Unthinking / Unlearning
New sonic theories and praxis

Unthinking / Unlearning Новые теории и практики работы со звуком

The online laboratory and residency, a part of the Year of Germany in Russia 2020/21 and a collaboration between Klammklang label, Sound Studies and Sonic Arts (M.A.) at the Universität der Künste Berlin and Sound Art and Sound Studies (M.A.) at HSE Art and Design School, Moscow.

About The Laboratory

Unthinking/Unlearning project is set to develop new forms of sonic thinking and imagination through a series of online lectures and workshops focused on the potency of reinvention in current auditory, sonic and musical practices. The laboratory consists of two sections:

  • Theory: a course of twelve lectures available for anyone to enroll, focused on three major topics: sound as a social agent, new concepts of the sonic (Unthinking) and current sonic practice (Unlearning).

  • Practice: two groups of Russian-speaking participants (7-8 people each) selected via the open call. Depending on their own preferences, participants are given the opportunity to join the workshop they’re interested in, selecting from field recordings methods and advanced computer music techniques.

The laboratory will take part from May 15 to June 1, 2021.​​​​​​​

«The ear is not only a human organ set to collect the information from the outside world, but also a type of sensation that affects our understanding of it. We are never able to listen from a metapostion: unlike vision, we always listen with our own body, from within, experiencing the sound event in all of its paradoxical fullness and fleetingness. Using the ear to listen to the world is a decision that implies the rejection of the stable coordinates of Western culture, which are based on the visual and lingua-centric model of knowledge. In order to „hear“ the world, to become „in tune“ with it, we need to develop new forms of sonorous imagination and thinking, which involve affective sensuality instead of analytical strictness — a kind of „blindness“ that aims towards unknown discoveries»

Evgeny Bylina, lab co-curator

Practice

Found Sounds and Field Recordings

May 15—16th. Yulia Glukhova — Ways to Hear a Sound, Not Its Cause



From birth, we learn how to survive by identifying the sources of sounds — how close they are to us and how dangerous they are. Causal listening is built into our nervous system. During the workshop, participants will be asked to return to a time when sounds did not yet have sources, when they were still just «sounds in themselves». To truly hear a sound, we need to separate it from its cause. We will try to do this with the help of exercises: some of them will be demonstrated during the workshop, some will be suggested to the participants to do by themselves.

The workshop participants are to be selected via the open call (Russian-speaking only).

Yulia Glukhova is a sound artist and sound designer based in Moscow. She works as a sound supervisor at Arzamas Radio and teaches at HSE Art & Design School. In 2019 she was awarded a Phonurgia Nova Prize for field recording composition.

May 22—23rd. Felicity Mangan — Take It From the Bird. Creating Music Inspired By the Superb Lyrebird

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‘The Superb Lyrebird’ is an Australian Native bird, which is capable of mimicking natural and synthetic sounds from its natural environment — assembling the bird’s ecological soundscape in order to foul a predators’ perception. Participants will create their own music sampling biorhythms and timbres from an animal sound open-access archive.

Participants will be required to have Reaper downloaded onto their computers before the workshop. The workshop participants are to be selected via the open call (Russian-speaking only).

Felicity Mangan is an Australian sound artist and composer based in Berlin. In different situations she plays her found native Australian wildlife archive and other field recordings — exploring the timbre of animal voices and field recordings to create minimal quasi-bioacoustic environments. She has released her works with Longform Editions, Shelter Press etc. and participated in CTM, Sonic Acts and many other festivals.

Computer music technologies and techniques

May 15—16th. Lukas Grundmann — Stretching Time, Tracking Pitch and Re-synthesis

In the workshop we will analyse the spectral content of audio signals and use pitch tracking, re-synthesis and time-stretching as creative techniques for real-time composition. The workshop builds on solo work timestretched— ACID which applies time-stretch algorithms on patterns of 303 acid basslines, as well as on collaborative works with Hugo Esquinca and Camilla Vatne Barratt-Due.

Participants will be required to have Max 8 downloaded (trial version or full) onto their computers before the workshop. The workshop participants are to be selected via the open call (Russian-speaking only).

Lukas Grundmann is a sound artist based in Berlin, works with experimental and generative music. He is a co-curator of Cashmere Radio, teacher and administrator at Sound Studies and Sonic Arts M.A. program at the Universität der Künste Berlin.

May 22—23rd. Nikita Bugaev — Quitting the Dial. In Search of New Control Methods in Max

The main goal of the workshop is to find and create new control methods within the Max software environment. The workshop includes an introduction to the basic objects; as an alternative scenario, participants will be offered an lcd object: we will study the principles of its operation and use cases, and then develop our own virtual controller project. The workshop is built around getting acquainted with the basic principles of work and consistently expanding knowledge about the platform and the list of objects used. At the end of the workshop, all patches (with detailed comments included) will be published in the public domain.

