Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 25 | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University
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Articles and Notes

  • Noise Pollution and the Eco-Politics of Sound: Toxicity, Nature and Culture in the Contemporary Soundscape
    Tom Kohut
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    Sound is a political question of which the antagonisms of noise pollution are a concrete embodiment. The discourses of noise pollution tend to postulate noise as a toxin that is produced by our industrial societies and is difficult either to contain or even define precisely. Composer R. Murray Schafer contrasts this toxin with a sustaining nature, but ecological thought of the past decade suggests that nature is, in fact, unnatural. The field recordings of Chris Watson and Francisco López suggest that this natural perversity can indicate a new mode of sonic ecological sustainability.

  • The Tragic Art of Eco-Sound
    Alison Pezanoski-Browne
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    In this article, the author analyzes the work of two artists, Miki Yui and Jana Winderen, who respond to unprecedented ecological change by using nature field recordings as the foundational element of their compositions and installations. Their works replicate environmental dissolution and dislodge listeners from the habits and assumptions of everyday life. The author draws upon the work of sociologist Henri Lefebvre, defining rhythmanalysis, the everyday, and, in Lefebvre’s words, the “dialectical dynamic between tragedy and daily life.”

  • The Sonic Witness: On the Political Potential of Field Recordings in Acoustic Art
    Gerald Fiebig
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    Contemporary sonic artworks often use field recordings from places of historic or social significance to address political issues. This article discusses relevant works for radio and fixed media by Peter Cusack, Jacob Kirkegaard, Eliška Cílková, Anna Friz and Public Studio, Stéphane Garin and Sylvestre Gobart, Ultra-red, and Matthew Herbert and outlines how they use both audio and visual/textual information to create awareness of the issues inscribed in these places, from current environmental concerns to the memory of genocide and displacement.

  • Power Struggles: The Politics of Composing with Sounds of Protest
    Tullis Rennie
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    The author challenges perceptions of authorship within the practice of field recording, discussing sonic arts responses to political subject matter and examining the power dynamic among recordist/composer, subject and listener. He considers compositions drawing on recordings of protests as a medium to represent political content without recourse to language.

  • Dementia, Music and Biometric Gaming: Rising to the Dementia Challenge
    Helen R. Mitchell
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    In 2012, the U.K. government launched its Dementia Challenge, authorizing additional funding for dementia research and health care. The search for curative medicines is ongoing, but scientific research reveals evidence that music can play a positive role in general health, and in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in particular. This article considers whether some of the challenges that dementia presents could be addressed through music therapy and proposes that biometric gaming might offer one means of channeling such associated health benefits to sufferers of dementia, even in the final stages of the disease.

  • The Meanings in Making: Openness, Technology and Inclusive Music Practices for People with Disabilities
    Koichi Samuels
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    Digital musical instruments and interfaces can be designed to enable people with disabilities to participate in creative music-making. Advances in personalized, open source technologies and low-cost DIY components have made customized musical tools easily accessible for use in inclusive music-making. In this article, the author discusses his research with the Drake Music Project Northern Ireland on making music-making more inclusive.

  • Experimental Music with Young Novices: Politics and Pedagogy
    Adam Tinkle
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    The author describes an experimental music-based pedagogy developed for workshops with untrained musical novices. He discusses the political impetus and implications for teaching music outside the traditional framework of instrumental skill-development and reproduction of extant works. Instead, he suggests an anti-hierarchical and empowering pedagogy through which anyone can exercise authorship and agency with music composition. Finally, he shows how the open-ended sonic inquiry—“the outcome of which is not foreseen”—that is characteristic of Cagean music resonates with trends toward STEM education.

  • Sound Exchange: Reframing Music Composition Educational Practice
    Daniel A. Walzer
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    Affordable technology facilitates an immediate documentation of sound and space that encourages collective artistic expression modeled after track- or song-remixing websites. Students in a newly proposed music composition course must capture and generate original sounds, and then upload them to a separate class drive for other students to reuse. New creative work consists entirely of these reused sounds. The author discusses the use of remixed sound collages in an open access format and considers the positive influence of legal file exchange and remixing in educational musical practice.

