, where all the layers of New York street sounds jumble together on the canvas. Do we need an accompanying sound track to this, to confirm what New York sounds like? Surely through sight we can understand sound, whether through cultural memory, or personal experience. Emily Thompson tells us about an archival project that allows us to hear what New York sounded like in the 1920s through carefully recovered and assembled recordings. Evidently it was deafening, but deafening relative to what? to now, or to a pre-industrial rural past against which the city was considered a satanic hell. The recovery of these sounds of early twentiethcentury cities to be listened to today seems more than mere entertainment, but some kind of urban critique. New York is still deafening, that is what strikes anyone who visits for the first time: garbage trucks clank and grind all night, sirens, traffic, shouting, din, din, din. It is great. Blackboard sketch by Gilles Saucier (with aerial photograph) for the National Music Centre, Calgary, 2009 facing page: Saucier + Perrotte’s proposal for the National Music Centre where it faces Ninth Avenue, showing the Stampede Parade – pipe bands and quasi-military marching bands echo through Calgary’s downtown canyons.
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cour tesy S auci er + Per rotte Archi tects
cour tesy S auci er + Pe r ro t t e A rchit e ct s
A few years ago there was an international competition for the Cantos Foundation’s National Music Centre in Calgary. The Saucier + Perrotte proposal was not chosen, but a file of marvellous drawings came my way for a different project on unbuilt and unrealised ideas. Because I know Calgary, and because I’m not particularly interested in the politics or names of superstardom in architecture, I looked at the drawings for this project as drawings, eloquent diagrams of architectural intent. Without reading all the explanatory texts that came with the proposal, I looked at the drawings and saw wind. Part of Saucier + Perrotte’s narrative reads: The National Music Centre’s skin provides a manifestation in threedimensional terms of the sounds represented by the music we hear. … Since the generational organisation of musical sequences is similar to the harmonic overtones generated by a vibrating string, facade patterns are based on a family of lines according to a musical sequence. This family is then rotated around a central point to create a two-dimensional pattern. By accenting certain families of lines, a hierarchy is established in the pattern, which begins to define the important nodes. These nodes are the basis of a structural diagram that relates to the lighter glazing pattern. When a three-dimensional aperiodic pattern is created, it is possible to relate the boundaries of certain solids to families of planes organised along musical sequences. This can create interesting offset options, as the pattern on the boundary of the solid will be mirrored, but slightly altered, in the offset plane. The resulting 2D and 3D (or multi-dimensioned) grids are non-repeatable, ensuring regular nosing-out properties despite the irregular pattern. For purposes of exhibition, the exterior skin is always left intact, but the interior skin changes in opacity depending on the nature of the objects/artefacts displayed. This is what results in the changing nature of the facades, from clear to smoky in appearance as perceived from the outside. In fact, the exterior envelope’s colours appear different as one moves around the building. The west facade appears white, but as observed from 9th Avenue SE the south facade is gray. As one sees the building from the east, the east facade appears very dark or even black. This perceptual dynamic ensures that, just as music and sound do not remain static, the National Music Centre is ever-changing in appearance.
…the atrium…based on notions of echo, delay, reverberation, [is] a space that can be mechanically modified to alter sound and perception. This large chamber reacts to any sound input (human or instrumental sounds, using microphones or with electronic input) and is able to manipulate these sounds. This element becomes the central structuring node for the overall project …visitors remain cognisant of their position with respect to this resonant object…experiencing different sounds or sets of sounds as the input is constantly changing.
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This brings to mind Martyn Ware’s 2012 Tales from a Bridge, sound loops coming from all directions in ever-changing syncopation. The Music Centre’s resonant object is an atrium, skylit, bouncing sound and light around within it with lesser and greater control. It is the glass core of the project, all tilting walls and walkways: a disturbing collage of sound files and an equally disturbing collage of reflectant surfaces. There was a program for this project, of course: studios, sound stages, the museum: Cantos’s extensive, historic, interactive musical instrument collection; there is Elton John’s white 1910 piano and the Rolling Stones’ 2001 Mobile Studio — there is stuff in this centre, not just space. And we know that the building cannot actually be ephemeral, ambiguous, motile, it can only hope to encourage such a reading. What I quite like is that the appearance on the street, in its urban context, does not shout out ‘music lives here’, rather it transcends program, the renewal of east downtown Calgary and the accommodation of the indigestible 1910 King Edward Hotel which must remain on the site, and instead captures some near-indefinable but lyrical characteristics of Calgary – the transformational Chinook winds that blow over the mountains from the Pacific Ocean a thousand kilometres away, the sound of the trains across the street on the main line that stretches from Halifax to Vancouver: thin, attenuated, a sound a continent wide. Saucier + Perrotte’s particular tilting folded-plate form-making suits this very well. There is no immediate urban context to respond to – well there is, but it is ghastly. The context here is geographic and environmental, not ephemeral at all. Thinking about an architecture that addresses sound, it doesn’t have to be the sound of our civilisation, its music, its mechanical noise, its bellowing spatial control. It can be something much more fundamental – the sound of our place on the earth. j
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Well, I hardly understand this at all, but I do get that the appearance of this building will be ephemeral, ambiguous, motile. If one could imagine a building blowing down 9th Avenue as if it were a silver sheet of water, this is it. Alas, we shall not see such a thing. The music centre we are getting looks like an organ with gilded pipes at the top.
More from Saucier + Perrotte:
listening | to t r av e l b y n i c k s ow e r s
a mbi enc e t r avel bi na ur a l i t y soundsc a pes aver a g i ng
listening practice Travelling is a kind of laboratory. It is a grand experiment, setting foot on foreign land, not knowing what events and adventures will ensue, what people one will encounter, what new tastes the tongue will discover. The continuous assault of new experiences hone the bodyâ€™s senses into a versatile, perceptive instrument.
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nick s ow e r s
My travels throughout the last decade have taken me through rich and rewarding laboratories of sound. The auditory interest began with documenting my first trip to the Mediterranean where I often left my camera buried in a day bag. Instead of shooting photos, I captured my experiences by walking around with a pair of binaural microphones (microphones which are placed above or in the ear to replicate the stereo listening environment) hooked up to a pocketsized digital recorder. Before the trip, I had researched low-profile sound recording equipment through a community of concert tapers –people who trade bootleg recordings of live shows. On one trip studying military base edges in Japan, I went so far as to label the minidisc in my sound recorder ‘classical music’ should the military police ever look upon me with suspicion. So sound and travel began for me as a way of simply recording my experiences without drawing attention to myself or letting a camera get in the way. The way I travelled changed almost right away. In order not to return from a trip with a mountain of uncategorised audio, I forced myself listen to each set at the end of a day, making notes on significant sounds. On the first few days of travel, I was surprised to pick up sounds I was completely unaware of. First it was obvious things like a faint buzzing tone in a room where I was recording some musicians. This buzzing sound I learned later is known as ‘room tone’ – having to do with the microphone's location in the room resonating in a certain way. Then I noticed more subtle background sounds, such as voices of people reverberating through walls, or the variable loudness between different marketplaces, or the room acoustics of alleyways. The next day I would go out with the previous recording playing back in my mind, changing the paths I decided to take because the sound was different here or there. My day became a live soundtrack, with my feet driving the reel and the city’s surfaces and inhabitants sliding by as content. I learned to listen, and to listen very closely. I listen to places I go now, whether travelling abroad or travelling in my own city, with a recording mind. Sometimes I like to go out with a recorder and record several hours of sound with no intention of ever listening to the recordings. The recorder in hand keeps my ears alert. Even without the recorder, the residue of re-listening has stayed with me, and I move about in an environment as though I were recording sound.
I climbed this hill, sound recorder in hand, thinking I would gain an understanding of the landscape below. I had been exploring the covered souks and winding passageways of the city for several days, the pathways worn by hundreds of years of feet, cart wheels and mule hooves, tracing paths from the tanneries to the souks, from the copper smiths to the mosques to the residential quarters. The citizens of Fes may find the maze of streets perfectly logical, but to the traveller, navigation is a bewildering and enchanting endeavour. The view of the city confounds any understanding of its order (minarets stand out as landmarks, but little else is to be read from the hilltop view), the sound adds to the confusion, the din as blurry as the myriad of flat rooftops cascading up and down the topography of the valley. What is it to listen to all of this sound, within this thickened space overwhelmed by colliding signals? I attempted to listen to the madly twittering sparrows, but the sharp focus on one sound blurred the rest. I tried to pick out a particular revving scooter and locate it, but is it the scooter or something else not known, not seen, that I am hearing? Part of the fascination was just looking at the city as though it were a model train set, with tiny voices occasionally audible above the averaged sound. A third alternative presents itself to a patient listener: listen to the averaged sound, and forget the names of all things making sounds. The ‘non-musician’ Brian Eno used to go to the middle of Hyde Park and absorb the averaged sound of London for hours. Subsequently his music tends to seek that abandonment of cognitive listening. Is listening in this case still listening to London (or to Fes), or is the averaged sound of a city just a sound, even a musical assemblage to appreciate for its own sake? Listening encompasses all of these things: concentration on particular sounds (signals), deference to the shapelessness of background sound, and puncturing the thin divide between music and pure sound. John Cage found music everywhere, in everything. He found music because he wanted to listen, and he listened to all sounds with a devoted practice of listening.
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Recently, not travelling (at least not in an obvious way), I was walking on a lunch break from my office in downtown San Francisco up one of its many hills. I paused at a park looking over the city, and there it was again, that blend of many sounds rushing up and passing over me. If I were to snatch any one of them, say a honking taxi cab or a siren from two miles away, I would know: yes, I am in San Francisco. But I still find that forgetting San Francisco momentarily, digging beneath the language of sound, to really hear the sounds, the averaged sound –this permits a kind of instantaneous travel in time and space. Is this San Francisco or is it Fes, just in a new place at a new time. j
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Tracing the various laboratories I have spent time in, the city of Fes, in Morocco. continually captures my imagination. It’s not possible to spend time in Fes and not be affected, imprinted. There is no ‘passing through’ Fes. At times it seems there is no escape either, from the intoxicating smells, the toxic smells, the clamour, the abandoned narrow passageways no wider than a mule’s head. Of all the intense sonic experiences in Fes, from the merchants’ heckling in the souks to the banging and clanking of craftsmen in workshops to the serene call to prayer before dawn, a single scene comes to mind which captures my bewilderment: I am on a scrubby hill overlooking, over-listening the city. Like the view, the image in sound is dense in detail. Tiny peaks of contrast: a distant horn, sparrows flittering in the foreground, the sharper cry of a child nearby. These peaks emerge from a grey droning sea: scooters,
voices, air conditioners, idling buses and, all of a sudden, the overlapping calls to prayer. The afternoon prayer is most interesting, as the bustle of the city attenuates for a moment and a multitude of amplified muezzins call out from the minarets. Altogether, these sounds form the averaged sound of the city.
a stratigraphy of soundscapes: listening to amsterdam and vancouver
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The sum of human activity in a particular urban environment yields its own tune. Is there a ‘key’ to a city? Is Vancouver an Fsharp? Is Amsterdam an Aflat? Can auditory comparison of each of these waterfront cities yield insight into their architectural character? There are two groups of writers that have proposed important ways of thinking of sound and design: the World Soundscape Project (WSP) and the theories proposed in the work of Karin Bijsterveld. These listeners and writers suggest ideas that can affect design analysis methods, and thus design proposals. In this sound comparison of Amsterdam and Vancouver I have compiled
pedestrian crossing noise takatakatakatakatakatakatakatakatakataka a kind of five-of-six-legs-working grasshopper tarantella on a cigar box dance floor pursues the flitting walker with such urgency! a trilling bike bell sounds warning shaking out a corduroy rubber sheet car tires on cobblestones a streetcar dinner-plate bell the competition for street space is a running battle
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First Impressions – a poem:
ac o u s t i c u r b a n i s m | s o u n d ov e r wat e r by caelan griffiths
a sound diary in my day-to-day wanderings of the cities. This resulted in an written observation about each city’s soundscape. In attempt to catalogue the constituent chimes and racket of Vancouver, the WSP catalogued the sounds of that city. Under the direction of R. Murray Schafer, it succinctly recorded, collected and catalogued their work in an album called Vancouver Soundscape. Throughout the course of their work – in Vancouver and eventually abroad – the WSP proved that listening to a city leads to a kind of analysis. Recording and identifying sounds can lead to a different way of understanding the city-scape – and
Ambiance – the city sounds of Amsterdam – should be thought of as the boulevard street noise that superimposes onto the canal network. This far-reaching ambient noise includes streetcar bells, bus roar and train noise. Atmospheric – the proximity of Schiphol airport means that passing airplanes are a keynote. This description of the intimate to the broad soundscape is a kind of hierarchy of sound experiences. The intrusion of an atmospheric sound into your personal ‘ear-space’ will cause remark, but only with careful listening can a person be aware of the continuing background of atmospheric sounds. The Vancouver soundscape can be examined with comparable stratigraphy. Of course, what is missing is the intimate integration of water into the street network. However, False Creek and English Bay can be considered analogues. Street level – vehicle traffic dominates, the sound of buses accelerating, and multi-lingual conversations. The beepboop of the pedestrian crossing. Ambiance – The city sound of Vancouver is mostly vehicle traffic, but has a marine connection, with foghorns in the dead of winter and the cruise ship horn in summer. The sound of Skytrain acceleration travels remarkably far – in my personal experience five blocks away is perceptible indoors. Waterbody – The motor predominates, as in Amsterdam, but the lapping of the waves is more pronounced in Vancouver. Gulls scream here. The large open water carries downtown hubbub across to the urban hilltown to the south. Atmospheric – airplane traffic predominates, although the frequency of helicopter traffic is relatively high compared to Amsterdam.
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Sirens deserve their own private description. In Vancouver: wee-ooo-wee-ooo-wee-ooo. In Amsterdam: weedle-weedleweedle-weedle, although there are many variants of sirens in both countries – I have observed three in the Netherlands and as many in Canada. The average city-dweller absorbs an astounding mix of sounds everyday. The built and natural environment around us adjusts the volume and intensity of these sounds. It is an acoustic environment that has arisen by our society’s choices and by our negligence. It comes down to this: everyday urban noise is produced and processed by elements of architecture and landscape. These alloyed signals we perceive are mediated by the city’s form. There are possibilities and constraints, jarring and soothing events, and a low level drone to human activities to which we assign priority and meaning – without reflection. The more we accept the background hum of urban activity, and accept the daily toll of sound events, the more we grow to ignore the entire auditory sense… The listener’s plaint, so eloquently paraphrased in R.Murray Schaefer’s term schizophonic, is that the meaning of a signal – the idea of a sound, is nourished by the action at its source. A schizophonic world, where sound is recorded, disseminated, processed and displaced, is seduced by ghosts. So if urban design opens its ears, perhaps too today’s omnipresent white ear-buds will become museum pieces. j
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ostensibly, our place in it. A soundscape is a kind of topography, another to add to the geological kind. Sound topography is an interpenetration of gradients. Sounds ooze around corners, leap tall buildings, intermingle, cohabitate one another’s territories, all in a throbbing matrix of fluids. We can’t selectively shut our ears and appreciate an isolated sound event – at least not without technological aid. The World Soundscape Project was conceived to catalogue that world of the ear. From their analysis of everyday sounds, WSP proposed that our acoustic environment is a form of music, and that the distinction between noise and music was a rarified concept of the sublime – it isn’t that there aren’t bad sounds (noise), but to toss out all sounds outside the concert hall is a bit drastic. These elements of the everyday acoustic environment can be composed and organised to form a part of the palette of the contemporary music composer. For the design world, if these sounds could be deployed to arouse emotions intentionally, then they can (and must) have unintentional æsthetic repercussions. At heart, by including the day-to-day acoustic environment in the context of formal music, the composers of the day were critiquing our inattention to our ears. In this way the World Soundscape Project is a kind of manifesto. When applied to the built environment, it calls for urbanists to open their ears to aural design. Karin Bijsterveld and José Van Dijk’s latest work Sound Souvenirs examines the phenomenon of a mixture of nostalgia and archive using recording technologies. Pinpointing the World Soundscapes Project as a seminal moment in this kind of audio archiving – by conscientious experts – Bijsterveld and Van Dijk suggest that a kind of democratisation of sound recording technologies has resulted in a widespread listening culture. Our society wants to remember soundscapes. As everyday citizens are now able to collect sound artifacts, we can easily compare soundscapes through time. As a designer of built form it is important to understand the repercussions of the built environment on the sound environment – because invariably someone is listening. What hypotheses can be proposed to explain the relationship between architecture, landscape and sound in Amsterdam? It could be suggested that, at least in the canal belt of Amsterdam, that the lion’s share of the city fabric is given over to water. It can additionally be observed that the level of the canals is lower than that of the sidewalk, roadway and canal edge. This stepped edge creates a kind of stratigraphy of sound environments. The passing canal boat’s pounding dance music is somewhat contained by the water level (I write during Pride weekend). This we might consider the canal soundscape – the puttering motors, calls of boaters to one-another, and the shouts and hollers of passersby on foot. On warm days, in a canal in the Jordaan, I observed a group of three separate boats pass in 15 minutes. It was quiet enough a water level for two women to conduct a conversation in their boat – despite street level traffic. Gulls hoot here. The street level, or canal edge soundscape, interacts across the water and although separated by 10 metres of canal, there is an interaction between these edges such that it constitutes an environment in and of itself. In some instances, although rare, people on the canal edge call to the canal users – from a bar to a barge, I witnessed a happy “hallo” from drinkers to boaters, hailing between strangers.
u r b a n ov e r l a p s | sound communities by will craig
ide n tity c o n tro l ac c ide n ts s patiality so n ic te r r ito r y
sonic leaks : urban delight On any given day, my office suddenly becomes thick with sound. A tremendous din permeates every inch of the building. The Kimball Theatre Organ, donated to the National Music Centre in Calgary (formerly known as Cantos), is stationed on one of the lower floors. It is the largest organ in the collection, occupying approximately 200 square feet of museum space. Its sole mission is to generate noise. At one time the bellows would have been hand-pumped by a team of dedicated men; now, electricallypowered, it can be turned on at a moment’s notice to educate inquisitive school groups. It combines an array of instruments simultaneously to create an explosion of sound until, with a wheeze, the contraption completely exhausts itself of air.