Participants will be required to have Max 8 downloaded (trial version or full) onto their computers before the workshop. The workshop participants are to be selected via the open call.

Nikita Bugaev is a sound artist who teaches at HSE Art and Design School; he is a composer and sound designer at LCS Studio London. His creative works and compositions are released with Phinery, Oqko, Klammklang and other labels.

Theory

Part I. Sound as Agent of Social Change


May 15th. Salome Voegelin — The Political Possibility of Sound

The Political Possibility of Sound is the title of a book I published with Bloomsbury in 2018. An event that now seems to have taken place not only in the past, but in an entirely different world, with a very different sense of what appears possible, and with seeming impossibilities that have become real: politically as well as socially, and in terms of the concepts and conditions that frame existence, human and otherwise. These impossibilities include positive and hopeful imaginations. Agitating towards a new generosity, empathy and a sense of care. But they also present as darker and disturbing realities, where care is a decoy for political violence and suppression, and the confident reassertion of patriarchal and supremacist power structures, in broad daylight, as a norm that apparently takes care and reassures, or hidden under the swell of current anxieties and struggles.

Can we hear these transformations? Can we sound with and against them? Could listening as a critical practice of nuance, and as a leaning-in when social distance dictates otherwise, prepare us, if not for now, then for the next pandemic, which will surely arrive, should this one ever end. So that we are equipped to sound the possibilities and impossibilities of care and collectivity in a connected world, rather than support individuated imaginings of power.

Salomé Voegelin is an artist, writer and researcher engaged in listening as a socio-political practice; she is a Professor of Sound at the London College of Communication. She also currently represents the Professorship Klangkunst in den Kunstwissenschaften at Braunschweig University of Fine Art, Germany

May 16th. Vita Zelenska — Sonic Politics of Non/separation. Political Agency of Sound and Its (Possible) Boundaries




The lecture is going to consider various ways of sonic functioning through which sound becomes an agent of change (Leah Barclay). The main focus will be the problematics and the necessity of separation/non-separation of sound as an agent from the environment, spaces/places, and its discursive surroundings. I will further explore the politics of sound as a range of connectedness — to the body — to distant places — to not-so-human objects.

Vita Zelenska is an anthropologist, doctoral researcher at Leibniz ScienceCampus Regensburg, co-curator of the «Vslukh» educational programme, experimental thinker, and artist.

May 17th. Pedro Oliviera — On the Spectral As A Domain of (Sonic) Decolonizing Thought

How can an attention to the spectral materiality of voice create decolonizing forms of sonic thought? Drawing from my recent artistic and scholarly work on the use of so-called «accent recognition systems» in the asylum process of Germany, and in dialogue with the ideas of Sylvia Wynter and Denise Ferreira da Silva, I would like to propose that an interrogation of machine listening might reveal forking paths with which to understand how sound, voice, and language complicate what it means to be «human».

Pedro Oliveira is a Brazilian-born researcher, sound artist and educator whose work advances a decolonizing inquiry of listening and the materiality of sound. He is a PostDoctoral fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies who holds a PhD from the Universität der Künste Berlin.

May 18th. Jessica Ekomane — Sound Beyond Western Tradition

Since a few years now we’ve seen a rising critique of the ‘ontological turn’ in sound studies, referring to the constitution of a universalizing discourse in the discipline that conceives the community that produced it as a neutral framework. In the lecture we will focus on how this issue is reflected within my work, as well as present a few relevant individuals and initiatives that I collaborated with and that are major contributors to this discussion.

Jessica Ekomane is a French-born and Berlin-based electronic musician, sound artist and lecturer at the Berlin University of Arts (UdK). Her practice unfolds around live performances and installations. She creates situations where the sound acts as a transformative element for the space and the audience. In 2019, she released her debut LP via Important Records.

Part II. Unthinking

May 22nd. Holger Schulze — Sonic Fiction as Sonic Thinking: Towards a Sonic Vernacular

When one is listening to sounds one is entangled at the same time in an epistemological thinking process within sounding materials and within the particular fictions they instigate. But how can this even be possible? How can simple and allegedly ephemeral sounds indeed invite us to such a complex if not contradictory activity?

This talk focuses on how sonic fictions specifically can figure as a particular example of sonic thinking. In the first part, «The Situation as Interpreter» we will unfold an approach to understand the full, corporeal complexity of a listening situation, by applying the concept of sonic fiction and referring to examples from the work of sound artist and sonic thinker Sam Auinger.

The second part, «Your Listening Body» focuses on the more specific corporeal epistemology that lies underneath one‘s listening process and its sonic thinking. To do this we will refer to examples by composer, performer, writer and artist Pauline Oliveros.

