Sound Stream: A Journey

Sound Stream: A Journey

I first encountered live online sound streams around the same time I started to explore the many forms of online soundmaps (that are discussed in the previous blog).

In 2006, I hung a microphone out of the window of what was then the offices of Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice (CRiSAP) on the 13th floor of a 1960s tower block in the area of London called Elephant & Castle. I remember dialling into that online stream from my home in Brighton at the same time as Jérôme Joy, a researcher at Locus Sonus who was living in Aix-en-Provence and who had helped me get the stream up and running (technical matters, especially those involving cables and mixers, never being my forte). As we both heard the window frame rattle, rain spatter the glass, rolling rumbles of thunder and a sky torn by lightning, we exchanged emails about our experiences of this strange triangulation of a listening between the microphone in London, headphones in Aix and loudspeakers in Brighton. In 2020, two months into the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, as part of the launch of Night Blooms, a poetry and photography collection published by Makina Books, I ran through the woods that were the book’s inspiration live streaming my breath, the swish of my feet through grass, bird calls, traffic on Ditchling Road. In 2022, as part of our sonic explorations of the Port of Shoreham near our homes, Simon James and I live streamed the sound of the dawn tide rising over a bank of shingle. 

The 2006 stream was broadcast on the Locus Sonus map; in 2020 and 2023, the streams were part of the annual Reveil event created by Soundcamp to celebrate the dawn chorus, with streams from all over the world being mixed live over a period of 24 hours. Although there are other sound streaming platforms, protocols and practices, Locus Sonus and Soundcamp were my introduction to the process. Each organisation additionally amplified a space of exploration where such strange almost-simultaneous encounters with audio transmission as Joy and I experienced could be thought about and thought with. Locus Sonus hosted a number of symposia dedicated to the form; Soundcamp published the book Sounds Remote about the stream experience and commissioned a number of essays of which Ella Finer’s is exemplary.

For this year’s Reveil, Arctic Auditories established a live microphone on the roof of the Polarmuseet. In March at the Soundcamp HQ, Katrin and I had an induction to the technology: learning a little more about how the streambox –  the system through which the microphone connects to a mini-computer that connects to a nearby data network and routes the audio signal to a transmission server where Joy or I or anyone else can listen in.

Given what I said earlier about technical matters, it was lucky for me that Katrin was the person responsible for getting the streambox running, as I gather this was far from a simple operation, albeit an ultimately successful one. These screenshots show the audio stream running during Reveil.

The streambox itself underwent something of an eccentric voyage from Soundcamp HQ in Loughborough Junction to the Polarmuseet in Tromsø / Romsa. The protectively-packed equipment flew with Katrin’s luggage to Oslo before being handed to our colleague Silje Gaupseth’s partner (who took the box to a meeting at the Norwegian Parliament). After the flight to Tromsø / Romsa, the wonderful Benn Gjøran Johansen wrapped the water-proofed microphones and computer in a fishing net and secured the device to the roof of the Polarmuseet, where it is now installed.

The travels of the electronic audio equipment that were distinguished by bubble-wrap, physical hand-overs and being enclosed in secure netting and Katrin’s technical ministrations to ensure that the system functioned well both speak to something Grant from Soundcamp told us about regular streamers: that they establish relations of care with their streams. At our meetings, Katrin, Paula, Britta and I have talked about another aspect of that care relation – a certain vigilance of ‘checking in’ that involves making monitoring the stream something we turn to again and again, as entertainment, as education, as a reassurance things are OK. We dial in to hear what is happening on that harbour roof top: rain falling on the sloping tiles, a party of school children walking past, the slush of melting snow, a noon high tide making waves lap audibly the shore, kittiwake cries, the weekday percussion of construction work (a chorus of hammers, drills, ratchets and truck reversing sirens all conducted by indistinct shouts), the occasional helicopter, boat engines and the very rare sound of a boat horn and the perennial drone of traffic crossing the bridge.

I often share our Arctic Auditories audio feed with friends. Many are shocked at the disparity between what they imagined a harbour so far into the Arctic Circle might sound like and how very “urban” the microphone and box and its rooftop perch make Tromsø / Romsa sound. This experiential contrast is one potential significance of the stream for our project, an affective tension that I think has often been explored by projects sponsored through Soundcamp, Reveil and Locus Sonus.

The prosthetic aurality of our streambox offers remote listeners the opportunity to speculate how the specific microphone, gain settings and placement might amplify or attenuate particular features of the sounded environment in the historic harbour of Tromsø / Romsa; to wonder about what is made here and what now, what is near and what far; to question what it means to hear world as a “live” unfolding and perhaps to question what kinds of latencies (technical as much as cultural) insert themselves between the original releases of mechanical energy that a museum passer-by might hear and the transmission that vibrates from speakers connected to a distant computer.