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Once, this organ was used to entertain large crowds during evening performances. Now a museum piece, it inadvertently becomes a regular, daytime feature in our muted office environment. As the sounds migrate throughout the building’s structure, they distort to create a new, hybridised music. Sound leaks of this kind are rarely desirable in today’s urban environment – high frequency sounds such as traffic noise mask other sounds that might be more important to us. Nowadays, people wish to control this urban ‘noise’ with an environment designed to control and filter sound. * Before amplification and the modernisation of cities, sounds were part of ongoing, daily rituals. In seventeenth century London, church bells sounded when it was time for services, or for news of events. This provided a sense of locality – the St. Mary le-Bow church is a prime example, defining you as a true Londoner if the bells were within earshot. Urban life was enhanced through sound. Streets had their own distinctive sounds from the workshops of different trades. Marketplaces such as Smithfield, Leadenhall, Billingsgate and the Exchange teemed with merchants and animals. As Bruce Smith explains in The Acoustic World of Early Modern England, sound was used as a spatial device: “The soundscape of early modern London was made up of a number of overlapping, shifting, acoustic communities, centred on different soundmarks: parish bells, the speech of different nationalities, the sounds of trades, open-air markets, the noises of public gathering places.” 1
to stay informed. Narrow streets, timber, clay and plaster walls made sound leaks common. In acoustic terms, the inside of a house was very much part of the street. Clanging, ranting, banging, hammering and serating migrated through adjacent buildings. Vaulted colonnades, arcades and marketplaces amplified the effects. Public spaces and places for exchange were, in this way, physically connected to other parts of the city. On the other hand, the parasitical nature of sound can be considered invasive. In the same way that our interior or personal space can be violated, so too sound can invade the very bodies we inhabit. Brandon LaBelle explains: “Initially, sound unfolds as a dynamic relation between an
As sound migrates, communities begin to form. The habitual intrusion of these sounds into one’s environment, even homes, meant an outwardly-focused, collaborative culture— collaboration was a survival skill and a way of life. What made the life of the street was people’s dependence on it for trade and information. Knowledge was constantly being passed through sound waves and access to it was essential to anyone wishing wi l l crai g
inside and an outside. This physical movement immediately occurs at the level of the ear – without closure, the ear radically permits the intrusion of the exterior onto the interior of the body, … In this way, it immediately crosses a number of boundaries, of the object itself, of given spatial separations between rooms or related divisions, and finally, of the separation between object (source) and subject (ear).” 2 Thus, sound can be seen to have material properties. Much like the need to remove dust and dirt from our physical environment, as a society we are inclined to control sound. In effect, sound is more easily fed to the population in a pure state, removing many of its qualities for the purpose of providing information, security or pleasure.
In J.G. Ballard’s fictional story ‘Sound Sweep’,3 when a building becomes saturated with sound, overpowering its occupants, it must be decontaminated. The sound sweep uses a device called the Sonovac to cleanse floors, walls and ceilings. Overwhelming noise then makes way for the pleasant experience generated by a new form of ultrasonic music (which cannot be heard). As technology and digitised sound overpower conventional sound in Ballard’s story, ultrasonic music points to the reduction of sound to a purer, more absolute form – pleasure. Sound is no longer experienced. It has become like a material – something which can be potentially cleansed and erased completely. Hence, the shaping of this material as architecture and the transmission of selected sounds is an inherently strategic process. Sound leaks are accidental intrusions to this strategic filtering process. They interact with built form, causing new encounters between differing environments. As with pre-industrial London, the regular throng could suddenly be interrupted, causing any multitude of occurrences or encounters. “On any given day, in a given place, at a given hour, people might or might or might not behave precisely according to habit. Early modern London was not a sociologist`s grid but a range of possible paths the inhabitants might take throughout the day. ” 4 The accidental intrusion of sound is fundamental to the process of city-making. These sensitive arrangements of close-range activity allow commonalities of sound to develop. They are embedded within the fabric of our cities, morphed by material effects. Over time, the canvas of sound evolves producing unexpected results. Sound is spatial, yet our aim is often to exclude it, risking the loss of such productive encounters. I for one, look forward to the occasion of the next sound leak. j
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facing page: covered marketplaces in London amplified the sound of activity within, radiating into neighbouring areas. this page: old and new – highly-reflective, insulated glazing isolates new buildings, preventing sound leaks from once commonly-heard soundmarks.
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1 Bruce R Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England, first edition. University Of Chicago Press, 1999 2 Brandon LaBelle , ‘Other Acoustics’ from Oase: Immersed, Sound & Architecture, No 78. 2009 3 J G Ballard, ‘The Sound-Sweep’ , in The Complete Short Stories. London: Flamingo, 2001 4 Ibid, Smith
sonic landscape | r e c ov e ry b y c h l o é ro u b e rt
h is to r ic ity middle age s c ampan o lo gy au th e n tic ity ide n tity
for whom the bells toll restoring Notre Dame’s sound heritage Until last February 20th, Angélique-Françoise, AntoinetteCharlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne and Denise-David, the four threeton bells of Notre Dame de Paris’ northern tower had rung every 15 minutes since 1856. Although blessed by Napoléon III with the names of French saints, on that day they were not immune to dismantlement: in early 2013 they will be replaced by eight new bells. The ending of their 156 year-old rhythmical soundscape has caused a bit of a stir among some Parisians, who see it as the unnecessary destruction of an essential aspect of the French capital’s sonic identity and heritage. Notre Dame’s rector and head of this project, Reverent Patrick Jacquin, on the contrary, defends the forthcoming rearrangement insisting it will provide a more authentic soundscape than the one heard over the past 150 odd-years; and this, just in time for the beginning of the cathedral’s 850th anniversary celebrations next February.1
ch lo é ro u be r t
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Since its erection in the late twelfth century the cathedral has produced numerous soundscapes with many bells. As the most important building within the region’s episcopal hierarchy, Notre Dame has always sheltered the largest bell in the area and, even before it was completed, had numerous smaller bells emphasising its presence. In 1378 it acquired and installed Jacqueline, its main bourdon (a large bell), at the top of its southern tower. As is customary in traditional bell-founding, Jacqueline was melted and re-cast differently many times over the next three centuries. In the 1680s it was moulded to be significantly heavier – reaching the total weight of 13 tons – for a lower tone and re-baptised Emmanuel-Louise-Thérèse (after no other than its god-father Louis the XIVth and his wife Maria-Teresa). If campanologists still consider Emmanuel as having impeccable timbre, at 327 years-old next March its aging structure means it resonates only on extraordinary occasions such as the end of World War II, Christmas, Easter,2 or Papal visits and funerals (it rang 84 times for Jean-Paul II’s passing at age 84). Emmanuel was lucky. Like France’s aristocracy, most of the country’s Ancien Régime bells never made it past the French Revolution and subsequent wars.3 For the greater part of the past millennium in Europe whoever tolled the bells controlled the community. While church bells obviously called prayer, historian David Garrioch has argued that the broader implication of this was that these sonic objects regulated the social behaviour of those who heard them – for instance the chiming of the angelus began and ended the day. Understanding the various tolls of one’s church was also vital, as a way of belonging to one’s community as well as remaining alert to potential threats: they indicated storms, plagues, fires, the opening and closing of the city gates and the rigid town curfews in place. Furthermore bells re-enforced the established order. The weddings of the rich (but rarely of the poor) were musical, funeral-chimes were gendered (two pulls for a women, three for a man) and the birth of a French heir could lead to subsequent kingdom-wide all-nighter celebrations (for the birth of Louis Le Dauphin in 1729 every bell in Paris rang for three consecutive days and nights).4
It isn’t so surprising then, both for their strong symbolic association with the aristocratic and religious elites and pragmatically for the making of canons that, in 1792, Notre Dame’s smaller bourdon in the southern tower (baptised Marie and first cast in 1472) and the eight bells of the northern tower were among the cathedral’s 19 melted bells. In fact Emmanuel is the cathedral’s only bell to have survived the Ancien Régime: confiscated during the Revolution’s turmoil it was re-installed in 1802 under a Napoléon Bonaparte decree. Emmanuel towered over Paris alone till 1856 when four new bells, gifts by Napoléon’s nephew, Napoléon III to celebrate his son’s baptism, were installed in the northern tower. These are the same four bells that, till last winter, called the daily offices, every quarter of the hour and the angelus.5 What the current project hopes to do by replacing these four bells with eight new ones and by adding a second bourdon in the southern tower, is to recover the cathedral’s former pre-revolutionary harmonic formation. * Restoring the cathedral’s eighteenth century sonic landscape isn’t a uniquely contemporary enterprise. In 1845 while working on the cathedral’s renovations, Viollet-Le-Duc had started a similar initiative, to no avail. If he was perhaps simply hoping to fill the empty towers, today the project finds its justification in the four 1856 bells’ assessed poor quality. Out of tune with Emmanuel as well as with one another, made of poor and wearing metal and faulty by quantity and size, Notre-Dame has put forward a number of arguments backing the return of what once was. This is somewhat controversial among bellfounders. Philippe Paccard, owner of the Fonderie Paccard, told the New York Times “the tradition dictates that bell makers never renew bells in identical ways”.6 Given the technical prowess necessary for the exact recasting of a bell, the tradition doesn’t seem so preposterous. Overall the casting of Gabriel, Anne-Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Étienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, Jean-Marie and Marie, will have required twenty-three years of work. Managed by the cathedral, the research involved in-depth historical and
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sonic studies by campanologists, musicologists and musicians, technical analyses of the vaults and towers, the development of a sound modelling program, documents spanning 700 years, a bellfounding committee and contest,7 the French Ministry of Culture’s involvement and 2,5 million euros.8
Today these new/old bells can only resonate as the sounds of heritage; something popular these days for the sense of reassuring historical authenticity it conveys.9 In reality the authenticity of the bells’ soundscape (like that of anything) is unattainable because their tolls will resonate in a Parisian collective identity that doesn’t make sense of the world in the same way as those living in the city in the eighteenth century. And yet, even if none of us understand ‘it’s Easter’ or ‘time to pray’, from the entrancing beats of cathedral’s future chimes (available on-line as a modelled audio) emerges a nostalgic feeling for a time when bells were masters — a sense of loss retrieved that erases the inherent impossibility of the project’s premise. j
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If the endeavour deviates from bell making traditions, it also poses the question of how the reproduction of an ‘authentic’ soundscape can ever be possible, even with identically cast bells. * Obviously a full set of new acoustic competitors have appeared since la Prise de la Bastille – roaring buses, buzzing scooters, ringing cellphones – which means Emmanuel and its new accompaniers’ soundscape will not be objectively heard in the same way. But even if it could be, the messages it carries would be different. The city walls have been demolished, curfews abandoned, the diversity of routines accepted, and literacy, clocks, press and the internet have usurped the bells’ chimes as markers of time, power, community and forewarning.
1 ‘De nouvelles cloches pour Notre-Dame de Paris’ by Notre Dame de Paris 2013 http://www.notredamedeparis2013.com/les-grands-projets/nouvellesonnerie-de-cloches/#fn-24-2 2 In France, over Easter bells are silent and are only rung again on Easter Monday when it is told the bells flew over the gardens during the night hiding Easter chocolate eggs and candy. 3 Alain Corbin assessed that approximately 80 per cent of French church bells were melted by the 1800s. Corbin, Alain. Village Bells. Sound and Meaning in the 19th-Century French Countryside. New York, NY: 1998, first published 1994. 4 David Garrioch, ‘Sounds of the city: the soundscape of the early modern European towns’, Urban History, 30, 1 (2003): 5-25. 5 In 1867, twelve more bells were installed in the spire and the transept of the cathedral. 6 Maïa de la Baume, ‘A Melodic Emblem Falls Out of Tune’, The New York Times, October 18th 2011. 7 The chosen melders are Cornille-Havard (Villedieu-les-Poêles, France) for the eight northern tower bells, and Royal Eijsbouts (Asten, Holland) for Marie, the small bourdon of the south tower. 8 Edouard Launet, ‘Notre-Dame baptise ses cloches’, Libération, February 13th 2012. 9 Richard Handler and William Saxton, ‘Dyssimulation: Reflexivity, Narrative, and the Quest for Authenticity in Living History’, Cultural Anthropology (Aug. 1988): 242-60.
a n a lys i s | sound modelling rya n b e s s e y + pau l w h e l a n
c ave s c h u rc h e s gar age s re ve rbe r an c e wo r s h ip
paul whel an
a primer on acoustics Before launching into a comparative analysis of the spaces, there are a few very important technical concepts that need to be established. When a sound is generated it propagates outwards at a constant speed with a characteristic directivity pattern. The eardrum will first resonate to the portion of the sound that is directed towards it, the direct sound, which often represents a tiny fraction (1%) of the total sound energy of an event. A few micro-seconds later the eardrum will respond to additional versions of the sound arriving after they reflect off different surfaces within the room. This is the indirect sound, which arrives with a time delay. Because of the way our brain processes the information provided by our eardrums, the indirect portion of the sound, arriving with a less than 50 to 80 milliseconds time delay (early reflections) gets combined with, or reinforces, the direct sound. After the early reflections, later reflections of the sound resonate at the eardrum because of a number of longer pathways, including those with multiple reflections, by which sound travels. Since the energy of sound decreases with distance travelled and with each reflection, the portion of sound pulse arriving in late reflections is of a lower magnitude. These numerous late reflections arrive from multiple directions and can continue for up to a few seconds in rooms with many hard (acoustically reflective) surfaces. The time it takes for these late reflections to cease is known as the reverberation time and is measured in seconds.
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As I lock my bike in an underground parking garage, the sounds around me have a very familiar ring: the door closes behind me with a self-propelled but muffled clunk. I thought about this acoustic familiarity briefly, but then forgot about it during the workday. One day it came to me – it sounds like a church. Now each time I hear that echo of the door closing, I am instantly transported back to the catholic churches of my childhood. The clunk of the entry door sounds like the sacristy door closing as the priest enters the altar. The metal on metal between lock and frame sounds like the metal on metal latch on a closing confessional booth. Even the voices of people at the other end of the garage sound like the prayer exchange between a priest and a small congregation at an early morning mass. Why do these sacred and prosaic places sound so similar? What are their shared acoustic characteristics? My first thought was that that both spaces have a lot of hard reflective surfaces, but I was perplexed by the vast difference in their spatial characteristics — a parking garage comprises two parallel plates while most traditional churches have soaring spaces. The obvious answer was that I didn’t have a clue so I connected with Ryan Bessey, an acoustician. Ryan performed a comparative analysis based on acoustical models of my wide-open parking garage and the relatively tall, former sixth century Byzantine Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople, converted during the Ottoman Empire to the Kucuk Ayasofya Mosque in, now, Istanbul. Despite the difference in spatial dimensions and histories, it turns out that both the garage and the church share similar reverberation characteristics.
r ya n be s s e y
left: Kucuk Ayasofya Mosque, originally the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, 527-536. above: the model of the church taken from ODEON example files wikipe d ia file 2 0 1 0 1 2 2 2: user : Gg i a
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Parking garages commonly have many hard surfaces – mostly concrete but also metal and glass from the cars. This is similar to traditional churches which are usually stone, brick, wood and glass. To compare the reverberation time of the parking garage and a church, we used ODEON room acoustic modelling software, used by acoustical engineers to simulate the interior acoustics of buildings. The means of calculation is a combination of ray-tracing (the path of sound waves are traced as if they were simple rays of light) and an image-source method (reflections resulting in the creation of a new virtual source as if each surface was a mirror). The required inputs to an ODEON model are room geometry, which can be imported from SketchUp, and surface materials whose acoustical properties have been measured. With this information, the acoustics of a space can be predicted, analysed and even listened to through auralisation. These models can give designers a very good sense of a space’s acoustics even before it is constructed. For this exercise, the parking garage was drawn in SketchUp and imported into ODEON, whereas the church model is one of the examples that comes with the ODEON software, and wasn’t generated by us. The result of our analysis was that both spaces have long reverberation times, which is their primary shared acoustical characteristic. While this is likely coincidental in terms of the parking garage, in churches the effect of reverberation is purposely sought to emphasise specific types of music. Domes and arched ceilings can focus reflections and slow down temporal changes common with instruments such as singing voices, pipe organs and stringed instruments. These musical instruments are often synchronised with the reverberation characteristics of the space to support specific liturgical acoustic effects.