The final and third part presents a tentative outline how to move «Towards A Sonic Vernacular». With the concept of a sonic vernacular the aforementioned epistemological and artistic practices can reach a wider audience. In this part I will refer to current developments in sound art and in the production of sonic artifacts.

Holger Schulze is a writer, researcher, professor in musicology at the University of Copenhagen and principal investigator at the Sound Studies Lab.

May 23rd. Ksenia Maiorova — A New Philosophy of Sound: Ontological Democracy and Multisensory Approach

Flat ontologies and multisensory epistemologies inspire us to reconsider two key differences that have been haunting sound studies ever since. The audio-visual litany ceases to serve as a self-sufficient conceptual instrument, as long as multisensory approach presupposes interconnection, not distinction, between the perceptual modalities. The sound/hearing dilemma [Kane] also loses its central status, just as the subject/object distinction loses the ontological one. In the lecture the conceptual connection between the tendencies highlighted above are going to be discussed, as well as the new questions that inevitably appear in flat and multisensory sound studies.

Ksenia Mayorova is a philosopher, research fellow and lecturer at Vysokovsky Graduate school of urbanism (HSE, Moscow). Her research interests include sound studies, urban studies and contemporary philosophy.

May 24th. Nikita Safonov — Pneumatic/Resonant, Fluxes/Sensors, Unmapping/Technopoetics: Undercurrent Tendencies in Sound Studies

The main task of this lecture is to delineate potential developments of the field of sound studies as a result of the processes which are connected to its natural-cultural roots and became catalysed after the «transduction turn» of the XXth century.

Grounding the narrative in several genealogies (J. Attali, C. Cuttler, J. Sterne, H. Schulze) of the discipline in question, connecting it to the concepts of G. Deleuze and modifying it by contemporary projects within the ontological turn in sound studies, we will trace certain socio-political and techno-poetical consequences of the shift caused by the integration of sonic recording and reproduction systems into the reality of the Capitalocene’s mechanosphere.

Dialectical rollercoaster of pneumatic and resonant conceptions of the sonic will be placed within the revelation of environmental and rhythmic manifolds. Flux-metaphysics and sensory materialism as a theoretical bases, sonic thinking and sonic warfare as collective cognitive instruments, unmapping and technopoetics as practical methodologies would help us to inflame epistemology with concrete sonic speculations.

Nikita Safonov is a Saint Petersburg-based poet, translator, socio-political philosopher and sonic researcher. He currently works upon a geophilosophical project which binds together sonic arts, radical philosophy and Earth science.

May 25th. Evgeny Bylina — «Jurgenson frequency». Listening as hallucination, listening as desire, listening as fiction

In 1959, Swedish producer and radio amateur Friedrich Jurgenson, while he was recording the birds, found strange voices on the tape — and decided that they belonged to his deceased relatives. Later, thanks to the work of his follower, psychologist Konstantin Raudive, such a phenomenon was called EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and became one of the fields of study for fans of paranormal. In an effort to explain this mysterious phenomenon, psychologists mentioned pareidolia and apophenia, radio engineers — wave interference, while sound artists found another metaphorical resource for their artistic practice.

However, if we reject rational skepticism and common sense, we can recall the words of Friedrich Kittler that after the invention of sound recording, ghosts have always haunted and shaped any discourse about the nature of sound. For example, the popularizer of radio Guglielmo Marconi believed that sounds do not disappear, but only become quieter — if we build a strong receiver, we can hear the Sermon on the Mount. Thomas Edison at the end of his life was going to create a «spirit phone». It is not necessary to mention that one of the main themes around contemporary electronic music has become Derridian «hauntology».

What if we put aside our preconceptions and seriously listen to the voices that come out of nowhere? We will accept this belief in the course of the lecture and try to consider the various listening modes that arise in connection with the phenomenon of EVP. In our opinion, a detailed analysis through the prism of psychoanalysis, phenomenology and media-theory will allow us to re-raise the question of the nature of listening, the relationship of sound, voice and technology, as well as to analyze the subject itself, that enters into a relationship with the sonic.

Evgeny Bylina is a cultural theorist, philosopher, lecturer at HSE Art and Design School, editor at New Literary Observer Publishing House.

Part III. Unlearning

May 29th. Aleksandra Zakharenko — Embodying Sound

In my artistic practice I closely explore the relation between sound, body and movement. How to reattach mind and body in order to become whole knowing what your wants and needs are. How a sound can help unlocking emotional blocks stored inside dissolving all suppressions. What are the healing properties of music to encourage deeper dive in self, connect with the body and release tension.