You can listen to the feed here and let us know what you think.

References

Ella Finer, “Soundcamp 2020”

Kate Donovan, “Night Radio. Radio – anthropocene entanglements,”

Angus Carlyle, “Like Trees in a Wrong Forest”

Anneka French, “Everything Looks Different in the Dark”

Video showing the pages of Night Blooms

-Angus Carlyle

On Soundmaps by Angus Carlyle

On Soundmaps by Angus Carlyle

Me and soundmaps go back a long way. I’ve been avid – and frequently critical – consumer of these modalities of aural cartography for several decades. I have integrated exploration of soundmaps into my teaching, in recent years running workshops with the wonderful MA Sound Arts students at London College of Communication, whose approaches always offer inventive (and sometimes  radical) responses to the conventions that have accreted around the form, conventions that became enshrined in a long-standing Wikipedia definition that proposed ‘digital geographical maps that put emphasis on the sonic representation of a specific location’. I commissioned an article about one example of such a digital online soundmaps from the collective New York Society for Acoustic Ecology, who discuss their multi-faceted NYSoundmap in my 2009 book Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice.

I’ve made unambiguous sound and mapping projects, too, such as “51° 32 ‘ 6.954” N / 0° 00 ‘ 47.0808” W,” my unforgivingly-titled contribution to the Sound Proof group show at the E:vent Gallery, London in 2008, which addressed the transformation of what had been a canal-side pocket of light industry and open green space for the 2012 Olympics. For 2012’s Viso Come Territorio (“Face as Territory”), another group show, I made a soundmap of the Italian commune San Cipriano Picentino in Campania.

Here are two responses to my sound-mapping activities, the first from Sound Proof’s curator Monica Biagioli, the second from Salome Voegelin’s Sonic Possible Worlds:

“Carlyle’s contribution to a sense of social and spatial orientation is asserted through finely noted observation of activity and ephemera encountered during his visits to the site. These seemingly inconsequential events and objects are plotted diagrammatically on his map as key markers of the site, giving prominence to the vernacular components of this site in transition. His approach echoes the notion that whoever maps the space gives that landscape and location its territorial characteristics”.

(Biagioli 2018: 102)

“This geography is not that of San Cipriano Picentino and not of my living room either but that of their possibilities generated in my recentred listening, exploring the material that sounds there and bringing it back into the actuality of my present listening that is every thicker and pluralized for it. These sonic narratives do not share in the generality of the visual map, nor in the image we might have of an area […] I am not following the map but mapping my own while listening.”

(Voegelin 2014:34)

From my own perspective, a lot of my creative practice inhabits a space that is proximate to maps, map-making and the devices of cartography –  and this applies not just to the more explicitly sound-related works, as might be visible above on the cover of my Makina Books poetry collection Night Blooms and an inside page from the self-published work Mirrors.

Alongside these creative projects, I’ve written a little on maps and map making. In 1999 I wrote “Below This Level There is None,” a chapter for City Levels that riffed on Virilio, Dostoyevsky and Ralph Ellison about the underground as an architectural space and how the vertical projection that is common (and pretty much ubiquitous in its adoption on online soundmaps) occludes what lies below. In 2022, I contributed an article to the Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies which, to an extent, takes some of the thinking in the 1999 article and adapts it for the sonic realm.

I’ve put both these articles on my very sparse medium account for you to read.

“Dropping Down Low: Soundmaps: Critique, Genealogy, Alternatives,” (2022) read here: https://medium.com/@anguscarlyle/dropping-down-low-ab7137ab60b2

The ideas of maps and layers of sound knowledge has been a recurrent idea in Arctic Auditories. You might remember that when it was Za Barron’s turn to post to our Instagram account, she talked about sound maps: “maps can take many forms and tell many truths, but some might argue (me, for example) that they have to be visual to be maps. I just can’t get my head around the idea that a sound is a map. This is not my ontology of maps, but this project is pushing on it…”

Alongside the recordings of our conductors telling us how they have designed their soundwalks, the recordings of the walks themselves and recordings of post-walk discussions, I have been looking at Paula Ryggvik Mikalsen’s and Britta Sweers’ analyses of the transcripts of soundwalks to guide me to make new recordings of the soundwalk locations that capture a balance between what the conductor intended and what the participants experienced. This is not at all an easy task, but the inspiration is to create an online soundmap that seeks to represent this process.

I’ve been using Udo Noll’s astonishing Radio Aporee as a platform to disseminate this developing soundmap. Radio Aporee has been running online since 2000, has been hosting its maps since 2006, backs its files to the Internet Archive, has many very useful resources and, at the moment I am writing, would take me 225 days, 4 hours, 57 minutes and 40 seconds to listen to all its content. Radio Aporee is a firm feature of my soundmap teaching, it appears in the Bloomsbury chapter and it is certainly a good example of one of those soundmaps I mentioned right at the start of this blog post: one that I respond to as a listener. Radio Aporee has its own rules, such as the injunction to avoid ‘composition’ by editing or layering recordings. I have imposed further restrictions, too, but I am slowly building this Arctic Auditories layer. The quality of existing Aporee contributions sets the bar dauntingly high.