Accounting for the acoustic similarities between the garage and the church made me wonder what the acoustic properties of a sacred space are. Some of the earliest sacred architecture that we know is found in caves in southern France. Paleo-anthropologists have often pondered the distribution of paintings within these caves – they are not placed on the best quality wall surface for painting: many are compressed in small areas and on uneven and difficult to paint surfaces. Iegor Reznikoff, an acoustics expert at the University of Paris, conducted research into the caves at Niaux, concluding that ‘In the cave of Niaux in Ariège, most of the remarkable paintings are situated in the resonant Salon Noir, which sounds like a Romanesque chapel’, an observation with support in the academic world from researchers such as Paul Pettitt (Paleolithic Archaeology, University of Sheffield) and Steven Errede (Acoustical Physics, University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana).1 Paintings are placed in the parts of the cave with acoustic properties that amplify the human voice and where songs and chants can linger. In other words, spaces with long reverberation times are attractive to humans when we are creating environments of religious experience. Throughout religious history caves have featured as places to commune with the spiritual world. Sybil’s cave in Cumae is but one example from the European tradition. Do the spirits and gods sound more resonant and powerful in these acoustic environments? If caves are not readily available, do we recreate the cave in our religious architecture? I don’t believe it is an accident that caves and religious architecture share the same reverberation time. The religious voice and the associated power of chanting are magnified by a long reverberation time in mosques and churches.
r yan bessey
above: ODEON model of the underground parking lot below: the parking lot at 401 Wellington Street West, Toronto
But what of the garage, that secular, unspiritual, irreligious volume? It is an architectural accident that the parking garage also shares these religious acoustics. What is not yet known is whether we will ever re-envision garages as places of worship based on their acoustic reverberance, something that historically we have long valued. j
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pa ul w he la n
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1 Than, Ker. â€˜Stone age art caves may have been concert hallsâ€™, National Geographic News, 28 October 2010
u r b a n i n t e rv e n t i o n s c l u b s x a rt b y m a rt i n a b b ot t
sound - vibrations that travel through the air or another medium that can be heard upon reaching a person’s ear: light travels faster than sound.
the sound of Berlin
Berlin is a dynamic city in constant urban flux. This state of change is registered overtly by significant large scale public and private investment, such as the project to reconstruct the old Royal Palace in Berlin Mitte. However it is the many smaller scale, public interventions across the city, that are transforming Berlin, building a reputation of a vibrant city that has become the third most visited city in Europe behind Paris and London. Similarly, the sound of Berlin is also in a state of constant flux. A conflicted history that shifted with the demise of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city emerged with considerable urban space available for experimentation. A burgeoning techno /electronic club scene took off in the early 1990s. Marco Canevacci sees the city’s music history as being hugely important: ‘many clubs were not only playing music, but working with artists to make art as well. It was
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experiments in urban space
a very rich period for the senses, not only visually but perhaps more through sound as well.’ Today this changing sound is not so connected to the initiatives of artists, musicians, architects, designers and other residents, but to broader economic forces that are transforming the city’s urban fabric. The changing tastes of Berlin residents and increasing rents has led to the formation of a Music Board Fund of around $1million to protect the city’s declining club scene. This is an interview with Marco Barotti and Marco Canevacci of Plastique Fantastique and Architettura Sonora on their recent inter-disciplinary installation, the Emotion Maker. In this interview, emerges a description of the contemporary soundscape of Berlin.
left, Marco Cnevacci; right, Marco Barotti of the temporary architectural collective, Plastique Fantastique, Berlin.
After reunification in 1990, much of former East Berlin was still empty, in particular the central city district of Mitte. You arrived in 1991, can you describe the city you found? MC: I arrived in Berlin by chance and I found a rent free apartment in one day. It was paradise and I didn’t think about staying, it was just logical to be here. However, it was a strange because the East German state had collapsed and paramount to that was the void of power in the eastern sector of the city. The West German government couldn’t cover the emptiness immediately after reunification and there was a couple of years of complete anarchy. The eastern half of Berlin was full of empty space, yet it was impossible to rent an apartment. To find a flat, you simply walked in and claimed one. At the time, there was no standard city infrastructure, no telephone lines and of course no internet. A lot of new people were settling in East Berlin who didn’t know each other. We
p e rfo r man c e in te r ac tio n c u ltu re mu s ic c lu bs
mar t in a bbo t t
had no network, a lack of contacts and everything had to be reinvented. To meet them, you had to go out. These were special circumstances and you had a chance to live differently. You had the synergy of people meeting themselves again and others for the first time in a new environment. Many things developed independently; bars, clubs, galleries, mixed spaces, you couldn’t tell the difference. People would mix all the ingredients to give birth to new forms of programmed space — locations where people could come together to meet and exchange information. From the beginning I was impressed by the mix of space with sound, video, installation and visual art. People were improvising to create hybrid spaces. Often they would be closed down by the police after a couple of nights. You had to be alert and follow the sounds.
What strategies did the bars and clubs employ to survive in East Berlin? MC: In the beginning the bars and clubs were changing rapidly. Some lasted a couple of weeks, some a few years and you had no chance to know where they were. The only way was to move around. You discovered places on the third floor of an apartment building, a garage or an abandoned factory building. Some were open once a week, another was open only on the full moon. One bar would open every sixth day to avoid becoming too popular! They also did this to avoid attention from the police. There were some clubs such as Bunker and Tresor that became quite famous. The most interesting club I visited was Tresor. I felt like I was dancing alone there for hours because all you could see was smoke. There was the occasional shadow and sound for hours... boom, boom, boom, boom. At Tresor, I realised there was a special link between the music and drugs. Its difficult to think about techno without thinking about ecstasy. Strange opening hours, mixing music and art, how would you locate these spaces and what did they offer? MC: After a couple of years, I always knew a couple of places to go. The most interesting thing though, was to find something new. To do this, I would ride my bike, not trusting what I could see from the street. I would try to enter buildings and walk through to the first or second courtyard. Sometimes I did it systematically and checked every single courtyard in a street. When I found something, it felt like winning bingo! People would find a space and mix it with site specific installations, cinema, photography, video, performance art, maybe host a reading from a poet, while the central figure of the DJ would play music. You didn’t see a bar or gallery offering a singular concept. These hybrid spaces were not clubs because they would mix different artistic ingredients. I saw these productions first in Berlin and then all over the world. I was surprised because I saw very good work. In the late 90’s in the club Maria, I saw one of the best visuals I have ever seen. Maria was in an old East Berlin post office and they were really proposing what’s now called visual art and that was going on parallel to the rest. The nightlife developed in such a way that by the end of the decade it was producing highend culture. The sound was different, the art was different. There were no entry fees and prices in general were low. Everybody was original, without wishing or wanting to be. The music was only starting to be techno, which was such a wide field. One of the most important things was the sound system.
What changes you have seen in the contemporary music scene in Berlin since 2006? MB: On the weekend I performed at the Lover’s Festival, an event organised by Mind Pirates. I performed on the Jellyfish Drums, an instrument I also developed with Plastique Fantastique. The
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Marco Barotti, you moved to Berlin in 2006, what was your introduction to the music scene of the city?
The city has offered you both considerable space to develop your own ideas, what was the catalyst to the development of the temporary architecture collective, Plastique Fantastique? MC: By 1999 the economic situation had changed. There was considerably less work and I had completed my architecture studies. The quality of architecture in Berlin during the 1990s was very low. It was a conservative mix of speculation and a bad sense of aesthetics that manifested itself in the most disgusting ways you could imagine. The idea to look for a job as an architect was more a pain than a wish. I started thinking about making some culture myself and this idea became a reality when I found a vacant, 2000 square metre factory. It wasn’t impossible to find spaces like this, but to squat something would have been difficult. It was close to Ostbahnhoff, the former main East Berlin railway station and two metres from the Spree, the river flowing through Berlin. I found it by chance and after some months of negotiation with the city government, we signed a contract for around 700 DM a month. It was called ‘club an der Schillingbrücke’. We quickly realised the space was too big to heat in winter and began to develop strategies to make it smaller. We installed an industrial sized fireplace on one side and began playing with plastic on the other. It was cheap and we could afford to heat a smaller area. We began with pneumatic architecture because plastic was the cheapest material we could find to cover a 100 square metre area for $100. We didn’t know how long we would be able to use the space for the club. I was always influenced by the temporality of Berlin. I saw the opportunity to intervene in public space as a way to make not only myself feel better about the changes going on around me, but to also begin to become a producer of culture in the city, not just a consumer.
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Is this high-end culture still present in Berlin? MC: Today in Mitte you can’t dance and there is nowhere in Prenzlauer Berg. Back then, no one was complaining that the music was too loud. Before the war there were almost 5 million people living in Berlin and today there is 3.5 million. After the wall came down, Mitte was empty. We were able to do what we wanted. I was crazy about looking at these people working machines on the table they called a ‘live act’. They were DJ’s! The figure of the DJ in Berlin became a star, a god.
MB: I came much later, maybe 15 years after Marco Canevacci. I came following an electro clash/trash wave from Berlin in the late 1990s and it was already more than over by the time I arrived. I discovered so many other things that really opened my eyes to music. There was so much happening and for me, it was all new. I was going out a lot, experiencing and absorbing new things that didn’t have anything to do with my music. At that point, I didn’t really know what my music was and what I wanted to do. I worked for a short time with a guy from the US, who was organising an impromptu sound festival that wandered through urban space in the city. We borrowed a trolley from Lidl, installed a radio, speakers and walked around town asking people to make use of it. I was jumping from one stone to another, trying to experience different types of music, to try to understand what it meant to see and hear it being performed. There’s still a cellar at Madame Claudes, a bar in Kreuzberg that hosts on Monday night a beautiful, small, trash jam session. There are maybe 20 artists playing one song each. There are a lot of people and right there, music, it’s happening.
Plastique Fantastique and Architectura Sonora, The Emotion Maker left: exterior, on the street below: interior
music in Berlin is always evolving, it arrives in waves and it keeps on coming. Right now it feels like some sort of nerdy-indie rock. People know how to play, but they choose to play this very nerdy, masculine sounding music. Its perhaps not as sweet or sexy as before, it’s heavy. The Emotion Maker is a project you have worked on together. What is it and how has it been developed? MB: The Emotion Maker, version 4.0 is an interactive installation that combines architecture and music in urban space. It evokes feelings and moods in rapid succession through intimate contact with music. Its an experimental and inter-disciplinary urban intervention. The temporary performance chamber is home to an interactive sound installation that connects participants to hundreds of instrumental music tracks. The performance is monitored by an algorithm that regulates the new music being created. In version 1.0, we wanted to produce a sort of moveable concert hall. We gave 100 musicians eight different emotions to play. We asked them to express an emotion through music for one minute and to record what they played. Visitors were able to choose any number of instrumental tracks before going inside the bubble to listen to them. Originally we intended to present a concert of improvised music. It’s changed somewhat now because its no longer passive. Tracks are loaded onto an interactive device that allows visitors to remix the emotions into a composition of their own. We hope to affect more people and reach a point where the people are really
part of the installation, playing the music. To date, the Emotion Maker has brought its intimate, self-directed concert experience to the cities of Berlin, Bilbao and London. MC: What is important is that we are mixing temporary pneumatic architecture with sound to intervene in public space. We provide the music, but the user chooses how to play the music, always changing the composition themselves. The idea is to make the listener the subject of the installation. MB: It’s a bit like Berlin, there is music, performance art, theatre and this is what it has become. From avant garde jazz to electronic beats, there is a whole city of music inside the Emotion Maker. Once installed, how do people react when you explain this mobile concert hall has emerged from the dynamic soundscape of contemporary Berlin? MC: People are curious to see something that comes from Berlin. Its always a little weird, it feels like you are wearing a label because people expect something. MB: They see the inflatable first and they are already interested because it’s a very attractive structure. The music inside impresses in the same way and it’s changing all the time, similar to the music scene in Berlin. The Emotion Maker takes inspiration from the city. The temporary architecture of Plastique Fantastique allows you to experience the acoustic range of Berlin and it brings these dynamic elements into urban spaces in which they would otherwise not be heard. j
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NY Times (2 July 1905): part 3, p.3
h i s to ry p ro j e c t | recording the streets b y e m i ly t h o m p s o n
the roaring twenties
Sound is a crucial element in our experience of urban space, constantly shaping the ways we interact with both the social and physical dimensions of city life. Nonetheless, soundscapes have long been under-explored within urban design and architecture, and have been even more neglected by historians attempting to understand urban environments of the past. This situation has begun to change, however, and as the internet makes easily available an ever-increasing quantity of historical sound recordings, the opportunity for deploying this material to achieve that understanding is evident. The challenge is to present these recordings in a way that enables a historicised mode of listening that tunes our modern ears to the pitch of the past. The Roaring ‘Twenties is a website dedicated to that challenge, a sonic time machine that attempts to recreate for its listeners not just the
n o is e u rban is m n e w yo r k s o n ic c u ltu re au dial maps
sound of the past but also its sonic culture. It offers a virtual environment whereby listeners are transported back to New York City in the late 1920s, a place and time defined by its din. The Roaring ‘Twenties does not offer the kind of simulated environment typically seen, for example, in video games; there is no three-dimensional rendering of a virtual Broadway down which avatar flappers and gangsters stroll. Instead, it offers an informational environment of media and data, a network of historical content and context that works with the user’s imagination. The goal is to construct a historically-oriented mindset which loops back upon the data to embed users evermore deeply into a sense of – and sensory engagement with – the past as they chart their own journeys through this environment.
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cour tesy M uni ci pal A rchi ves of the C i ty of N ew Yor k
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City Noise (New York City Department of Health, 1930) p255
City Noise (New York City Department of Health, 1930), frontispiece
The sonic content is encountered through fifty-four clips of sound newsreel footage, Fox Movietone newsreels from 1926 to 1930. The films come from the Moving Image Research Collections of the Libraries of the University of South Carolina. Fog horns, shouting peddlers, rumbling elevated trains, pounding riveters, and shouting children were all captured by the microphones and cameras of the Movietone men as they traversed the city searching for news to record. Much of the footage here was never edited into the published newsreels shown in cinemas at the time, thus it is seen and heard on this website for the first time since those images and sounds were captured on film. To construct a context for hearing these films, the site additionally presents a rich collection of data and documents from the Municipal Archives of the City of New York, testifying to and elaborating upon the problem of noise in the modern city. Aggravated citizens wrote letters to the Mayor and to the Commissioner of Health, describing in sometimes angry,
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cour tesy M uni ci pal A rchi ves of the C i ty of N ew Yor k.
sometimes pitiable tones the noises that vexed them. The surprisingly efficient bureaucracy of the Department of Health responded and sometimes alleviated their distress. Almost 600 complaints – all that have been located within the Archive for this period – are catalogued, charting the sounds of urban life from the cradle to the grave. Or rather, from the noise of a maternity hospital to the clamour of a monument-maker’s stone yard. Three hundred and fifty different letters and memos are reproduced for users to engage with directly. The historical context is elaborated further through a range of additional documents and data. City Noise, the 300-page report of New York’s Noise Abatement Commission, is presented in its entirety. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles are excerpted, and a multimedia historical narrative is available for those who still take comfort in linear accounts offering concrete beginnings and endings.
Map of the City of New York (Board of Estimate and Apportionment,1933), detail
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Of course, no historian – not even one possessing the most advanced technological tools – can ever truly reconstruct the past. The evidence is always incomplete, and the interests and biases of our own time shape our understanding of history as much as does the past itself. Our time machines thus ultimately and necessarily return us to ourselves. The sonic time machine that is The Roaring ‘Twenties is no exception. While dedicated to understanding the meaning of noise in the early twentieth century, it also speaks to more contemporary questions. Why, in the midst of our digitallysaturated, virtually-enacted, and earbud-insulated early twentyfirst century world, do we find environmental sound and noise so compelling? Perhaps there is a nostalgia for the visceral at work within our disembodied lives. j
Fox Movietone News Collection, Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina
The Roaring ‘Twenties is a collaboration between the author and web designer Scott Mahoy, produced under the auspices of Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy of the University of Southern California. It will be accessible in late 2012 via Vectors at vectorsjournal.com or through the URL nycitynoise. com
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link: The Fox Movietone Newsreel crew captured the sights and sounds of New York City in 1929, documenting the soundtrack of modern city life. Sound engineers measured noise in Times Square; construction sites resounded as machines dug and pounded the city’s surface; and along Cortland Street (known as Radio Row), the sound of traffic mixed with jazz and opera pouring forth from radio shop loudspeakers, an advertising practice that the city would ban in 1930.
How does one engage with all this material? There are three different paths, three complementary ways to interact with the data. Since all sound exists in space and through time, the user can chose between journeys built around Sound, Space, or Time. The Sound interface organises the content by type of noise. Using categories from the era, one can call forth complaints and newsreel footage of specific kinds of noises, from newsboys and barking dogs to steam shovels and radio loudspeakers. The Space interface plots all the complaints and newsreels onto a map of the city. All five boroughs can be explored down to the street level via a beautiful map from 1933, enabling the user to visit specific neighbourhoods to discover the noises that characterised their past. Finally, a Timeline organises the material chronologically.
cour tesy M uni ci pal Archi ves of t he Cit y o f New Yo r k
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s o c i a l m ov e m e n t s anthems by zile liepins
singing a revolution The Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – have been occupied most of the time, forever. Latvia enjoyed its first brief period of independence between 1918 and 1940, at which time the first Soviet occupation began. It was interrupted when Latvia was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, only to be retaken by the Soviets in 1944. The Soviet Regime carried out mass deportations, intense interrogation and torture of Latvians and ethnic engineering – ‘importing’ thousands of people from various parts of the Soviet Union. A massive military presence, allegedly to protect the Soviet Union against attack, served to intimidate, suppress and control locals. In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev introduced reforms that eased restrictions on political freedom. Problems within the Soviet Union and the crimes of the Soviet regime were exposed, causing public dissatisfaction. Latvians stood up and took a path to independence, which succeeded in 1991. The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for the events that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania between 1987 and 1991.
A photograph of my grandfather at the seaside in Jūrmala, 1975, taken by my father. They went for a walk on a cool and windy day. There was only one other person there, a man in a suit sitting on a bench, comically attempting to casually read the newspaper, struggling with it against the wind, his head popping up now and then to ‘check’ the scenery.