  • Glitch/Failure: Constructing a Queer Politics of Listening
    Andrew Brooks
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    This article is an attempt to bring sound studies discourses into dialogue with queer theory, to “queer” the field of sound studies, and to open up queer theory to the textual canon of sonic art. Concerned with notions of failure, this article deals with glitch and examines the result when error, malfunction and failure are amplified within systems. The author argues that the glitch, a key conceit of experimental music, is a productive framework for theorizing minoritarian politics and alternative modes of knowledge production.

  • DIY Electronics: Revealing the Material Systems of Computation
    Ryan Jordan
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    The author sets out an extension of do-it-yourself (DIY) electronics as a literal critical practice addressing the social, economic and geological systems shaping technologies we use, presenting several real-world examples and concluding with future directions.

  • Changing Music’s Constitution: Network Music and Radical Democratization
    Shelly Knotts
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    A review of radical democratic theories influenced by technological developments and nonhierarchical network structures allows us to analyze factors influencing hierarchical structure in music ensembles. Network music ensembles are uniquely positioned to deploy heterarchical technologies that enable them to address radical democratic concerns relating to communication structures and power distribution. This essay provides examples of current politically tinged explorations in network music and examines the room left for maneuvering in developing systems that consider the implication of data structures on sociopolitical hierarchy.

  • Sonic Proxemics and the Art of Persuasion: An Analytical Framework
    Karen Collins
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    This paper introduces a framework for the creation and analysis of sonic spatialization and proxemics in audiovisual media. The authors apply the framework to three public service announcements to show how sonic proxemics can be used as a rhetorical device that may be used to strengthen political aims.

  • Sounds, Images, Politics and Place
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    The author discusses the concepts he has developed while gathering sound(s) and images for projects engaging politics and place, often at sites where human rights abuses have taken place. These works include recordings made at several Japanese-American and Aleut internment sites and at Nazi concentration camps, as well as borderlands works, environmental works on water use in the U.S. Southwest, and works addressing climate change in the Arctic.

  • Physical Glitch Music: A Brutalist Noise Ensemble
    Mo H. Zareei
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    This article introduces an ensemble of mechatronic sound-sculptures designed and developed to realize glitch music outside of computers; the sculptures instead create glitches mechanically, physically and visibly. A brief description of the three different instrument types forming the ensemble is followed by a discussion of how the sound-sculptures employ a Brutalist “anti-beauty” approach in terms of both design and ideology.

  • Baghdad Music Journal: A Soldier’s Move toward Technology in Music
    William A. Thompson IV
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    The author was deployed to Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army National Guard in April 2004. He left his acoustic piano roots and embraced electronic music as a way to stay involved with music during his deployment. While deployed in Iraq, Thompson recorded and released a CD entitled Baghdad Music Journal (BMJ). The soldier’s recording was made and released while he was deployed to an active war zone and is a document of his experience. Describing his time in Iraq, he discusses how it has changed his musical practice.

  • Considering the Politics of Sound Art in China in the 21st Century
    Jing Wang
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    In 21st-century China, “being political” can mean many things, particularly as discourses on the global economy, environmental pollution, consumerism, sensual perceptions and gender politics become increasingly concrete at local levels. Contemporary Chinese sound artists go beyond the mere use of the language of propaganda and instead make works that play different sociopolitical roles—heroic, observant or participatory—to address sociocultural, sensual and spiritual issues. The author shows that the political statement made by a sound work in China depends to a great degree on the sociopolitical contexts in which the work is exhibited and performed, as well as the sociopolitical identity of its creator.