The current distribution of my recordings for the Arctic Auditories map looks like this.

If we zoom in you can see that there is a cluster in Tromsdalen / Romssavággi, reflecting the three soundwalks that took place there, each with quite rich details.

One of these recordings seeks to capture the sounds of the water that two soundwalk conductors told us had special meaning for them in this area.

The best way to get a sense of what I am doing with this online map is to dial into Radio Aporee yourselves (something I highly recommend you do anyway). To navigate to our Arctic Auditories project map within Radio Aporee and explore, head to this link: https://aporee.org/maps/work/projects.php?project=arcticauditories.

-Angus Carlyle

Notes from the Borealis Festival, Birgon 2024 – Part 1.

Notes from the Borealis Festival, Birgon 2024 – Part 1.

My name is Paula Ryggvik Mikalsen, and I hold a postdoc position connected to Arctic Auditories situated at the Institute for Gender and Women’s Research at the University in Tromsø. I had the pleasure of attending the Borealis Festival in Birgon/Bergen, and I wanted to share my experience of the festival with you. The Borealis Festival celebrates experimental music from all over Norway and Sápmi, and this year it focused on Sámi experimental music, in collaboration with Sámi artist Elina Waage Mikalsen. From the Borealis homepage:

How does who you are affect how you listen?

Are you excited or tired, or both?

Are you with friends or alone?

Are you listening to something you know, or is it new to you?

What histories and structures are you assuming are “normal”?

The Borealis Festival team in collaboration with Elina Waage Mikalsen

These questions I thought resonated beautifully with what we’re investigating in Arctic Auditories. Over the course of three days and three panel conversations, we listened to artists, researchers, composers, and craftspeople talk about how they use their roots and traditions to connect with their art, histories and culture. The journey began on Wednesday morning.

The journey south felt very apropos, traveling from one cold, dry hydrosphere and arriving in a wet, extremely humid one in Birgon. Winter still held Romssa firmly in its grasp when I left early on Wednesday the 13th of March, and I had to switch my wool coat for my long raincoat and seek shelter from the onslaught of rain. I traveled with my friend Ellen Marie Bråthen Steen (@new_sami_music_phd), who’d been asked to be part of the panel on Sámi experimentalism on Thursday. The kind folks at Borealis picked us up, and they told us they had hoped that the fine weather they’d enjoyed up until now would continue, but alas. It is curious how much cities and its people are shaped by their weather conditions, and the excess or absence of water. Ellen and I had packed more wool than rainproof gear, as we were perhaps more optimistic about travelling to a more gentle climate. Our idea, as North-Norwegians, of spring is that brief interlude between the grey-black of lingering snow and the bright green of summer. This spring in Birgon, on the other hand, was wrapped in mist, clinging to the evening air, obscuring our vision, and augmenting the sounds of wet tires on wet asphalt; the rubbing of jacket cloth as you bundle up tight to keep the moisture out; the heavy flow of the rain running down slanted streets into the harbour.

Thursday – Sámi Experimentalism

I purchased Johan Sara Jr. new album of classical music Gávcci jahkodaga The Eight Sámi Seasons.

At breakfast on Thursday morning, Ellen introduced me to her co-panelists Jakop Janssønn (@jakopjanssonn & @sami_ritmmat) and Ánndaris Rimpi , and later by artist Johan Sara Jr., and Jalvvi Niilas Holmberg. We told stories over coffee and talked about music, about joik in academia, acoustemology (how to interpret the world through sound) and what we dreamed of last night.

Do you know who called me 35 min ago? It was Björk. She wants to work with me. The only problem is – it was a dream.

Some decades ago, temperatures dropped to almost -50 in Guovdegaidno/Kautokeino. This news reached the Norwegian broadcasting network, who sent a journalist to interview the inhabitants. He arrived, and struck up a conversation with a local man at the supermarket.

– Wow, it’s really cold now! says the journalist.

-Oh? You think so? says the local man.

-Of course, it’s -50 degrees outside!

– Yes, outside, sure!

After breakfast, we headed out to the library early. We borrowed umbrellas from the hotel – every shop and restaurant in Bergen has “umbrella parking stations” – and arrived in the cellar auditorium of Bergen Public Library. Multicolored orbs were artistically placed around the sofa where Jakop Jansønn and Ánndaris joined Ellen. Jakop is a PhD and a drummer, Ánndaris hails from Oalloluokta in Jokkmokk and is a Lulesami composer and sound artist (and the voice of Olaf in Jikŋon). The lights dimmed, and after a brief introduction and welcome from a representative from the Bergen Sámiid Searvi/ Bergen Sameforening, Jakop introduced himself and his co-panelists.