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When my father arrived at Riga airport in 1975 he hadn’t seen his father in 30 years. My grandfather had been deported twice to Siberia and was not allowed to leave the USSR, despite many attempts in appeals for his release. My father was an adult, married with a child – in essence they were meeting for the first time. The first thing my grandfather said was “Welcome to Riga. You are a tourist here. Let’s wait for a taxi. Usually when tourists wait for a taxi, they talk about the weather. There are many sights to see in Riga, but many views are best appreciated when you turn to look behind you”, referring to the ubiquitous Cheka, following behind. My father had brought two American magazines. They were confiscated at the airport, then returned to him. He gave them to his father to read. He did so, overnight, passing them on before morning to eliminate the evidence in case his apartment was searched.
ide n tity de fian c e re s is tan c e h is to r y song
Russian language prevailed at school, work and on the street. Few Russian immigrants chose to learn Latvian, but all Latvians had to acquire Russian. Freedom Street was renamed Lenin Street and streets named after Latvian authors and leaders were renamed Soviet and Communard boulevards. Christmas wasn’t allowed because religion wasn’t, and it was ill-advised to sing the Latvian national anthem. It wasn’t unusual for school exams to be scheduled on traditional Latvian holidays and learning English was considered suspicious. A stone Lenin waved you through Riga’s busiest intersection as you went about your daily business. The freedom monument was preserved for artistic merit, but a trolley route with an excessive, obscuring, number of cables was built around it. Unwise to look at it, or even look up while passing it. There tended to be an informant, or stukach, in any group or gathering. Suddenly a new student would appear who hadn’t done the final exams with the rest of the class the year before, due to mysterious special circumstances. When Lija’s brother got his hands on some American films and invited only his closest friends to watch them, he was called in by the Cheka soon after, interrogated and had his brain washed. When historian visited a church in Lija’s town, interested in its historic importance as it was 150 years old rather than for any religious impulse, consequently and a year later, she was denied leave for an excursion abroad because she had been deemed politically untrustworthy. When I first visited Latvia as a child in 1985, our parents kept my sister and I busy within the hotel with games like ‘find the microphone’ and ‘who can keep quiet the longest’. *
Daily life Latvia in the 1980s seems to have been ominous – infused with constant but ambiguous fear. There weren’t strict guidelines about what was and wasn’t allowed, but there was a distinct awareness that a misstep could get you into serious trouble. It wasn’t unusual to not even realize that you’d done something ‘wrong’ until finding your name on a list years later. The regime gave certain freedoms to feign a free and happy nation, but the line was very thin. Offences were subjective. This generation born into the regime didn’t know why it was this way or what exactly they feared – they didn’t understand the magnitude of Latvia’s history and the extent of the danger. Their parents remembered the horrors of invasions and deportations well, they knew how they got there and how bad it could get, but they kept these stories from their children to protect them: talk at school or with friends was exactly what could get them into trouble with informants. It was easier and safer to maintain silence. Yet, however subtle, the soviet threat was always right there, ready to push back if you pushed a little. You never knew who was an informant, when you were being watched or heard, by whom. While there were always suspicions you could never be sure. You were always looking over your shoulder, watching your step, your mouth and your neighbour. Lija sang in a choir from 1968 to 2000 and participated in all of the song festivals during those years. She said song gave her the spark of life she needed to survive. *
L i epi ns fami l y photog raphs
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1985 Latvian Song and Dance Festival participants arriving.
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As a student, Lija and a group of friends wanted to keep a party going after a student dance. They wanted to sing another song, stay up a little longer. One of them knew the way to a rooftop of a building across from the Freedom Monument. They climbed up and sang into dawn. When peers heard what they had done they were horrified — what if someone had seen them? Heard them? They would have been expelled. But what were they doing wrong? As Lija says, they weren’t hurting anyone: young voices singing into the rising sun, next to the sky. * The Baltic countries have a long and strong relationship with song. Latvia’s oral tradition is one of the richest in the world. During the first awakening of Latvian national identity in the late 1800s Krisjanis Barons and his team travelled from home to home across the country recording oral folksongs, Dainas, onto small sheets of paper which they compiled, organised and published in six volumes, accumulating over 200 000 verses. Dainas are characteristically made up of four-line stanzas and accompany people through life’s rituals of work, changing seasons, birth, marriage and death. Janis, a folk musician, explains: “Song got you through life, or just through the day. Working in the mill is hard. To make the work easier you get a rhythm going with the millstone. Then you throw a melody on it. Then you add words to stick it to the man or make a joke. It’s a way to get through the physical labour and still smile at the end of the day. Song helps lighten burdens. You can change its words to tell a story. Song is always with you. Has always been with us.” * The Latvian Song and Dance Festival has been held since 1873, normally every five years. The main event, the final concert, is a sight to see. Choirs from around the country practice all year to join in Riga into a united choir of up to 50 000 participants, facing approximately 100 000 spectators. Traditionally folk songs and patriotic songs are sung in a celebration of Latvian national identity. Before 1918 the songs performed and emotions associated with them helped people maintain hope that an independent Latvia was possible.
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L i epi ns fami l y photog raphs
Latvian Song and Dance Festival, 1985. from top: The choir of 30 000 sings to an audience of 100 000. The banner above the choir reads ‘May song resound for our Soviet homeland’ A Soviet guard observes and photographs the crowd at a dance performance.
After the Soviet annexation of Latvia, the Festival continued but was adjusted to be a celebration of the Soviet family and a forum for Soviet propaganda. The festival was always dedicated to an event in Soviet history, such as the twentieth year of Soviet Latvia (1960) or Lenin’s hundredth birthday and the thirtieth anniversary of Soviet Latvia (1970). The concert would open with songs like ‘Lenin always with you’ (1960), ‘Let’s sing praise to the Soviet Homeland’ (1960), ‘A song about Lenin’ (1970) or “‘For Lenin’ (1985). Latvian songs were also included, but often inserted into a collection of folk songs from other Soviet nations, as a sort of sampling of the cultures that comprised the great Soviet Union. * The 1985 Soviet Latvian Song Festival was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Soviet people’s victory of the Great Patriotic War and the 45th anniversary of the restoration of Soviet power in Latvia. The festival opened with a military march. The song Gaismas Pils (Castle of Light), a Song Festival classic and favourite written by Jozeps Vitols in 1899 during the first ¯ ¯ national awakening, had been taken out of the programme two days before the final concert. It was traditionally conducted by the elderly Haralds Mednis. He was crossed out by soviet organisers along with the song, supposedly deemed too old, weak and washed up to carry out his conductor’s role. Participants were discouraged; Mednis resigned himself to a seat in the audience. The official programme ended and a long and tense silence followed. The choir and the audience knew, or felt, what had to happen. They awoke. In an act of collective thought and unrestrained spontaneity thousands of voices began to chant “Mednis! Gaismas Pils! Mednis! Gaismas Pils!” The choir would not let their Maestro sit in the sidelines, would not let their song be removed from their repertoire. There was a moment of hesitation and confusion from Mednis himself – he would be taking a huge risk. Finally, ignoring Soviet censorship laws, he emerged from audience to retake his rightful place and led the choir in Gaismas Pils. He didn’t instigate the song, 130 000 people did, they called for him – he went. His body did not belong to him. He later called this his brightest hour.
C o u r t e s y o f th e Mu se u m o f th e Oc c u patio n o f Latvia .
The 1985 Soviet Latvian Song and Dance Festival was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War and the 45th anniversary of the restoration of Latvia to Soviet power.
After the song finished another one started up. The audience of 100 000 had joined in, so now there were 130 000 people singing in protest. They sang songs left out of the programme, national favourites that hadn’t been sung publicly for many years. Everybody knew what to sing and there was no shutting them up. The people would be gagged no more. Some maintain that the national awakening was born that night. * The authorities turned on loudspeakers blaring military music to drown out the singing. It didn’t work – as the singing continued, Soviet military crept up from behind the grassy mounds that circle the festival grounds, three rows strong, surrounding the singing choir and audience. And this wasn’t the militia, this was the army. In daily life the soviets kept their presence subtle, hidden, ambiguous — this was an open threat. The transparency was shocking. They weren’t hiding behind newspapers or posing as students. The message was clear: we are watching you. * Lija says they sang for 30 minutes to an hour. I asked her what it would have come down to, if they hadn’t stopped singing on their own. She said the authorities did the smart thing – nothing. They let them sing it out, feigning freedom while demonstrating power. What else could they do? How do you fight 130 000 voices? How do you fight sound? They couldn’t gag them and they couldn’t arrest them all. The Soviet regime had not figured out how to deal with sound. *
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I was there with my parents and they had a hysterical relative telling them it was time to go. They wanted to stay – it was the most moving thing they had ever witnessed. I was six. A relative took matters into his own hands, lifting me onto his shoulders and walking away with me, past the rows of officers. We walked for miles, through the forest, away from the singing. My parents didn’t know where I was for hours – no cell phones then. They had to trust that I was safe with the relatives they had just met the day before.
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I lgvar s Grad ovskis , 1 9 9 1 . c o u r te sy o f the M useum of The Bar r i cades of 1991
The group Perkons performs at the barricades at Dome Square. Their song, a prayer called Manai Tautai ˉ or Palidzi Dievs (For my people or God, Help), with its strong yet heartbreaking lyrics, became an anthem of the Singing Revolution after it was performed at a music festival in 1988, bringing the audience to tears and to its feet.
Song was a powerful weapon and ally throughout the fight for independence. ¯ The unofficial national anthem, Put ¯ Vejini (Blow, Winds) was often sung spontaneously in places where people met, after concerts or the theatre; people still talk about it today with tears in their eyes. During the Soviet regime, people lived as foreigners in their own country, feeling that their culture and identity were dying. United in song they entered an independent state in which they could be with their people, reminded that they had compatriots who shared their memories, burdens and hopes for the future. It was an affirmation that despite suppression and silence in public, behind closed doors people were still practicing their language, songs and traditions. It was a declaration that the culture had not been extinguished and neither had its people. The power of song combined with strength in numbers gave hope that the common goal of recovering an independent nation to call home was attainable. And it was attained; Latvia regained independence in August of 1991. *
I lgvar s Grad ovskis , 1 9 9 1 . c o u r te sy o f the M useum of The Bar r i cades of 1991
Musicians gathered near the barricades blocking the Council of Ministers, 1991
‘Song is always with us.’ Everyone has the tool of voice and the collective memory to transform any place into a revolutionary space. One person, ten or a hundred thousand; at home, on a rooftop, at the barricades or a concert venue – song can happen anywhere. A song isn’t something you can prepare, hold and save like a picket sign or a poster. You can’t destroy it, and it’s hard to fight it. It is a powerful weapon, always at the ready, that we keep within us. j
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26 Thank You: Lija Verzemniece, Taiga and Janis ¯ ¯ at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, Silva at the Museum of the barricades of 1991, Valdis & Astrida ˇ Andris Vitolins, ˇ The Embassy of ¯ Liepins, ¯ Estonia in Latvia The Barricades were the events that took place between January 13th and 27th 1991. Latvia had declared independence a year prior and anticipated that the Soviet Union, which had not recognised Latvia’s independence, might attempt to regain control over the country through violent measures.
The next Latvian Song Festival will take place in Riga June 30th to July 7th, 2013.
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.ca/28/p31 iew ? v = v 8 t J C v 8 v e hw er a t c h b
(Sun Thunder Daugava) ˉ Martinš Brauns, words by poet Rainis. Composed in 1988.
ˉ Saule Perkons Daugava
ˉ Ieva Akuratere of the rock ˉ band Perkons singing ‘God, Help’ at a music festival in 1988. This song became the anthem of the awakening of the late 1980s.
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Some stunning footage from The Barricades, showing the situation in 1991.
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After Soviet attacks in early January the new government called on the people to build barricades to protect possible targets such as government and media buildings. People from all over the country came forward. They built walls in front of entrances, dragged in sandbags, set up barbed wire and parked their trucks, laden with heavy cargo, across important passages. Civilians monitored the barricades 24 hours a day. The cold crept through their soles and turned street artists’ paint to a thick paste. They didn’t have weapons. As Lija says, ‘bare lives, protecting their country around campfires’. Campfires were built to keep warm and songs were sung to stay human.
Manai Dzimtenei (For my homeland) Raimonds Pauls & ˉ Janis Peters. Written for the Song Festival centennial in 1973.
Gaismas Pils (Castle of Light) ˉ ˉ Jazeps Vitols, words by Auseklis. Composed in 1899, during the First Awakening. This song was removed from the repertoire in Soviet era song festivals.
ja s o n p r ice performance | church by jason price
Holy Ghost...FIRE! It was shortly after we moved into the university house on the quiet, concretecracked, hedge-lined street, that my wife and I began to hear the word of God. It did not emanate from above, but from someplace slightly askance – that is, somewhere out there – over the front hedge, past the street, off where the power lines led. Distant, then somehow close, I was surprised to realise I could make out every word. Were they saying – “Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! “? Yes, they were. There was a bass line, an electronic piano, some drums, a lead guitar, and, of course, the vocals, which were not so much sung as SHOUTED. Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost… BURNING! BURNING…CONSUMING! BURNING…CONSUMING! Holy Ghost… FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! And on, and on it went – off and on again – for hours.
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Our new neighbours are one in a legion of charismatic Pentecostal churches that have sprung up and spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa since independence. Zomba, a small city set at the base of a lush plateau in southern Malawi, has its fair share. You have your American imports such as Assemblies of God, your European imports like New Apostolic, your Nigerian imports such as Winners’ Chapel, your Malawian mainlines like
Living Waters and your local upstarts such as Fountain of Victory, and The Holy Ghost and Evangelism Ministries Inc., our neighbours. One reason charismatic churches have become so popular is because they offer a more energetic and embodied alternative to the rather staid religious practice of historically mainstream churches, such as Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) and the Roman Catholic Church. Charismatic Pentecostal modes of religious practice rely heavily on the production and amplification of sound to enable embodied practice. In the context of peri-urban Pentecostals in a place like Zomba, this means bands and choruses plugged into bass-heavy speakers broadcasting at all-consuming decibels that reach far beyond the walls of their church; it means wired and wireless microphones carried about by pacing pastors who project the screams and shouts of their sermons deep into the aural cavities of their congregants; it means everyone standing up, hands raised to Jesus, as the worship team slips into a major key, which sets the mood for a slow, then sudden, collective code-shift into glossolalial rapture; it also means, I would soon discover, coaxing and extorting horrific utterances out of the limber bodies of hapless hosts during fierce battles between evil spirits and intrepid men and women of God.
malawi po s s e s s io n c h ar is ma de live r an c e fe lic ity
Song and speech, utterances and invocations, a slow moving wall of noise. However they may find you, the charismatic cacophony leaves an unavoidable imprint on the ethical soundscape of many an African city. ‘Ethical soundscape’ is a concept used by the anthropologist Charles Hirschkind. In his work on the role of cassette sermons in the Islamic Revival (particularly in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, where he conducted research), Hirschkind claims that – far from being a simple technology that disciplines fundamentalist political subjects – cassette sermons actually evoke rich sensoriums that act as the ground upon which people cultivate ethical ways of being in line with particular models of moral personhood amid increasingly contested lifeworlds.1 This is significant, he argues, because “the affects of sensibilities honed through popular media practices... are as infrastructural to politics and public reason as are markets, associations, formal institutions, and information networks” (2006: 9). If this be the case, and sensory perceptions do underlie (and affect) aspects of historical experience, then we must take seriously not only how 1 Which is to say that this is not some one-way street with an instrument acting on a person, but a relationship between the two. It is also to say that the the body and its senses are just as important as belief when it comes to religious practice.
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sounds shape our experiences of place, but how we use sounds for our own subjective purposes, and how those purposes, taken collectively, shape historical formations. I was thinking along these lines, kind of, when “Holy Ghost…FIRE!” first crept into our lives – “What are they doing over there? Why does it have to be so loud? Is this what people mean when they call Malawi a ‘God-fearing nation’? What kind of people go to that church? What kind of people come out? What does the Holy Ghost have to do with it? And what’s with all the fire and burning?” – but time passed, and the questions faded. As is sometimes the case when everyday things are obscured by seemingly high walls of cultural difference or inconvenience, the sounds from over the hedge eventually melded into the white noise of our everyday lives, and any serious attempt to find out what was going on down there was consigned to a lark. That is, until one Sunday morning when a student of ours stopped by, a brand new Bible in hand. “Where do you worship?” I asked. “HOGEM, this church just here” he said. “I’d love to visit some time” I said. “You are most welcome” he replied.
The Holy Ghost and Evangelism Ministries Inc. (HOGEM) moved to this location about eight years ago. One reason they moved was because of noise complaints coming from the congested, high-density area where they used to operate. The shift was a step up to a more urbane environment that yielded a more cosmopolitan congregation. The proximity to the main road meant that pilgrims who got wind of the healing power of HOGEM’s Senior Pastor, Allan Jiya, would have easier access when coming in search of miracles. Every charismatic church has its Man of God, and each Man of God is endowed with special gifts. Pastor Jiya’s is that of deliverance – a form of spiritual healing akin to exorcism.
After the sermon, the worship team broke into something resembling slow jazz or muzak, a large lace doily was laid out before the podium, and the ushers circulated brown paper envelopes throughout the congregation. It was time for the offerings. This was the moment Pastor Jiya alighted. He called a group of people forward for the tithe and asked them to form a line. Arms raised and envelopes in hand, they closed their eyes, prayed, and waited for his anointing. He set down his microphone, then set off down the line. He placed his right hand gently on the first supplicant’s forehead and she softly collapsed into the expectant arms of the attendant usher behind her. It was then that Pastor Jiya picked the brown envelope from her fingers. He did this, one-byone, until the line was felled. The rest of us were then encouraged to come. A line formed. It circled around the hall. We each dropped our envelopes onto the doily as we passed the podium. Then we returned to our seats, where nobody sat down. The ushers raked in the the envelopes. The band picked up the pace. Hands were raised to Jesus. Murmurs of prayer grew louder. Some people began to convulse. Pastor Jiya started pacing across the stage saying something about giving and receiving. And then, just before the sound reached a critical mass, Pastor Jiya rallied us to, “PRAY!! PRAY!! PRAY!!” It was at that moment that the whole church began speaking in tongues.