How does the sound enter a body and travel through it? Where does movement start? How to reach and ublock emotional clusters with the help of sound and deep listening of the body responses? In the artist talk I will share thoughts and discoveries based on personal observations and experiments, share my work process and useful practices I use myself in everyday life on my way to wholeness to become complete in this never ending journey.

Aleksandra Zakharenko is a St. Petersburg-born, Berlin-based sound and visual artist, DJ and performer exploring sensitive borderlines and depths of subtle matter. She is a co-founder of radio.syg.ma and WET platform. She released her works with Boomkat Editions, Sferic, Motion Ward, etc.

May 30th. Hugo Esquinca — ejecución pública / public execution

[45 minutes prologue to 15 minute selection of DEMO material]

60 minute inquiry into methods of subversion and inversion by means of inordinate oscillation and deliberate exposure to unstable audible situations, communicational sabotage, drastic hearing-behavior mechanisms and the (re)production of rancid listening situations which emerge from states of conceptual aberration, referential absurdity, processual corruption and fragmentary technics.

Hugo Esquinca is a Berlin-based instigator in audio electronics and acoustic interventions. His work has been presented in different contexts such as Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Ujazdowski Castle for Contemporary Arts (Warsaw), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Tresor and Berghain (Berlin) among others.

May 31st. Audrey Chen — Invoking Echoic and Physical Memories



​​​​​​​The artist talk will touch upon how, through the physicality of my practice, I try to bring forth a kind of storytelling without language but conveyed through sound. I am a second generation Taiwanese-Chinese American living in Berlin, Germany and a mother of a biracial/bicultural son. My practice has dealt with and continues to explore the displacement of story and history due to the migration and integration processes, loss and adoption of language, untold stories, how the past can be accessed and traced through inherited and lived experience and the importance of bringing this kind of sounding reflection and communication into our future generations. I activate my instruments, invoking a kind of joint resonant body/space transforming itself in a feedback loop of imagination, touch, vibration, sound and aural sensation. My practice is deeply intertwined with this act of invocation, calling upon my physical body to remember beyond the limitations of my own memory, beyond my lifetime into generations past, simultaneously echoing into the present and forwards.
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Audrey Chen is a Chinese/Taiwanese-American musician, based in Berlin, working with the cello, voice and electronics. She has performed across Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Canada and the USA.

June 1st. Jacob Erikssen — Sound as More-Than-Human Relation

In this lecture, I focus on sound as a means of relating between humans and nonhumans. Specifically, I will address how sound in contemporary artistic practices is used to establish trans-specific communication and how these approaches might differ from similar attempts to address the nonhuman through sound and music up until now. Drawing on current theory in critical posthumanism and sound studies, I will discuss how more-than-human relation is an alternative notion to the established dualism between nature and culture.

Jacob Eriksen is a sound artist and researcher who is currently completing his PhD in Sound Studies and Sonic Arts at Universität der Künste Berlin. His work oscillates between artistic experimental practice and theoretical conceptualisation.

Year Germany in Russia 2020/21

The Year Germany in Russia 2020/21 program aims to turn our eyes to the future and present Germany as a modern, progressive country, a reliable European partner for Russia and its residents. The organizers plan to show various aspects of life in Germany, the peculiarities of Russian-German relations, and further strengthen the ties between our countries. Dialogue and interaction between people play a key role here, because they are the ones that give meaning to these bilateral relations.

Partners

Sound Studies and Sonic Arts UdK — a part-time postgraduate program run by the Berlin University of the Art’s Berlin Career College, that is aimed at professionals working in the field of sound with a university degree or exceeding creative talent.

Sound Art & Sound Studies at HSE Art and Design School — a division of one of Russia’s largest universities focused on a variety of sonic practice and theory.

Klammklang is a Siberia-born, Moscow-based independent label focused on non-genre and experimental music, documents of sound art and other contemporary sonic practice.

Project Team

Stas Sharifullin

composer, researcher and artist working with sound, head of Sound Art and Sound Studies M.A. program at HSE Art & Design School, Klammklang co-curator, Candidate of Sciences (PhD).

Julia Sharifullina

sound artist and psychoacoustics researcher, senior lecturer at HSE Art & Design School, Klammklang label co-curator.

Evgeny Bylina

cultural theorist, philosopher, lecturer at HSE Art and Design School, editor at New Literary Observer Publishing House.

Lukas Grundmann

sound artist based in Berlin, works with experimental and generative music. He is a co-curator of Cashmere Radio, teacher and administrator at Sound Studies and Sonic Arts M.A. program at the Universität der Künste Berlin.

Olga Zubova

sound and visual artist, performer, art historian and curator, member of iBiom art collective. She is currently receiving her MFA in Sound Arts & Sound Studies at HSE Art and Design School.