On the question of his relationship to Sámi experimentalism, Ánndaris replied that it depends on who perceives it as “experimental”, and from there the answer lies in listening, and what we perceive as sound and what is perceived as music. Jakop played a short recording that was made about a hundred years ago, of a man playing a fatnu, a Sámi flute-like instrument made from Angelica root. The recording was made on a wax-roll, which affects the recording’s tempo, pitch, and ‘quality’. Does this qualify as Sámi music? Ánndaris replied in the affirmative and delved further into the idea of leaving room for improvisation as part of project planning. He imagined, using the recording as a point of departure, that at it’s core improvisation was a key component of that recording. Finding the plant, adjusting it, discovering what sounds you could produce, and then playing with these different sounds, are not only the same elements as modern composing but of experimentalism. The ephemerality of the fatnu also becomes part of the Sámi musical tradition. While the sounds produced have a limited lifespan in it’s current form, the melodies, the stories and rituals live on in the people who listen to them. The people travel, and so do the sounds. A hundred years later, this recording has made it’s way to us, for us to make new connections.

Ellen is also writing her PhD (Music Conservatory at UiT) on Sámi music and the use of Sámi culture in new musical forms. Her project is very attuned to the question of what Sámi music is, and who determines its parameters. She talks about listening as a full-body activity, and how during the course of her project, experimental music has cemented this idea for her. The “experimental” nature her PhD-corpus has had a physical impact; she feels it in her body as much as she hears it. There is no Cartesian mind/body division. Sami music is mind/body inclusive, they’re one from the beginning built on the premise that we listen with our bodies.

The panelist also discussed sounds as signals or cues. Different sounds mean and signal different things depending on the context in which they are heard. For example, the sound of antlers rubbing together, for a reindeer herder signals the end of September. Ánndaris explained that he intentionally removes himself from Western mindsets that aver that humans are “masters of nature”. His understanding of the world, based on his Sámi upbringing, situates himself as part of nature, and that all humans are part of, rather than set apart from nature. Working with concrete sounds, he has often experimented with trying to capture individual sounds – “How do I record one mosquito?” – which constitutes huge technical challenges, but I find his practice inspiring. I can only imagine the attention and focus it takes to single out particular sounds in environments of collective species.

Sounds from nature are subjects, not objects of nature and of the earth.

Ánndaris

The consensus among the panelist was that sound has a unique ability to transport listeners in time and space, a concept which permeates Ánndaris’ sound installation Birástiddje beljustallam (translation: Sharpened Listening to Your Surroundings). We went to the installation later during the festival, and it was a fantastic experience. Bergen Lydgalleri is a big rectangular space – decorated for the occasion with soft pillows, reindeer fur, sheepskin rugs and pillows in a circle. Speakers formed the outer square, bathing us sounds of mosquitos, old refrigerator sounds, winds, lo-fi beats of about 66 bpm, – the emulation of a human heartbeat. Ánndaris asked us to close our eyes, take a nap, or journey as far or as short as we wanted. I have never experienced anything like it, and I highly recommend experiencing his installations, as they are beyond words. They need to be felt, not described, I think.

The Borealis festival seems very occupied with developing and cultivating listening spaces, and all the panelists throughout the festival were happy to have and share spaces where they could celebrate and engage with their culture, heritage, and diverse backgrounds. Nevertheless, I made a conscious effort to be aware of my own situated body in all the gatherings. My attendance was rooted in my role as a researcher, but in some ways, I had to leave my academic mindset aside; this was not a space meant for the mind alone. The works and recordings shared by the panelists invoked feelings, memories and places felt too personal to include in any field note or report. This was a small revelation, but a deep-seated lesson I brought with me into the following days. Listening is deeply relational, and more often it reveals information about ourselves as much as our environs.

Part 2 coming soon.

You can listen to all the panels here.

Arctic Auditories Tiny Conference

We’re entering the new year with intention and reflection, and on Feb 1-2, we are gathering all our participants, guides, friends, and colleagues to join us for our Tiny Conference. 

Each project member will give a short presentation on their contribution to Arctic Auditories in their respective fields and disciplines, and share some works in progress.

While this full-day event is for our consortium (all the folks from the community involved in the project) only, this blog is dedicated to documenting and informing the public of our activities. So, for those who can’t attend: among our acticities, we’ll delve into methodological discussions on the evolution of soundwalks with one of our guides, we’ll take a look at some field notes, pictures and of course, some audio-materials.  

The first day will conclude with a talk from artist Margrethe Pettersen on her ongoing “Remembering with Rivers” project. The event is open to the public, free and streams on Zoom. Tickets available here.