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Pastor Jiya didn’t appear straight away that day. Instead, a junior pastor in an oversized suit delivered the opening sermon. He preached in Chichewa while a tall professional woman with pitch-perfect posture translated into English. This is important. It demonstrates a degree of cosmopolitan sophistication found in the globalised charismatic Christianity so popular on the free-to-air satellite
television channels – which Malawians seem to watch with the same kind of numb commitment that Americans do cable news, and I’m told that it opens things up to a more international audience as well.
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I went the following week. The worship team had already begun. I found a place on a bench at the back beside a stack of speakers. The bass battered my chest. Parishioners materialsed from the bright outside carrying bibles and notepads. Some had dressed up, others had not. I was surprised how many women appeared to have come alone. By nine, the children had been ushered off to Sunday school, and most everyone had taken their seats. Golden drapes covered the walls. Light poured in from outside. Fluorescents shone from above. The stage up ahead was
set with a burgundy carpet. The worship team were stationed to the left, amid a jumble of instruments and electronics. The pastors were stationed to the right, in a den behind a coffee table with a vase of plastic flowers perched on top. Between them, on a slightly vaulted platform, stood a shiny glass podium. Embossed on the podium was the church emblem: a blood red cross under a royal blue sky where a white dove emits red-yellow rays of light onto a single white sheep with the acronym, HOGEM, in bold blue letters below.
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I can’t remember now when the deliverances began. It might have been just then. It’s entirely possible. Sometimes glossolalia leads to rapture. The Holy Ghost sweeps in unannounced and starts chasing out demons. But it could also have been after Pastor Jiya’s sermon. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What does matter, at least in this context, are the deliverances. For that is where we can begin to understand what is going on when we hear, “Holy Ghost…FIRE!”, the song which brands our ethical soundscape and offers the most salient clues as to what kind of “exercises in ethical selfdiscipline” might be enacted during the “visceral orientations” regularly being generated at places like HOGEM (Hirschkind 2001: 623, 640).
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Deliverances are the central element of HOGEM’s religious practice. They appear at the tail end of most services and can go on for hours. A deliverance can be understood as the process wherein demonic spirits are cast out of human hosts by powerful men and women of God. The practice often takes the form of an epic battle between good and evil, waged over the terrain of a single human body. Beliefs associated with deliverance are ultimately etiological – behind every problem, behind every sickness or disease, behind every bad behaviour or abnormality, behind all misfortune and loss... a demon is there. Demons are spiritual emissaries of Satan whose main aim is to inhibit human beings from fulfilling their potential as forms of life created in the image of God. They come in many forms – there are animal demons such as snakes and crocodiles, behavioural demons like the evil demons of lesbianism or
alcoholism, and humanoid demons such as spiritual husbands and spiritual wives. Demons infiltrate persons, often at night, particularly when people are engaging in bad behaviour, though this is by no means a prerequisite for being possessed, since everyone is susceptible to evil spirits, to some degree, at all times. The only way to ensure good health and good fortune, then, is to be delivered regularly after having received Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal saviour (in others words, to become born-again). Deliverances are conducted by spiritually mature people. This usually refers to a Man of God or his chosen cognates. At HOGEM, Pastor Jiya conducts most of the deliverances; though his junior pastors play important roles in handling less troublesome deliverances, and preparing serious cases for him to finish off. The mainstream churches in Malawi do not engage in this practice, nor do all Pentecostal churches. This makes HOGEM rather unique, specialising in a popular form of spiritual healing that many Malawians are curious about – due, in large part, to the wildly popular television productions of the Nigerian televangelist, T B Joshua, who does similar work. Music is an essential element for deliverances at HOGEM. During a typical service, such as the one I first visited, the worship team will collaborate with pastors and congregants to create a sonic environment that mitigates shifts into the altered states of consciousness necessary for deliverances to happen. This is impossible to describe adequately in words. What you have to imagine is being kind of entrapped on all sides by something like a shifting series of thick webs of song and speech. The experience
transmutes time and space into something less real – what the philosopher John L. Austin might consider a ‘felicity condition’ for deliverance. Once the scene – or rather, the sensorium – is set, the work can begin. Pastor Jiya circles the room. The air is thick with utterances, sweat, expectation. He closes in on one particular woman. He stands before her, cocks his head, and stares deep into her closed eyes. Her prayers pick up. She shuffles backwards. An usher flies in, pulling the chair out from behind her. Another usher fills the space left by the chair. She waits for the fall, arms outstretched. Pastor Jiya puckers his lips. He blows cool air on her face. This heats her up even more. Then – “In the MIGHTY Name of Jesus!!!” – he releases his grip on her head as she falls like a brick towards the floor. The ushers scramble to catch her head before its hits the ground. Pastor Jiya walks away – he is the hunter – there are more demons to be had. The body of the woman is lifted off the ground by the ushers and carried through a thicket of bodies and chairs, and set on the burgundy carpet of the stage where she moans and rolls and waits. Pastor Jiya marches on. He shoots the Holy Ghost into a series of supplicants – “BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG” – some fall, others don’t. Green plastic chairs slide here and there. Ushers run all around, trying to anticipate where the action will be next. Sweat pours down Pastor Jiya’s shiny globe. He looks around, heaving. “Has everyone that needs to be prayed for been prayed for? Yes.” He then turns back to the stage. Several bodies are there. The junior pastors have been working on them – “OUT! OUT! GET OUT!” they yell, patting and slapping
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and prodding the spirits to the surface. One woman spews saliva onto newsprint an usher wearing white latex gloves has laid out before her. Another woman has had the lower half of her body covered by a baby blue sheet to keep her decent. Pastor Jiya hands his microphone to an usher nearby. He removes his jacket. He loosens his tie. He unbuttons the top of his pressed pink shirt. He rolls up his sleeves. His cufflinks shine. He gets the microphone back, then points to the woman he first laid out. Her body is rushed to the spot. “In the MIGHTY Name of Jesus, GET OUT!!!” The words are like a bolt of electricity shot down the woman’s spine. A pause follows, which the music fills. Down on one knee, Pastor Jiya gets a good grip on her hair, pulls back her head, and peers deep into her eyes. “WHO ARE YOU? AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THIS GIRL?” Nothing. The demons are being evasive, uncooperative. They are hiding.
Pastor Jiya needs help bringing the demons to the surface. “HOLY GHOST… FIRE!” he suddenly screams, pointing directly to the band. Within an instrant, they break out immediately into HOGEM’s signature song: Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! BURNING…CONSUMING! BURNING…CONSUMING! Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! FIRE BURNING FIRE BURNING FIRE BURNING FIRE BURNING… The entire congregation, many of whom have formed a circle around the woman, sing along. As they sing, they raise their hands and bat them down again with every rhythmic mention of the words ‘fire’ and ‘burning’. It is an act of invocation. They are calling upon the Holy Ghost to attend to this woman, to come to HOGEM and chase out the evil demons inside her. The woman goes into a frenzy, as if being spiritually immolated from the inside out. She rolls along the ground, leaps to her feet, then runs about in a haze. Pastor Jiya is reinvigorated. He licks his lips, rolls up his sleeves. The contest takes on the feel of a boxing match with the contender is on the ropes.
This is enthralling, at least the first time. But like anything else, it becomes mundane over time. There must be hundreds of deliverances at HOGEM every week, and they all conform to the same general pattern. This is why, in the midst of a heated deliverance, you might look towards the band only to find one of the musicians lost in a daydream – bored – waiting for the service to end. It won’t matter than an attractive young woman is writhing on the ground as anointing oil is rubbed all over her womb while demons scream through her, “No! No! I will never leave her!” It is, to some degree, a routine. Slowly but surely the demons will surface and speak – offering clues to their identities and the nature of their nefarious work – before diving down again into the depths of a person. This is when Pastor Jiya calls upon the congregation, through sound, to force them back up again. This is the function of “Holy Ghost... FIRE!” This is what my wife and I heard those first few weeks after we moved into the university house – a collective effort by an assembly of believers to assist a Pentecostal pastor in the practice of delivering malicious spirits from possessed people via the productive capacities of sound – sounds which impel the Holy Ghost to intervene in life and death battles between evil spirits and men and women of God; battles which are not abstractions, but which consistently unearth particular struggles suffered by actual people who are genuinely labouring to construct meaningful lives in the real world.
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He slips in behind her, gets hold of her hair, whips her around in a circle, and then flings her towards the congregation. Caught by the crowd and laid onto the ground, she shakes off the spiritual blow, gets up, and keeps fighting. All the while,
people chanting: Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING! Holy Ghost…FIRE! Holy Ghost…BURNING!
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Pastor Jiaya gestures to the band to stop; the music cuts out. The silence, after so many minutes of irrepressible noise, is powerful. “WHO ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THIS GIRL?” He pulls back on the woman’s hair again, she cries out. Another pause follows. “LOSE HER! LOSE HER NOW!” He throws the woman to the ground. She covers up. He rushes over – “FIRE FIRE FIRE…FIRE ALL OVER YOUR BODY” – and pokes her up and down her abdomen. She braces herself and cries out, though slightly. The demons are there, but they are refusing to speak. This is a serious matter. If the demons do not speak, they can not be known. If they can not be known, then they can not be named. If they cannot be named, then Pastor Jiaya can claim no power over them.
And if he can claim no power over them, then the woman will not be delivered. And if the woman is not delivered, she will never be set free.
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This is why questions like, “WHO ARE YOU?” and “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HER?”, should not be understood as absurd, but achingly relevant. Typical answers such as, “I am her spiritual husband” and “I am trying to destroy her life” (either by preventing her from finishing school, or preventing her from getting married, or preventing her from having a child, or preventing her from getting a job, etc.) bring to light serious worldly afflictions, no matter that they are couched in a spiritual idiom. This is also why the commands commonly issued by pastors in the heat of deliverance – “OUT!!”, “GET OUT!!” and “LOSE HER!” – carry with them such import and immediacy. Most everyone who comes for deliverance is looking to be liberated from some kind of terrible burden. This is why, at the end of every deliverance, Pastor Jiya picks the person off the floor, stands her up straight, looks her dead in the eye and says “You are free.”
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It would be relatively easy, of course, to dismiss this kind of religious practice as performative, exploitative, regressive and/ or delusional. Many Malawians skeptical of charismatic Christianity do each day. But just as Hirschkind managed to write thoughtfully against dismissive readings of cassette sermons among Middle Eastern Muslims, I’d like to end by writing in favour of a more nuanced take on deliverance among charismatic Christians at places like HOGEM, one which continues along the lines of sound. Until now, I’ve suggested that sound is important at HOGEM because it facilitates certain forms of religious practice, especially deliverances. This is certainly the case, but it’s also pretty obvious, and if this essay is to have any conceptual merit
then it must, as one popular Malawian televangelist is famous for saying, ‘go deeper’. To do that, I want to take seriously Hirschkind’s suggestion to “interrogate traditions in terms of continuities of disciplined sensibility and the practices by which these are created and revised across changing historical contexts” (2001: 641). Hirschkind argues that religious traditions are founded as much on the body as they are on belief. He suspects that conferring critical attention on something like collective kinaesthetic memory will “contribute to the important and ongoing task of rethinking the decidedly stubborn opposition between tradition and modernity” (2001: 624). I find this useful because it leads us away from standard questions like, ‘How does sound operate at a place like HOGEM?’ and towards more novel questions like, ‘Which traditional practices at HOGEM associated with the senses may have been enabled by modern conditions?’ The simple answer to that question is, of course, ‘spirit possession’ – one of those classic objects of anthropological attention and a staple among many African religious traditions. It is interesting to approach deliverance via spirit possession because it encourages us to consider how a more traditional form of religious practice, regularly associated with social solidarity in relatively classless societies and long shunned by many colonial and postcolonial governments, has re-emerged as an integral, disciplined sensibility within a modern global movement which emphasises individuality and material success. This thought alone muddles any easy conception of binaries such as tradition and modernity; although this is
half the battle, I still think we can try to ‘go deeper’. When I approached Pastor Jiya and asked him about the connection between traditional forms of spirit possession and the deliverances at HOGEM, I was surprised to discover that he was eager to make a clear distinction between the two: “Those traditional cultural practices are a form of Satanism. What we do here is spiritual healing.” This made me wonder why it is important for HOGEM to distance itself so absolutely from traditional religious practices. I imagine it has something to do with what Hirschkind refers to as, ‘modern techniques in moral self-cultivation’, ones that correspond to the ‘conditions (political, moral, economic) that enable ethical forms of collective life’ (Hirschkind 2012). Pastor Jiya’s distinction works to assert a kind of modern identity engineered to give people a chance to survive (and thrive!) in a world where the cards seem to be stacked against them — stacked against them due to the logic and machinations of ‘neoliberal capitalism in its global manifestation’, whose ‘experiential contradictions’ I suspect HOGEM congregants feel almost every day of their lives.2 This is where I think we can begin to appreciate how sensory experience can reveal (and play into) some of the ironies at work among our practical engagements with the world.
2 The full text reads “...the experiential contradiction at the core of neoliberal capitalism in its global manifestation: the fact that it appears to offer up vast, almost instantaneous riches to those who control its technologies, and, simultaneously, to threaten the very livelihood of those who do not” (Comaroff & Comaroff 2002: 782).
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People choose to pray at HOGEM, in part, because of its ecstatic and embodied practice, a practice similar to many traditional forms in terms of synæsthetic articulation and expressive genius. And yet these traditions are disavowed, even demonised (at least on the official record). This might appear counter-intuitive, but it makes sense when we consider the undeniably contemporary ethical/moral ideals to which HOGEM aspires. By contemporary I mean pragmatic. Within the context of an unequal, uncertain and unsafe society whose defining characteristic may very well be the looming presence of death, there is really only so much you can do.3 This is why so many people are in search of miracles. Attempts to conceptualise and/ or approach problems and misfortune throught rational-secular means are rarely efficacious in this context. This is another reason why Pentecostals seem to be doing so well. When churches like HOGEM shift questions of causation away from the historical/material/collective and towards the symbolic/spiritual/subjective, they open up spaces for agency and hope. Once this shift is made, the world can appear reasonable, manageable and even fair. Congregants can attain a sense of security and perceive a degree of control over their lives. They can even be endowed with a
awareness – without this belief – little is likely to change. 5 Traditional religions were largely aware of this, which is why they tended to work with people over time, emphasising the material and historical elements of their collective lifeworlds in the process of spiritual healing. The fact that those practices have been resuscitated should come as little surprise; what might, however, is that they seem to have been effaced of a certain ethical disposition. j
5 This claim is not, of course, original. Anthropologist Harri Englund (2007) points out that a small horde of scholars have made similar observations about the rather dubious political and economic explanations proffered by religious and spiritual movements in contemporary Africa. He cites Mark Green (2005) who, writing about witchcraft in Tanzania, argues that popular spiritual beliefs “turn people’s gaze inwards to their own community rather than outwards to the content of policy processes which produce poverty and vulnerability” (2005: 260). Englund is not convinced: the problem is not a lack of awareness
among Pentecostals about the structural roots of their problems, but a lack of awareness among critics like myself and Green who do not seem to grasp that “neither Pentecostalism or policy provides a panacea” (2007: 495). Pentecostals already know this, according to Englund, which is why they engage in religious practice not to solve their problems once and for all, but to ease their burdens a bit with the help of friends they make at church. The error I am making, he would say, is that I consider Pentecostals as believers. While the error he is making, I would say, is that he has a narrow idea of belief.
This transformation does not happen in a sensorial vacuum. Reason alone is not enough. People must feel in order to believe.4 This is the work of “Holy Ghost... FIRE!” The song stokes bodily belief in an ethic of individualism that enables people to continue moving forwards in the face of near-impossible rational-secular odds.
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But this comes with a cost. The ‘fire’ and ‘burning’ which rage during deliverances blot out anything that might expose the fact that problems and misfortune are never solely subjective. And without this
Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. ‘Alien Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism.’ The South Atlantic Quarterly 101(4) 2002. pp779–805. Englund, Harri. ‘Pentecostalism Beyond Belief: Trust and Democracy in a Malawian Township’ Africa 77(4) 2007. pp477–499. Green, Mark. ‘Discourses on Inequality: Poverty, Public Bads and Entrenching Witchcraft in Postadjustment Tanzania.’ Anthropological Theory 5, 2005. pp247–66. Hirschkind, Charles. ‘The Ethics of Listening: Cassette-Sermon Audition in Contemporary Egypt.’ American Ethnologist 28(3), 2001. pp623–649. Hirschkind, Charles. The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Hirschkind, Charles. ‘Interview with Charles Hirschkind, Author of The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and the Islamic Counterpublics.’ 2012. http://cup.columbia. edu/static/Interview-Hirschkind-Charles (last accessed on 7 September 2012).