  • Cultivating Activist Lives in Sound
    Tara Rodgers
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    The author discusses political dimensions of electronic music and sound cultures in the historical present, critiques various ways that neoliberalism inflects and constrains creative practice, and outlines cultural and political aspirations that sonic activists might pursue.

  • The Instrumentality of Sense in Bruce Nauman’s Audio Video Piece for London, Ontario (1969–1970)
    Adi Louria-Hayon
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    Bruce Nauman’s installations have long served a literary and linguistic critique emphasizing the role of the body in relation to space and time. However, focusing on vision, phenomenology and semiotics, scholars of Nauman have paid little attention to the sounding body. The author weaves the political basis of audition into the making of sense while morphing the historical and philosophical roots through a close examination of Bruce Nauman’s Audio Video Piece for London, Ontario, a work executed soon after unrest on the American West Coast and in the streets of Paris. Unhinging the unity of sensus communis, Nauman’s work proposes new political trajectories for dispersed sounding bodies.

  • Schwitters’s Ursonate and the Merz Barn Wall
    Martyn Hudson
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    This paper notes the importance of Kurt Schwitters’s Merz project to the modernist politics and poetics of exile of the 20th century. Placing the sound work of Schwitters within his full Merz project, the author assesses the relations between the Ursonate and the final Merzbau. He discusses three of these relations—collage, found objects and the structures of building materiality in language and sculpture—and presents Schwitters’s work as culminating in a vision of sound and building structures in what Brandon Taylor has called “intrusive new entities” of collage and assemblage that are themselves analogous to the “intrusive new entities” of human material itself.

  • Making Activist Sound
    Christopher DeLaurenti, Douglas D. Peden
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    The author discusses his approach to recording protests and other politically charged soundscapes.

  • The Lines Beneath Your Feet: Representing Urban Protest through Sound
    Christopher Wood
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    The author describes the development of a series of pieces based on recordings of protest in public spaces. Particular attention is paid to the ability of each form to represent the experience of participating in a protest.

  • True Bread: The Sounds of Change in Cuba
    Neil Leonard
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    This article examines True Bread, an installation that engages listeners in the evolving sonic environment of Cuba. The work was made in collaboration with Cuban street vendors, examining the vendors’ presence as a signifier of imminent social and political change.

  • Black Field Plates: Emergent Ecologies in Sonic Art
    Nathan Thompson
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    Black Field Plates (2014) is a series of sound installations. The series is an investigation into the politics of emergent sound composition. By imitating the ways in which natural systems organize matter, these sound installations self-organize sound and compose music.

  • Soundscapes of the Post-Soviet World Today: Resounding Lithuania
    Sandra Kazlauskaitė
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    Soundscapes of the Post-Soviet World Today is an ethnographic sonic art project that aims to reveal the soundscapes of contemporary post-Soviet countries. In this statement the author presents the project’s first case study: the soundscapes of Lithuania.

  • Return to SOURCE: Contemporary Composers Discuss the Sociopolitical Implications of Their Work
    Alyce Santoro
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    During the heat of the fraught political climate of 1969, the editors of SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde invited 20 innovative composers and musicians to respond to a single question: “Have you, or has anyone, ever used your work for political or social ends?” Forty-five years later the author posed the same question to 20 unconventional composers working today, resulting in a provocative contemporary update to the original 1969 SOURCE article.

  • Cantos Cautivos: Online Archive of Songs of Political Captivity in Pinochet’s Chile
    Katia Chornik
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    Cantos Cautivos (Captive Songs) is a recently launched online archive of songs created, performed and listened to in the context of political detention and torture in Pinochet’s Chile (1973–1990). This article contextualizes the project, provides an overview of the archive’s current materials, outlines a selection of challenges, and highlights its contributions of music, accounts and documentation.

LMJ 25 Audio Companion

Reading List

  • Art, Science and Politics in Leonardo and Leonardo Music Journal, 1968–2015

2015 Leonardo and Leonardo Music Journal Author Index

Leonardo Network News


Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 25

December 2015