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3 And please don’t label me an Afro-Pessimist just because I wrote that. All you need to do is sit in on a handful of deliverances to get a sense of the “rich eschatological phantasmagoria” (Hirschkind 2001: 631) that hovers over people’s lives here. To focus exclusively on this would be to indulge in narrow, exploitative imagining, but to deny its salience in moments like these would be to slip into a trap of fanciful delusion and abject irresponsibility. 4 Nearly every major Christian thinker since Augustine has acknowledged as much, as Hirschkind points out (2001: 639).
motive force which propels them forward along a program of ethical living. But there’s a catch. These ethical programs are often radically individualistic. They encourage people to conceptualise their problems as theirs and theirs alone, as being – quite literally – confined to their own particular bodies and souls. All history, all contingency, any sense of a social body, is erased. This may seem oppressive, but it actually has the opposite effect. It is emancipatory. This is precisely why, at the end of a long deliverance, Pastor Jiya says “you are free”. You are free because you have addressed the demons that are behind your problems. You may now proceed on a path of moral action which will enable you to actualise your self, and your self alone
embedded sound experience | c o n s t ru c t i o n helena slosar
str uc t ure spa c e hea r i ng loca t i o n inhab ita t i on
The sounds that animate architecture, and the ways in which architecture augments those sounds, can be examined by observing the essential qualities of constructed space: material and geometry. These characteristics, plus scale and construction method, inform soundscapes that are embedded within all built environments. As an exploration of how sound is shaped by space, and experience is shaped by acoustics, I offer a series of vignettes describing three distinct sites and the way in which I perceived them to be particularly defined by the acoustical quality of the architecture. The focus is not on the behaviour of an imposed sound source or signal, but rather on the ambient conditions of inhabitation.
architecture as a resonating chamber
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Abbaye du Thoronet is a Cistercian abbey built during the twelfth century in Southern France with the unique acoustical quality of a thirteen second sound decay.1 Time becomes elastic and, as it is stretched, encourages us to observe and contemplate our surroundings. In adherence with the austere principles of the Cistercian order, the stone structure of the main church is completely unadorned. Nothing is present that absorbs sound except the human bodies occupying the space. The vaulted structure is constructed from local limestone which provides the hard impervious surface required to produce strong sonic reflections while directly connecting the building to the landscape from which it emerges. While the monks who lived at the abbey accepted a vow of silence, they gathered daily in the church to sing in unison as a way of spiritually focusing on the sacred. Considering that the slightest movement is amplified and the smallest cough or tone escaping one’s lips is projected throughout the entire space, a slowed speed of movement is crucial in order to ensure a united result. The overlap and layering of tones produced by a single voice in this space demand careful attention to time and harmony. With the addition of multiple voices, the level of attentiveness increases, developing a dialogue between the space and the occupants. This tangible experience of acoustics is a result of the unembellished nature of the designed spaces, the materiality of the structure which effectively reflects sound, and the geometries present including the verticality of the space and vaulting of the ceiling. Even one voice in this chamber creates a shimmering, seemingly endless sonic environment, one that vibrates simultaneously through the body of the occupant and the surrounding architecture.
1 sound decay: when the sound source stops the reflections continue, decreasing in amplitude until they can no longer be heard. It can also be referred to as reverberation time.
Abbaye du Thoronet, axonometric and plan hel ena sl osar
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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
architecture as a filter Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is composed of a vast and ordered field of pillars of varying heights. By situating the memorial within the city center of Berlin, and through the design of this field condition, Eisenman achieves an acoustic landscape which challenges feelings of connection and alienation both at an urban scale as well as an individual scale. The 2,711 polished concrete pillars or ‘stelae’ range in height from knee level along the edges of the memorial increasing at the centre to the height of a one-storey building. The undulating topography in conjunction with the stelae creates an interior space within the context of the city. Proceeding towards the core, the city begins to drift to the back of the mind as one is engulfed by pillars and gradually unable to see beyond the field. The obstructed horizontal views and fragmented visual and aural surroundings create a sense of disorientation and isolation from the distant shouts of guards and passing traffic.
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Each footstep reiterates this experience. When standing between the long sides of the rectangular stelae, the nearest sounds are trapped by the two concrete surfaces that are closest to one’s ears and are subsequently amplified. In contrast, with a few steps forward, ambient sound is diffused and reflections are dispersed as one emerges into an aisle created by the short sides of the stelae. Though such a subtle effect may be overlooked in our conscious thought, our auditory sense registers these shifts and shapes our overall experience. Contrasting conditions are discerned and a mapping of the speed and path travelled through the memorial can be recorded. The field acts as a filter of both external and internal conditions, a process through which we gain an altered perspective of ourselves particularly in relation to others.
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Boston Duplex: section, first floor plan
architecture as a vibrating membrane A common residential building type in Boston is the vertically split duplex house. This side-by-side organisation allows two families to occupy separated spaces within a shared overall structure. The uninterrupted wood frame construction provides a direct vibration channel through which sound travels with little reduction, thus allowing public and private conditions to blur. The acoustically conductive nature of this construction leads to an awareness of other occupants within the private space of the home. The plan on one side is reflected across a single wall creating a central spine of vertical circulation existing simultaneously on each side. Subsequently, from the attic room on the third floor it is impossible to distinguish from which side footsteps on the stairs below originate. A fan in the bathroom or conversation in the kitchen leaks from one side to the other through ventilation grates and plumbing cavities creating an environment in which all activities within the entire structure are shared. The disjunction between the visual and the aural can lead to a sense of uncertainty regarding the presence of others in one’s own surroundings. This auditory intrusion places privacy in doubt resulting in a heightened self-awareness. Despite the accepted notion that this architecture provides two private residences, the occupants understand that their actions are to some extent acoustically exposed thereby influencing future behaviour.
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While these three cases are disparate in their program, structure, and scale, they are connected in that they describe immersive scenarios where materiality, geometry, and spatial composition shape acoustic experience with such power as to be perceptible by the occupant. These vignettes illustrate how architecture and the acoustical characteristics of the environments we design impact patterns of habitation. The signature of a space’s construction is embedded in the way in which sounds are re-projected and then processed by the listener. We, as inhabitants, activate architecture with temporal events, and architecture, in turn, shapes our behaviour creating a feedback loop between the material and the immaterial. j
recording | reverberance by eon sinclair
rec o rdin g s tu dio s re ve rb sh iny s u rf ac e s s mall s pac e s vo ic e s
singing in the rain re-imagining the domestic bathroom as a private music hall and recording space
utu be.c o m / wa t c h ?v=3 T0
Michael Rault, ‘I Want To Love You’
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As I come to the end of singing the hook to young Michael Rault’s vintage-feeling tune ‘I Wanna Love You’1 and step out of the tub, I try to recall the first time I ever sang in the shower. The earliest would no doubt have been when I was a tot, old enough to speak and be in the tub, but a shade young to be there on my own. So while my parents bathed me, they would sing various songs, children’s, traditional, popular, and I would sing with them when the words and melodies were within reach. As children, many of us the world over are carefree enough to sing and shout as it relates to the activity or game of the moment, no matter how public the forum. When entering adolescence however, the idea of singing publicly fades and becomes the explicit domain of only those willing to share their abilities in a wider arena. For the rest of us, the bathroom becomes our intimate music hall, the daily site of our live-and-direct lead vocal performance. The angle of every wall, the placement of the tub, the shape and size of the room, the ceiling height and the backsplash all influence the ways in which a given ear will interpret sound in a bathroom. As one of the smallest rooms in most dwellings, reflective surfaces such as the tiled walls and floors are typically situated close together. The reverberation that results from such surfaces can mimic the reverbs heard in various musical recordings of the early 1950s and ‘60s. This reverb-based sound became a popular tool for producers and recording engineers after its proven early success on songs such as Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. These tunes sparked a revolution in how producers approached recording. Reverb on the vocals was a good thing and, listening to songs from the Golden Era and beyond, the vast majority of successful singles used this technique. 2 The sound was so desirable that engineers and producers continued to experiment with recording sounds in bathrooms, from KISS to Weird Al Yankovich. Essentially, the formative years of the popular music industry were dominated by recordings that used vocal reverb, so it isn’t far-fetched to think that we unconsciously make an association between the reverberant trail-off we create singing in the shower with the familiar reverbs found in songs that mainstream western culture holds as classic. With this in mind, the privacy of a bathroom, the freedom to do things that would take much coaxing on the other side of the door and the personal exercise of singing with bathroom reverb can influence how we think our vocal qualities and abilities sound — most shower singers feel that their voices are a lot better with a backscratcher as a microphone in a private bath than using a Neumann U-57 in studio or onstage.
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Elvis Presley, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ Elvis Presley recording: from www.virginmedia.com/music/pictures/toptens/defining-moments-rock.php
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Sam Cooke, ‘Win Your Love For Me’
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How viable is the bathroom as a musical space? Is it a useful model for audio engineers who look for unique ways to affect parts of a song? Are tile-and-tub reverbs capable of colouring a voice? * Before we go any further, let me be clear on what reverb actually is. ‘Reverberation” occurs when a sound is reflected so many times that no single discontinuous repeat of the source sound is heard. Or, as Peter Doyle states, “when the reflective surfaces are too near the listener to allow the subjective aural separation between the source and its reflection (as in, say, a tiled bathroom)”. 3 Doyle also says that reverberation does much to define what we perceive as timbre, volume and sound colouration, and it largely determines our perception of directionality and nearness. The amount of reverb is directly related to the size of the room; bigger means more space for sound to bounce, therefore a longer lasting resonance. In a live setting, this is typically something that is to be avoided, as it is hard to control the length and intensity of a naturally reverberated note without electronic means. However, the digital reverbs that are in use these days have all kinds of knobs and buttons to replicate the sound of, ironically, a naturally reverberant hall. In the case of the bathroom, reverb and the attraction to make music in it, is a by-product of the unique characteristics of the tiled floors and walls, the porcelain or fibreglas tub, the shower curtain and drywall ceiling, all of which combine to create both a place to get clean and a nice little vocal booth. As if that weren’t enough impetus to experiment musically, the humidity and moisture in the air during a shower (unless its a cold one) help to loosen and keep vocal chords and larynx muscles warm which makes it easier to sing for a while4 and to reach certain notes or pitch. No wonder we all feel a little more inclined to belt out a tune; the air is primed for it. * The vocal sounds that are produced (at least when I’m singing in the shower, and definitely NOT in terms of quality) remind me of melodies on old records that I grew up with and grew into learning about later on in pursuit of musical knowledge and exposure. I became a lifelong fan of Sam Cooke from an early age as my father held him in high regard and had most of his records. One of my favourites since childhood, ‘Win Your Love For Me’, recorded in 1958, is an example of how reverb as an effect has an effect on a vocal performance. If you listen to the background singers, they give a true sense of being in the ‘background’. Before this, most engineers achieved this effect by literally positioning the singers away from the microphone (called ‘off-miking’) to create that sense of depth and distance. But by the 1950’s, engineers had developed instruments to replicate natural reverbs and echoes and were using
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The Memphis Horns in 1977: Andrew Love, James Mitchell, Jack Hale, Wayne Jackson and Lewis Collins. Patrick Montier collection: staxrecords.free.fr
them on everything they could. As Sam gets into the first verse, the reverb use is clearest on more powerful notes such as ‘I’ and ‘Sorrow’, as they resonate for a split second after he’s finished executing each word. The clearest example in this tune, and what became Sam’s hallmark, is his characteristic ‘Whooa-oh-oh-ohoh, oh-oh-oh-OH-oh’ adlib as the choruses and the song end. ‘Win Your Love’ was neither the first nor the greatest example of reverb use on a vocal, but it was my earliest recollection and one which gets regular rotation on both my iPhone and in my shower. Earlier and more interesting uses in popular music are credited to Leonard Chess at Chess Records (artists such as Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Gene Chandler) and Sam Phillips at Sun Records (including Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash), both of whom ultimately defined the direction popular music has and continues to follow today. By the time Elvis left Chess for RCA records in 1956, the reverb sound was so necessary that the engineer, Chet Atkins, recorded ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by using the hallway outside the bathroom at Sun Studios as an echo chamber to achieve the effect on Presley’s vocal.5 Just by listening, you can tell that he was in a smaller space than the reverb added to Sam’s vocal suggests, as there is less tail to each of Elvis’ words. ‘Heartbreak’ was Elvis’ first number one pop record, first million seller, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. * With the proven success of using such reverbs, singers, producers and engineers have continued to experiment with them. Though RCA recorded Elvis outside the bathroom, The Doors’ Jim Morrison wanted to get even closer to the source. For the song ‘LA Woman’, self-recorded and produced by The Doors at their workshop in Los Angeles in 1971, Jim sang his vocals in the bathroom for the ‘natural reverb’. The group’s keyboardist, Ray Manzarek’s favourite memory of Jim during that time is Jim singing the vocal to ‘Riders on the Storm’ in the bathroom, explaining that they used the bathroom as an isolation booth to get ‘that classic bathroom echo’.6 The vocal sound has the small space feel that the bathroom can call its own. Other musicians and producers opted to experiment with instruments in the bathroom, especially drums. Peter Criss, the original drummer for KISS, setup his drums in the washroom at the Star Theatre where the band recorded their entire Rock and Roll Over album. He communicated with the rest of the band with a video link,7 and the difference in his drum sound versus the effects used on the guitars and vocals is marked. On ‘Calling Dr. Love’, the resonance left from the first cowbell hits give a strong sense of space, this bathroom sounding much larger than Jim Morrison’s and reinforced with every Peter Criss hit of his snare drum that follows. Steve Albini, known for his prolific yet avante-garde production and engineering work, was another fan of the bathroom sound. While working with The Pixies on their
The Doors, ‘LA Woman’ The Doors, ‘Riders on the Storm’ KISS, ‘Calling Dr. Love’
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Nadine Coyle, ‘Chained’
Weird Al Yankovich, ‘My Bologna’ (bathroom version)
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1 free download http://michaelrault.bandcamp.com/album/whirlpool 2 Doyle, Peter. ‘ ‘My Blue Heaven’ to ‘Race with the Devil’: echo, reverb and (dis)ordered space in early popular music recording.’ Popular Music (2004) Vol. 23/1. Cambridge University Press. p 31 3 Doyle, 32 4 Carey, Tanith. ‘Sing in the Shower, sit up straight- the simple tips that’ll keep your voice young’ Daily Mail (UK), 27 April 2010 5 Doyle, 31, 45-46 6 ‘Ray Manzarek of The Doors talks “LA Woman”, A Favorite Jim Morrison Memory, “She Smells So Nice”, Skrillex, and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Interview with Ray Manzarek by Rick Florino. www.artistdirect. com/entertainment-news/article/ray-manzarek-of-the-doors-talks-l-a-woman-afavorite-jim-morrison-memory-she-smells-so-nice-skrillex-and-2001-a-spaceyodyssey/9854908. Dec. 18, 2010 7 ‘6 Career defining Records of Peter Criss.’ Interview with Peter Criss by Vince Medina Sanna of Rhythm Magazine. www.musicradar.com/news/ drums/6-career-defining-records-of-peter-criss-215270/3 8 Frank, Josh; Ganz, Caryn. Fool the World; An Oral History of A Band Called Pixies. Virgin Books, 2005. pp 80-1 9 Details for ‘My Bologna- “Weird” Al Yankovich. ‘The Demented Music Database” http://dmdb.org/cgi-bin/plinfo_view.pl?SYN053221 10 “Nadine Coyle: ‘I recorded my album in the bathroom’” Interview with Nadine Coyle by Mark Savage, BBC News Entertainment Reporter. October 11, 2010 11 ‘Kohler turns bathroomss into ‘singing arenas’.’ Middle East Interiors, May 1, 2012 12 http://purchase.ie/water-powered-shower-radio 2009
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So, the next time you step out of your clothes and into a bathtub, with the door closed behind you and the water on, belt it out. Think of it as your personal Grand Ole Opry, Brixton Academy, or Massey Hall, and let the walls and tiles make you into the classic, legendary singer you are. Gene Kelly may have sung in the rain, but a rain showerhead does the trick just as well. j
The Pixies, ‘Gigantic’ The Pixies, ‘Where is My Mind’
revered debut album Surfer Rosa, Albini moved the entire studio into the studio bathroom where singer/bassist Kim Deal recorded her backup vocals on ‘Where is My Mind’ and her lead vocals on ‘Gigantic’, both hugely popular pieces in their collection. Albini just ‘didn’t like the studio sound’.8 Not to be laughed at (more with), Al Yankovich also recorded a glowing debut single in a tiled bathroom. His first parody, of The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’, was recorded in the men’s washroom of the campus radio station at California Polytechnical State University where he was a student.9 ‘My Bologna’ put Weird Al on the musical map, and not only showcased a sense of humour, but the setting gives both his voice and his accordion a sense of aural depth, all because the sound waves were bouncing around the men’s receptacles. * Reverb in music doesn’t have to come from singing or playing in bathroom, but there is something special about using the natural reverb a room creates rather than trying to apply technologically manufactured effects. The bathroom, with its unique spatial requirements and services offered, will always offer an organic option for those willing to go there. The tradition continues today. Nadine Coyle, member of British girl group Girls Aloud, made her solo debut by recording all the demo vocals in her bathroom. On the song ‘Chained’, Coyle and her producer agreed that her original vocal had a more fitting sound that couldn’t be re-created, and so her bathroom vocal appears on record.10 Companies outside the world of music have recognised how common it is for people to sing in the shower, and have made attempts to capitalise on this truth. Kohler, a company that makes fixtures and faucets, released the StereoStik this year, a device that attaches to your cabinet and plays mp3s or the radio for you to sing along with, transforming your bath into a ‘singing arena’. Purchase.ie, an Irish business dedicated to developing products that help homeowners save money by reducing energy usage, conserving water and limiting waste, sells a ‘water powered shower radio’ which uses water pressure from the faucet to turn a small internal turbine which powers the radio.11 There are plenty of other products are on the market at present, all with the intention of promoting entertainment while in the bathroom.
i n s ta l l at i o n | p e a k s a n d va l l e ys by brian s pearson
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towards a sonic architecture Music and architecture are often brought together into the same discussion as a comparison or as an analogy Is there something within each that could allow for a unity? The desire to join the two is very strong and goes back far in the discourse of both subjects, possibly rooted in a primordial survival instinct: knowing the origin and direction of sounds is critical in hunting or for protection from attackers. Today such awareness is no less needed in our daily lives. Music is considered a recreation and art, but how we create with sound could contribute to how we engage with our built environment. These are questions that lead me to ask: “Can sound be used as a material for the creation of architecture?” and to attempt an answer with the performance piece Para•Site. How we typically interact with architecture or music, has, for the most part, been reduced to a mono-dimensional activity that puts the two in opposition or causes a disjunction. Music is most often considered a dynamic art1 although the listener is typically in a static position (a seated, quiet, passive receiver) watching (and listening) to a performer from a single vantage point. The music is considered to change in time, but not in space. Space only becomes a factor when considering the cultural rituals of presenting music.2 Amplification with loudspeakers denies the need to locate an intended presentation – whether spoken or musical – in a space that will appropriately support the activity, and deficiencies of sound or space can be overcome by electronic means. Furthermore, we are increasingly accustomed to music on the radio or iPod, removed from a spatial context by the “flattening” of the experience with headphones, so that we lose a sense of the sonic qualities of our environment and how they differ from place to place.
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For its part, architecture is often considered static, immutable and reduced to the dimension of the visual. Analysis often concentrates on how the building looks and relies on the display of proportion and geometry (volume); rare in the discussion is how a building provides for its occupants. Today architecture is most often experienced (even for the professional)
through photography. Relying on a visual and geometry-based understanding of architecture denies the fundamental purpose of architecture, which is to enhance human experience –experience that is dependent on perception through all the senses and aware of changes that occur over time. The performance piece Para•Site was presented in a space often considered mundane,3 a space rarely designed to catch our interest or to function for performance: a corridor connecting an entry foyer to classrooms and offices. The name, Para•Site, was chosen because of its double meaning: the work is like a parasitic organism dependent on a host for its existence. It derives its form from the acoustic properties of the space. The name also points to the duality of creating a (sonic) architecture ‘by the side of ’ the physical location of the performance. An architecture of sonic material begins with analyzing the physical and acoustic measurements of a space, informing the dynamic qualities that can be used to tailor the piece to fit the space. Because we cannot touch sound we do not consider its physical aspect. It is the oscillation of air4 pressure from high to low, and we can only sense it because of the physical interaction of air molecules against our ear drum. The oscillation can be mathematically described as a sine wave, known as frequency, that has a physical dimension.5 Sound can be tailored to fit a space. Two sound waves in a space or even a wave and its reflection will interact and combine. If the combination is additive then the frequency is enhanced – and the room is ‘resonant’. However, if the combination is subtractive then we notice disruption or even possibly the waves will cancel out to create non-sound. In this piece, long duration tones (processed human voices used for textural interest) are broadcast in the space from selected points. The parameters of frequency, separation of sound sources and amplitude (loudness) can be modified to create geographic regions of peaks and troughs of wave combinations. During a Para•Site sonic architecture performance there are no restrictions placed on the audience – no suggestions on where to be or how to act. People can move freely or remain in
one position to explore the sound in the space. Initially the larger scale interactions are noticed – how echoes and resonances evoke distance. But soon most begin to notice the nuances at the microscale created by wave combinations — regions of resonances (peaks) and passages of cancellations (troughs). Moving about and exploring even small shifts in location or orientation can dramatically alter perception of the sonic spaces. Though long durations make the work appear static, in fact they are subtly shifting in frequency and amplitude to cause changes in the sonic geography. The resultant shifting architecture moves about the listener as a shifting form.
If a sonic architecture is spatial by nature, it cannot be reduced to a recording and experienced with a playback of a CD. Likewise a photo is a poor substitution for the experience of being in a building. The idea of a sonic architecture that achieves a unity of music and architecture is to create a model that is intended to provoke awareness of our surroundings and the play of the senses so that we may begin to perceive the continuum of the dynamic quality of the built environment. j
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1 For a more academic description of the theory of a dynamic music in opposition to a static architecture see Gianmarco Vergani ‘The Question of Unification an the Musicalization of Art’ in Precis 6, spring 1987, New York NY, pp 164-169. Vergani uses linguistic terms of diachronic and synchronic to describe each field. I find that it limits the possibilities of each and does not account for contemporary music theory of Cage and Lucier. 2 For a presentation of the relation of sound to development of music style see David Byrne, ‘How Architecture Helped Music Evolve’ TED Talk (accessed Aug 11 2012) http://www.ted.com/talks/david_byrne_how_architecture_ helped_music_evolve.html 3 Para•Site was first presented as part of the fulfillment of Master’s thesis program at Mills College, Oakland California in 1996. 4 Sound can propagate in other mediums, but does need the properties of fluid dynamics. 5 Dimension of sound wavelength converter: http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-waves.htm
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d e s i g n to o l s | sound files b y u r s wa lt e r + olaf schäfer
audible architectural models
soundscapes: essential qualities of architectural space
typologies of architectural sound models
An increasing awareness of the sounds in our cities raises new questions regarding the way we plan and build our environment. Notwithstanding the increasing interest amongst architects and designers of the acoustics of our urban areas, however, the actual methods for developing and containing sound remain relatively unexplored within architectural practices. Even when acoustical qualities are brought into focus, sketches, plans, calculations and models remain silent. A dependent on mute tools alone reinforces an already existing detachment from the specific site. The designer acts, decoupled from the perceptible sonic experience, and is deaf towards the specific soundscape which the designed space will create. Nonetheless, it is the complex structure of of everyday sounds that to a great extent contributes to spatial identity. We listen to space as multilayered actions taking place. In relation to the very location of the listener, the interplay of everyday sounds manifest surface qualities, structural parameters, functional relations and spatial transition. Since sounds can also reveal the time of the day, the weather and even the time of the year, they introduce these ephemeral parameters as tools to shape soundscapes and as intrinsic qualities of architectural space. We therefore aim to promote the awareness of the sonic consequences of architectural planning and to implement sound itself as a basis of the design process.
We can distinguish three specific typologies within architectural sound modelling – although each model could be assigned to more than one singular typology. A first type of model documents spatial qualities from a fixed physical location. This method of creating a constant audible sound-perspective enables the listener to grasp acuity in detail. Additional sound perspectives can be compiled in a way similar to a set of architectural elevations. By comparing contrasting moments in everyday use, these models can highlight shifting atmospheres referring to different activities in the very same space. The second type of model presents an architectural proposal through real-time sound-walks through space. The listener follows a protagonist through his or her particular activities, such as driving, walking or talking. Specific spatial qualities are revealed by the protagonist‘s interactions. These models enable the listener to enter a larger area of the design and emphasise functional relations and the changing atmospheres of spatial sequences. Finally, a third type of model is the linking of fragments of different places and times to create a characteristic sound-collage. This kind of model is still a continuous sound file, however, its nature is comparable to rather abstract media such as mappings or section drawings. Temporal and spatial breaks and ruptures are used to generate multilayered experiences. This method of cutting and pasting key scenarios is particularly suitable to manifest elementary atmospheric qualities of the architectural design.
sound models as an architectural media
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In our work and our teaching we develop sound models to aurally communicate architecture. The models are not exact auralisations but sonic sketches generating a specific spatial imagination that make certain atmospheric impressions audible. We propose to use them in discussion with clients, colleagues or even acousticians in order to define basic requirements at the preliminary design stage. By sound models, we mean stereo-recordings of sounds edited for an architectural proposal, listened to via headphones or loudspeakers. The recordings are made at the site but also in spaces with sounds or activities similar to the proposed soundscape. The process of editing these recordings means cutting and mixing the sounds in order to reconfigure those spaces; by doing so the new space is made audible. With the use of audio effects, acoustical characteristics can be modified to test different proportions and materials.
using sound models in practice (an example) In our work we have used sound models to design a reading hall (a lounge for reading, to do homework, access to periodical papers and magazines) for a secondary school. From our own experience we noticed that the acoustic surroundings of libraries affect the way that people manage to retreat for concentrated reading. We therefore analysed recordings from different places where people were reading – not only libraries, but also in book shops, on local trains and in public spaces. Rather than just volume, other sound characteristics create appropriate acoustic surroundings for reading; in particular, how single sound events are appreciated and how these sounds relate to each other. Some main characteristics of a positive reading soundscape would be • a spatially wide sound-spectrum, where you can hear distant sounds as well as very near ones. • sound that seems to be caused by rather calm activities. • sounds that are reliably periodic and steady, with no abrupt changes.
We see a necessity to make sound part both of the intention and the tools of architecture. Since sound models give the impression of full scale mockups, their high precision in detail allows an extensive and multi-layered sense of the designed architectural situation. The special nature of the sound model allows us to work with the actual experience of space. Not only do they extend the tools of architectural planning but they also help designers to understand the sonic consequences of their work. Even in untrained listeners sound models provoke an immediate sense of architectural design. They circumvent traditional codes, such as architectural drawings, which can be difficult to read for lay persons. Working with sound auralisation would enhance user participation in the designing process – a matter we hope to investigate further in the future. j 8 /p
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Sound files included: Adriana Osanu, Ida Lautanala, Reading Hall afternoon, Reading Hall morning
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Because of their multifaceted approach, sound models are capable of expressing both commonly unregarded and difficult to communicate needs. Examples of works created in our latest seminar illustrate this ability. In Adriana’s ‘Fragments of a City campus’ the sound of stairs emphasise the spacious depth and liveliness of a central hall; whereas in Tomme’s auralisation ‘my nature tunnel’ the climbing of stairs – triggered by the rhythm of steps and the character of surface material – generates an airy, relaxing sensation. Ida’s work, ‘Every door is an opportunity’, plays with the moment of surprise when opening a door and entering another room. This sound piece takes the listener on a tour through various spatial transitions. Familiar sounds from different surroundings are blended together in a continuous sound trip though our everyday life — for instance, the sound of the opening of doors in the subway turns into the rattling of keys when passing through an apartment door. The recording makes
further intrinsic advantages to using sound tools
the listener question whether these familiar sounds make us anticipate what lies behind the door. Are they the fitting frame for the upcoming event? Do particular sounds make us feel a slight moment of hesitation while passing the threshold before entering a new space? The work easily illustrates how the sound of doors affects the atmosphere of a space. In contrast, Bastian’s ‘short cut’ ignores doors and windows but lets the listener aurally pass through walls and ceilings, adjacent but structurally disconnected spaces are being compared. The auditory consequences of strictly separated rooms and spaces come into question: in how far do sonic separations (or sonic connections) affect the use and thereby the soundscapes of those spaces? Even subtle and rather ephemeral qualities of space are the subject matter of sound models, which in our experience are difficult to express by conventional architectural tools.
We then recorded sounds from the school, which we assumed were likely to be heard in the new reading hall. Since the hall was meant to be the heart of the school we were operating with lots of potentially disturbing sounds, such as students running around and shouting. Having defined the operating principles for adequate soundspheres we mixed our school recordings, trying to achieve a sound model for the reading hall with similar positive characteristics. Instead of minimising the sound level, our strategy was to add complementary sounds – activities – which would help to present the expected turbulent sounds in a different and calmer way. In the entrance zone for example, we located a sitting area with couches where students gather and chat. As a result the calmer sounds of talking while sitting mix with the turbulent sounds of students walking by. Thus the acoustic surrounding as a whole appeared to be calmer. We added a small cafeteria nearby that contributed the constant rattling of dishes, complementing very well the rumbling sound of bags being thrown on desks or floors. We also made the outside walls more permeable for traffic sounds to spatially widen the audible soundspectrum. Here sound models were used in an early stage. They are first sketches to be discussed with the client in order to define the basic requirements of the preliminary design. Specifically, we composed two models: one morning scene and one afternoon scene. These two different sound perspectives made it possible to reflect the use of this hall both during school lessons and when used for free-time work in the afternoon.
s u r fac e | able-bodied sound b y ro n w i c k m a n
Sound, all around us, is sometimes a negative noise, unpleasant, and distracting, while other times sound can be useful in finding our way along a street or through a building. For some, sound holds special value as they navigate through cities and architecture â€” those who are blind strategically use sound in their wayfinding. How is this done? Do persons who are blind feel that architects and planners ever consider functional sound in their design work? Although I have a great deal of experience working as an architect with people who have disabilities, my research is limited when it comes to the use of sound as a wayfinding tool. When it comes to working with persons with visual limitations or who are blind, my focus has always been on using color and texture contrast on ground and wall surfaces as a wayfinding strategy. With this in mind, I was interested in the experience of travelling through the built environment with someone who is blind. Diane Bergeron is in a small minority of the legally blind (less than 10% sight) who is actually completely blind. I have known Diane for almost 20 years, and is the one I have consulted with the most. Always been a strong advocate for persons with disabilities, she recently started working as the National Director, Government Relations and Advocacy for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. * One afternoon, Diane and I visited both Edmontonâ€™s Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre and Whyte Avenue at 82nd Avenue. Whyte Avenue is a popular shopping and entertainment street in Old Strathcona, filled with trendy boutiques and specialty
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restaurants and busy with sights and sounds all day and night. The Terwillegar Community Centre is a relatively new, very large recreation facility, containing four hockey arenas, a multipurpose pool area, a spacious flex hall, a fitness area and a running track. It is considered a community hub for the residents of Southwest Edmonton. Like Whyte Avenue, it is a busy gathering space for visitors, young and old alike. Our afternoon tour began with picking up Diane and her guide dog Lucy, from where she works in the downtown core. We drove to the south side of Edmonton and parked at the corner of 83rd Avenue and 107th Street, on a quiet side street with free parking. I wanted to walk from a quiet to a more active street to make an easier transition for Diane. We just started walking and talking. From what I saw, there are just so many navigational challenges in the built environment for someone who is blind. Even getting out of the car was a challenge. I made the mistake of parking by a large tree and as Diane made her way from my car to the sidewalk she would have bumped her head on a low hanging branch had I not seen it coming and stopped her.
below left: On the way to Whyte Avenue. In the alley is a delivery truck that is parked but still running, plus a large air duct is making a lot of noise. Both sounds were uncontrolled and distracting for wayfinding. right: Whyte Avenue. A bus has come to a stop so we are now in a sound tunnel with music playing and people talking. Normally, Diane would stop moving and wait for the bus to move away.
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The first issue that Diane brought up is that consistent sounds help her in her wayfinding. This made me realise that as a designer, there are sounds that I can control and some I can’t. Weather conditions, such as wind and rain, create problems for her. Construction along the street, music coming from shops and buskers, music and honking from automobiles are all identified as distracting sounds. Audible signals at street intersections are very positive sounds. Diane also sees people talking and walking towards her as positive sounds, and the jingle of Lucy’s metal collar helps Diane, through echo location and how the dog reacts differently in various situations, to determine what is going on around her. * Once we arrived at Whyte Avenue, Diane mentioned that traffic sound is what she most pays attention to. For her, typical downtown traffic is predictable and she can easily identify the directional flow of the automobiles. Motorcycles and large truck sounds interrupt this consistent traffic flow. She explained that most often she will simply stop moving until the disrupting sounds disappear. When a bus stopped along the street, music was playing, and a crowd of people were talking; we found ourselves in a space between a building and the bus. Sounds were coming from every direction. We stood and waited until the bus left. Walking east towards the more active part of the street, I was surprised when Diane indicated we were beside a building. We had just moved from an open parking lot space to a building edge. People can use echolocation to navigate using clicks and echoes, as do bats and dolphins, to obtain information about nearby objects. Diane often wears shoes that make sounds from impact with the ground surface to help with echolocation. Technology also helps in wayfinding. Diane often uses a talking GPS to find a shop along a street, especially when it is a first time visit. This trip to Whyte Avenue was especially difficult because it
was her first time, she had to listen both to me talking and to the surrounding sounds, and she still had to instruct her dog how to guide. Sometimes when sound gets to be too much, Diane will take the arm of the person she is with for guidance. A second visit is always easier –even our walk back to the car along the same side of the street was noticeably more relaxed. At the Terwillegar Recreation Centre (the first time for Diane) we again spoke of controlled and uncontrolled sound. For positive acoustic wayfinding, the position of sounds must be consistent but not too loud. Automatic sliding doors that make a swish sound are positive, while mezzanine space creates negative cavernous echoing sounds. Terwillegar has both of these. As I was the Barrier-Free design consultant for this recreation centre, I now realise that I should have paid more attention to the issue of acoustic wayfinding. The most important lesson from my site visits with Diane was that as an architect, I can manipulate the surfaces below, beside and above us to control sound. It was interesting how Diane identified the entrance to the building from outside when we moved underneath the exterior canopy, and the same entrance from inside as the ceiling height changed. In both cases, sound became noticeably different. In architecture school, we were taught to create spatial interest by manipulating the ground plane, which often means stairs. I always resisted this because of my experiences growing up with a father in a wheelchair. My strategy has always been to create spatial interest by manipulating the ceiling surface. Before this visit with Diane, I just never thought of it as a sound design issue. j
below left: inside the Terwillegar Recreation Centre. The change in ceiling height helps identify that she is approaching an exit. right: An entrance to the centre. The red canopy changes the nature of the sound.
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city sound | city silences b y j o s h ua c r a z e
every thing its own silence
walkin g alie n atio n lis te n in g Par is le f lan e u r
For in these deserted corners, all sounds and things still have their own silences, just as, at midday in the mountains, there is a silence of hens, of the axe of the cicadas. — Walter Benjamin, Marseille
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Marseille: last week. A lot has changed since Benjamin’s visits to the city in the 1920s. A high-speed rail link from Paris has brought with it bankers looking for holiday homes, and helped along a process of gentrification that has been displacing poor immigrants from the city centre since the nineteenth century. The Vieux-Port is now a marine Disney-World, emptied of ships and sailors, and full of tourists and stalls where you can buy Marseille’s heritage in the easily transportable form of a souvenir plastic ship. It is no longer the rhythm of the sea that determines the city’s economy, but the ebb and flow of the holiday season, as Europeans arrive looking for some respite from a summer of economic crisis. Up on the hill, though, you can still find something of Benjamin’s Marseille. The church of Notre Dame de la Garde stands like a sentinel above the city, looking after the few sailors who remain. Its walls are full of pieces of ripped metal, jagged scraps torn from the hulls of ships by an angry sea. It is the church that will see the sailors of these vessels onto the final leg of their journey. Below the church, long narrow streets lead the visitor down to the harbour. I pause on one such street. Partially shaded from the strong summer sun, the pastel yellows and pinks of the houses recall an ice-cream parlour. There is almost no sound, just the gentle tap of a lazily closed window shutter, the quiet scratch of a cat’s claw against a door, and a dim hum from the port below. In the sun, each object stands distinct, solitary. Each has its particular silence. I recalled Benjamin’s Marseille when reading Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, where he describes the pleasure of going to the toilet. ‘The parlour’, he writes, ‘may have its charms, but the Japanese toilet truly is a place of spiritual repose.’ Tanizaki has exacting standards. The toilet must be in a grove fragrant with leaves and moss. There must be dim light. Most importantly, there must be a silence so complete that one can hear the hum of a mosquito. It is a good definition of silence, which is not the opposite of sound, but rather its lining. This is a different sense of silence to that of Walter Benjamin: silence in Tanizaki is where one can hear what is there. John Cage knew this when he composed 4’33, a composition that is not silent, but rather a frame that makes you aware of all that you dismiss as noise, or are not trained to hear. It allows you to appreciate that each thing has its own silence, just as, on a warm slow day in Marseille, there is a silence of the window shutters, of the cats lazily unwinding by doors, and of the busy tourist-port below. The silence that allows you to hear silence. Back in May, the photographer Giulio Petrocco and I set out for a day’s walk in Paris. Our task? To hear the silences of the city.
13th arrondissement: our small streets
measuring the city Cities sound best in the morning, just as they are waking up. In the 13th arrondissement, I can hear each car resound out through the streets: a dull trembling, that rises to a screech as it passes directly in front of me, before fading away. I imagine a city in which the location and speed of each object can be known, simply from its sound. The 13th is home to the oldest Chinese community in Paris, who look down from tower blocks that would not be out of place in Hong Kong onto their more recently arrived countrymen, who throng the city’s northern districts. Amid the tower blocks, though, there are signs of an older Paris. Detached houses on small streets keep aloof company next to supermarkets that sell the gai lan and duck that make Paris a home away from home. On these streets, every sound speaks of an intimacy. That morning, the birds have dominion, and their conversation seems frenetic, as if they are saying all they have to say before their aural battle with the traffic begins. Listen closely, however, and you can hear the signs of human life beginning amid the bird-song. Windows are carefully opened. There is the hiss of steam from behind a wall. I am just back from East Africa. There, life exists outside: shops, simple single-room concrete constructions, spill out onto the street; the interior doesn’t have a life of its own, but provides shelter for a life lived under the hot sun. In Paris, everything happens behind high walls and closed windows. Standing on one of those small streetsare hints of the secrets of Parisian life. Footsteps upon stairs, the cats’ insistence cries (food; now) – the sounds and the buildings are of a piece: quiet, slow, and domestic. Architecture is the envelope in which sound lives. It variously clothes it, reveals it, and sends it out into the world. One might think that sounds are always be attached to their cause, but this is not so. Architecture can hide as much as it can reveal.
From the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
one last project The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) was one of Mitterand’s last great schemes, designed to embed the name of the president in France’s glorious history. On a drizzly Sunday morning, the library’s enormous towers, jutting out of the labyrinthine tunnels in which the books are kept, seem desolate. Housed in the 14th arrondissement, and surrounded by new architectural schemes, it is as solitary as everything that surrounds it: a series of towers, all exposed innards and characterless glass, which do not talk to each other. The sounds are just as solitary. The boardwalks between the towers are immense, like a lost beach-promenade from an
enormous sea, and, this early in the morning, there are just a few dedicated joggers running around and around. You hear them pass, their feet heeled in the latest trainers, pound into the wood, and then the sound escapes; the architecture here is less an envelope than a whirlpool, which sucks you back into something that feels like silence. It would be hard though, to say there is a silence of the library. The library, like the towers around it, are a way of removing silence, and not cultivating it; their glory is too big, and too isolated, to allow things to be heard.
In the graveyard, in the middle of the money
the sound of the dead
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mirrors the keyboards clicking in the towers above: there is money to be made, and people to meet. All the lines of the architecture are designed for maximum efficiency, and the restaurants and shops change without anyone much noticing; everything here is exchangeable, nothing particular. On a Sunday, it all seems without direction. There is a silence here, but it is the silence of a place out-of-time. The sounds don’t belong to the place, but either to the drifters (a tramp, a plastic bag) that have stolen into the area – to be removed with the beginning of the working week – or to restaurant signs, hanging uselessly in the wind. It is the silence of ghosts.
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The 14th is unlike any other arrondissement of Paris; its hypermodernist lines and clear avenues recall the small winding streets of Monmartre only as their antonym. It feels rather as if Haussmann – the architect who created those endless boulevards in the centre of Paris – has been updated for the twenty-first century. If the 14th has a brother, it is La Défense, the financial district, which was placed just outside of Paris. Between enormous tower blocks there are small squares, full of elaborate restaurants, ready to serve bankers on expense accounts. The whole place – aurally and architecturally – can only make sense on a weekday, when it is full of people, and the chattering of clients over steak tartare
g i ul i o petrocco
In the middle of all this, in the centre of a French financial empire that looks increasingly likely to topple, there is a graveyard. While the former residents of La Défense found themselves priced out of the market, some things, it seems, are still sacred. Lines of trees mark the exterior, and provide a sort of sound barrier from the roaring traffic that surrounds it, like a city under siege. Here, I can hear the silence of those who are no longer with us, and it is punctuated by the rustling of the leaves, and the gentle lilt of flowers lain on graves. Here, each thing has its silence. European graveyards are almost always silent. We need them that way, in order to hear those that are still talking to us; still shaping our lives. Who has time for that now, with so much money to be made? I look for a grave laid after the 1970s. Amid the war dead, and the family tombs festooned with commemorative plaques, there is an old grave. It is marked en perpétuité, which signals that this spot has been bought for eternity by the family of the deceased. I struggle to read the words, cut into the stone; they are gradually wearing away.
La Défense, the heart of France’s crumbling financial empire g i ul i o petrocco
there is no sound
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I wonder though, at the efficacy of our investigation. Do architects still think of their buildings as envelopes for sound, now each of us is the sovereign of their own ears? Perhaps this is the reason that La Défense and the library are not envelopes; sound is not proper to places anymore, but to people. We maintain the libraries of our ipods and music players almost as carefully as Walter Benjamin cared for the sounds of rough streets in Marseille. I don’t hate this world in which we each have our own life of sound. On the 6:30am train, full of tired eyes and red-rimmed anguish, it seems like a dignified way of bearing the solitude that one already has as a wage-labourer. The existence of this world does, though, change how we think about architecture. Streets are no longer envelopes, and objects no longer have their silence. The sounds housed by buildings only functions as interruptions – the gentle throb of a train is now a distraction from the sound track to the film of our lives.
In Thinking Architecture, Peter Zumthor refers to “the deepest architectural experience that I know” – early memories of his aunt’s house: small dark red hexagonal tiles, and the thin, cheap clatter of the door. These sounds are not gone of course. People can’t be listening to Ipods all the time. But in the BNF and at La Défense, I see a new relationship to sound, one suited to an age of individuals. If, for Walter Benjamin, each thing has its own silence, and one must be attentive to hear it, then in these spaces, each person can have their own sound, as the architecture drains everything else away, leaving people alone with themselves. j
Marseille-Toulouse-San Francisco. 31 July-18 August 2012
calls for articles i s s ue 2 9: g eo l og y S pr ing 20 1 3 ideas/proposals for articles only: due 1st January 2013 specs: www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles
As always, take the themes in whatever direction you want, and remember, this is a journal about architecture and urbanism, design and landscape, about spatiality and construction. Push each theme into these fields. The deadlines are absolute.
The Anthropocene Era: the geological era we inhabit, hallmarked by all the changes on the earth that man hath wrought, including mining and smelting, the industrial revolution and consequent climate change. Despite the technology that allowed such changes, we are still unable to cope with geologic incidents: earthquakes and the tsunamis they often cause, landslides, the toxicity of the materials we release from the matrix of the globe, desertification. While a kind of avaricious human history has made these incidents generally fatal to humans, much effort is expended in combatting them – from the massively fortified levees now in place around New Orleans to snowsheds in the Rockies to carbon storage sites, and in explaining them – from the program of highway stops in Norway that explain geological phenomena, to contentious interpretive centres on the Columbia Ice Fields. And there are books, from Smudge Studio’s Geologic City: A Field Guide to the Geoarchitecture of New York that views New York, from its taxis to its road salt, through a geologic prism, to Eyles and Miall’s Canada Rocks: the Geologic Journey which explains much about how and why settlement located itself in particular geologic landscapes, to Kastner and Wallis, Land and Environmental Art. Two investigative groups, Land Arts of the American West and Friends of the Pleistocene have active programmes that document test sites, nuclear waste storage sites, water management systems and the often banal, sometimes heroic, traces of their existance.
errat um In last issue’s On Site review 27: rural urbanism, we failed to acknowledge that the text for the call for articles for issue 29 was taken from ‘final draft –Introduction: Geologic Turn as Emergent Cultural Phenomenon’, part of a forthcoming book by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse. Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books, 2012
i s s ue 3 0: ethi cs and pu bl ics Fa ll 2 0 1 3 ideas/proposals for articles only: due 1st July 2013 specs: www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles
For issue 29:GEOLOGY, we would like to go into the processes and products that serve as the bedrock to architecture and urbanism. There are theoretical positions on all of this, there is also the experience of practicing architecture and dealing with materials and their sourcing, supply, world markets, transportation, durability and sustainability. Ground conditions: bedrock or no, have an enormous influence on form, cost and structure. Tim Oke, from the geography department at UBC, once wrote about cities as very rough, spikey pieces of terrain that influence weather and consequently climate. A house is as big as a glacial erratic, a city is as large as a glaciated mountain – where does geology rub up against architecture and urbanism? Give us your thoughts, your experiences, your projects, your construction details.
What is good design? Who decides, and who is design actually for? Architecture and cities: both are used, occupied, loved, hated, and ultimately adapted by people very distant from original design processes. Thomas-Bernard Kenniff has pointed out that the discussion of ‘ethics and publics’ is relevant to both recent discourse and practice given the sort of ‘ethical turn’ in architecture of the last 15 or so years. He cites relational aesthetics, assemblage theory, actor network theory and dialogism as the theoretical underpinning to such discussions. We would add Eyal Weizman’s work to this topic.
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On Site review is called On Site because we are interested in projects, events and situations on site, i.e. not just on paper or as text. This issue could be very theoretical, but we want to bring the theory to built work. Your work.
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More generally, we are interested in what it means to intervene significantly into the lives and the environments of others. We want examples. What is this alleged turn to ethical architecture? What constitutes an ethical urbanism, and whose ethics are they? And who are our publics: must we know and understand them, or are they an abstract genre of users? Is our obligation to the here and now, or to the future?
On Site review is published twice annually (Spring and Fall) by the Association for non-profit architectural fieldwork [alberta] which promotes field work in matters architectural, cultural and spatial.
on site 28: sound Fall 2012 contributors: martin abbott is a recent MArch graduate from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, and currently lives and works in Berlin. His interest is in the city and the social, political and economic dynamics that influence it. www.futurestudio.info ryan bessey is a professional engineer with ten years experience specialising in the fields of acoustics, noise and vibration. His work has ranged from the acoustical design of high-end institutional buildings to complex rail vibration studies.
On Site invites theme-based submissions — reviews, commentary, photo-documentation, project descriptions, critical essays. www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles For any and all inquiries, please contact: email@example.com Canada Post agreement 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 copyright: On Site review and ANPAF[A] All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of Copyright Law Chapter C-30, RSC1988. cover price $14 subscriptions — per year/two issues: $24 two years/four issues: $38 three years/six issues: $50 in Canada: shipping and handling included. for USA: add $12/year for International: add $24/year back issues: $7.50 Libraries: order through SWETS, Harrasowitz or EBSCO subscription forms: www.onsitereview.ca/subscribe PayPal or cheque to On Site 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0Z5 editor: Stephanie White design: Black Dog Running printer: Emerson Clarke Printing, Calgary, Alberta distribution: Magazines Canada 1+ 416 504 0274 Ubiquity Distributors USA 1+ 718 875 5491
On Site gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our contributors, our volunteers, our subscribers and the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through their Publishing Grants to Arts and Literary Magazines.
will craig is a designer of architectural and urban projects with DIALOG and maintains a (slightly obsessive) interest in ideas for exploratory urbanism. He studied Architecture at Westminster in London, UK achieving distinction for his work. www.fortysevendesign.com joshua craze is a British-born essayist who lives in California. Once, when asked what it was like inside his head, he replied: “it’s very loud in here”. www.joshuacraze.com caelan griffiths: Jack-of-all-trades; master-of-none, has been employed variously as a blueberry quality control manager, museum curator, wine grape picker, census taker, postal worker, lithium-ion battery process operator, landscaper and busboy — he now studies landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia. zile liepins is a graphic designer and artist from Toronto, currently living in Europe. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or view her photos at www.zilezile.wordpress.com lady mccrady, offspring of two jazz musicians, had an entire exhibition of her paintings acquired by Jean-Pierre Fenez + Jean Michel Vinay Architects, Paris. Climate change activist collaboration welcomed. Studios in New York + New Haven. www.ladymccrady.com brian s pearson holds Master degrees in both music and architecture. He is a practicing architect in Oakland, California. jason j price is a PhD candidate in anthropology at UC, Berkeley and a filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com. chloé roubert is interested in the anthropology of art, objects and the everyday. A graduate of University College London in visual and material anthropology, she writes and curates about these questions and works in a digital think-tank in Montreal. She has written for magazines such as Canadian Art, C magazine and On Site review. olaf shäfer: architect, sound anthropologist; as a freelance architect runs Studio Urban Resonance in Berlin, founded with Valeria Merlini; crosses the fields of writing, building and sound. www. studiourbanresonance.de eon sinclair is a musician who attended Queen’s University and is both a founding member and bassist for reggae-punk band Bedouin Soundclash; he also deejays as The Soul Proprietor and is co-founder of Pirates Blend Records. He currently lives in his hometown of Toronto where he is in search of the perfect bathroom sound. helena slosar is an artist and architectural designer interested in engaging the public at various scales in order to redirect their consciousness and encourage new relationships between themselves, the social realm, and the built environment. www.helenaslosar.com nick sowers is an architect based in San Francisco. He is the founder of Soundscrapers, where he practices the construction of space with sound and 2x4s. His architectural work seeks the sonic sublime. www.soundscrapers.com emily thompson, Professor of History at Princeton University, studies the history of sound, listening, noise, music, phonographs, movies and architecture in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. In 2005 she was named a MacArthur Fellow.
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urs walter teaches design at the Institute of Architecture at Technische Universität Berlin. paul whelan is a Toronto-based architect working for Stantec. While he is a creature of the eye, occasionally his other senses kick in with and stir up long-forgotten memories. On Site also acknowledges the support of Calgary Arts Development, City of Calgary.
ron wickman is a leading advocate for barrier-free design in buildings and landscapes. His commitment to accessible housing and his award-winning practical and functional designs have earned him national recognition as an expert in accessibility and barrier free design. He practices in Edmonton. stephanie white is the editor of On Site review.
First, the Forests
4 October 2012 to 6 January 2013, Octagonal Gallery First, the Forests examines some unexplored relationships between forestry, planning and design. Reframing forestry as an activity that creates highly designed environments with unprecedented scale, ambition and precision, the exhibition proposes an expanded understanding of the connections between natural resources, production processes, and designed form. First, the Forests highlights four productive, culturally specific modes of managing forests: bureaucratic forestry, scientific forestry, tropical forestry and economic forestry. Each of these corresponds to specific geographies and phases in the evolution of modern forestry, from 16th century lists of forests and their owners in the republic of Venice, to architectural experiments in 1960s America. The categories are comprised of historical materials and contemporary artworks or design projects, which provide reflections on their main themes. The exhibition seeks to surpass existing disciplinary preconceptions of relationships between architecture, cities and forests by focusing on the abstract nature of forestry systems, and the curious disciplining of natural environments to the logic of artificial organizations. curator: Dan Handel. Composite picture comparing the mighty Douglas-fir with a ten-storey office building. From Durable Douglas Fir, America’s Permanent Lumber Supply, by Bror L. Grondal. (Seattle: West Coast Lumber Trade Extension Bureau, 1926), page 1617. CCA Collection. TC ID:89-B2041
ARCHIZINES celebrates the resurgence of alternative and independent architectural publishing around the world. The touring exhibition, curated by Elias Redstone and initiated in collaboration with the Architectural Association, features architecture magazines, fanzines and journals from over twenty countries that provide an alternative to the established architectural press. Edited by architects, artists and students, these publications provide new platforms for commentary, criticism and research into the spaces we inhabit and the practice of architecture. They make an important and often radical addition to architectural discourse and demonstrate a residual love for printed matter in the digital age. The exhibition features titles from the collection alongside video interviews with their creators. Each publication has selected one issue to present in the exhibition and make available for visitors to read. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published by Bedford Press, and ARCHIZINES LIVE events, bringing ARCHIZINES editors together for debate and discussion.
Santiago de Chile 17 October – 11 November 2012 GAM Cultural Centre Bratislava 5 – 23 November 2012 Faculty of Architecture, Slovak Technical University, Slovakia Dublin 15 November 2012 – 12 January 2013 Irish Architecture Foundation Venice (event) 21 November 2012 ARCHIZINES LIVE: Publishing Provocations, hosted by Salon Suisse
usa $14 mexico $14 europe e10 uk ÂŁ9 www.onsitereview.ca
architecture urbanism culture landscape art photography research $14 display until may 2013
Lady McCrady Daddio Listens 68"h x 54"w, oil on canvas, 2012
An inherent contradiction: reading a print magazine is a generally silent activity, unless one’s reading is punctuated with shouts of ‘oh no...