Auraldiversities: Expanded Listening (Session 3)

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A year-long programme of training sessions and workshops addressing the ‘auraldiverse turn’ in the Arts and Humanities.

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A year-long programme addressing the ‘auraldiverse turn’ in Arts and Humanities research and theory, questioning how and what we hear, what we listen to and why, as situated within our contemporary milieu: that of ecological, existential, social, economic and epidemiological crises.

Entwined with sonically sensile organisms, sessions extend well beyond human worlds into speculative acoustic realms of future listening.

Sessions are virtual with some materials sent in advance.

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Expanded Listening

How can listening change our relationships with time and space and others? How can we listen beyond the range that human ears are tuned to? What responsibilities and possibilities arise? How might this impact on how and to whom we listen? In these sessions we will expand our conception and experience of listening across species, states and spaces. By considering the vibrational sensitivities of other living organisms, we will learn to identify as just one of many vibro-sensile species across phyla and even kingdoms. Through engaging in pre-buddhist philosophy, embodied practices and emerging technologies we will experience listening through altered cognitive states and expand our listening in space and time.

Featuring ecoacoustics, biosemiotics, plant bioacoustics, invertebrate tremology, ant music, pre-buddhist philosophy and practice, feldenkrais, deep listening, telematic improvisation and sonic augmented reality.


Session Three

Alice Eldridge

Soundscapes as Multispecies Media

The possibilities of what we can listen to are shaped by the history of what has been meaningful to us both phylogenetically (in our evolutionary history) and ontogenetically (in our life-time). This is true not only for humans, but for every other vibro- and sonically sensile critter on the planet. This tuning-in to each other shapes our sensory organs (what we can hear) and semiotic sensitivities (what we might be inclined to listen to and act upon), and even the structure of the world around us.

In this brief introductory talk I will set the scene for the day by thinking about the acoustic environment at large - or global soundscapes - as a record of the history of vibro-mediated interactions between organisms and environments, a kind of ‘multispecies media’. In playing with these ideas, I hope to engender a sense of camaraderie with the other vibro-sensile organisms, across kingdoms, across the planet.

Dr. Alice Eldridge is interested in how sound organises systems. Her research cross-fertilises ideas and methods from music, cognitive science, technology & ecology to develop biologically-inspired approaches to new musical (feedback) instruments, and acoustic methods for conservation, within the emerging science of ecoacoustics. She holds a BSc in Psychology, an MSc in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems and a PhD in Computer Science and AI and is currently Lecturer in Music Technology at the University of Sussex, where she is Co-Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab. Alice has appeared on BBC TV and BBC 4 as a soundscape ecologist; on BBC 3 as a free jazz cellist; on BBC 6 show as a contemporary chamber composer; and on BBC 1 John Peel show as a pop bassist.

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Dr AM Kanngieser

Listening to crisis: attending to relations between people and environments

What does it mean to listen to environmental crisis, both in terms of how we relate to the environments being affected and the people who live with them? In this talk we will think about the ethics and responsibilities of listening in environments that are impacted by ongoing colonisation and the intersecting detriments of climate change.

Bridging sound studies and geography, I will speak about my practice of sonic ethnography specifically focused on a Pacific context. Drawing on methods of gathering field recordings and oral testimonies I will talk about the importance of situating oneself in connection to both communities and to land; moving away from narratives of trauma and deficit; research protocols and respectful research; approaching environments and communities through understandings of relationality and interdependencies; and learning how to give thanks and leave.

Dr AM Kanngieser is a geographer and sound artist. They are the author of Experimental Politics and the Making of Worlds (2013) and Between Sound and Silence: Listening towards Environmental Justice (forthcoming). Their audio work has been featured on Documenta 14 Radio, BBC 3, ABC Radio National, The Natural History Museum London, Arts Centre Melbourne, Radio del Museo Reina Sofía, Deutschland Radio and QAGOMA. They have facilitated sound events with Live Art Development Agency, Sound and Music and 2 Degrees Festival/Arts Admin. AM’s work looks to the intersections of community organising, self-determination, ecology, and listening; their current projects use oral testimony and field recordings to amplify community resistance to resource extraction, environmental racism and ecological disaster in Oceania.

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Dr. Heidi Appel and Dr. Rex Cocroft

Good Vibrations – Acoustic Perception of Plants

Plants have surprisingly complex sensory systems that allow them to track changes in their environment. They possess senses of sight, smell, and touch even though they lack specialized organs to do so. We’ve known for some time that plants can respond to single tones or music with changes in seed germination and growth. But we didn’t understand why they would do this since their natural environment doesn’t contain these sounds. However, their environment does contain many potentially useful sources of acoustic energy. Our research has shown that plants have selective responses to substrate borne vibrations in their environment, a sense of ‘hearing’ as it were. We’ll describe how we made this discovery, what we’ve learned so far, and how much there is yet to learn.

Dr. Heidi Appel is Professor of Environmental Sciences and Honors Dean at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, USA. She earned MS and PhD degrees in Biology at the University of Michigan after undergraduate work combining her interests in ancient history, music, and science. She studies how plants tell apart their insect pests and defend themselves by producing distasteful or toxic chemicals, many of which are important to humans as flavors, aromas, and natural medicines. Using molecular, chemical, and behavioral methods she examines how plants create – and insects manipulate – these defenses. With collaborator Jack Schultz she studies how galling insects manipulate plants to make novel structures in which they live. With collaborator Rex Cocroft, she also studies how plants detect and respond selectively to the feeding vibrations of insect pests. She’s passionate about interdisciplinary work as a wellspring of innovation and a mechanism for improving public understanding of science.

Dr. Rex Cocroft is Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, USA. He earned an MA in Zoology at the University of Texas and a PhD in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, after completing an undergraduate degree in piano performance. He studies communication in insects that live on plants. Sap-feeding insects, like treehoppers and leafhoppers, send complex signals as vibrations that travel along plant stems and are heard by other insects using vibration detectors in their legs. He studies the ways that treehoppers communicate cooperatively to find best places to feed, avoid predators, and find mates. With collaborator Heidi Appel he also studies how plants make use of information about the activity of their herbivores. How do plants sense these vibrations, and how do plants respond selectively, increasing their anti-caterpillar defenses after detecting feeding vibrations but not vibrations from harmless sources such as wind?

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Dr Natasha Mhatre

The Brain has a Body

The simplistic widely accepted view of how animals perceive is that information travels from the environment to the sensory system, then from there on to the nervous system, which processes it to generate a percept and eventually behaviour. Ongoing behaviour is thought to occur largely through simple iterations of this process. This is a very linear view where information flows only in one direction which views the sensory system as static and unaffected by behaviour. A newer view is that perception is actually a very active process in which information flows back and forth between the sensory, and nervous system and the whole body, and this back and forth modifies their properties and therefore perception. I will talk about two examples of how the body affects perception at two very different temporal and spatial scales.

First, in crickets, I will present data on how high-speed molecular motor activity enhances hearing via a well-studied phenomenon called ‘active amplification’. Second, in spiders I will present data on how posture, a slow macroscopic feature, which can barely be called ‘active’, can nonetheless modulate vibration perception. I hope these results will motivate a conversation about whether ‘active’ perception is an optional feature observed in some sensory systems, or something that is ultimately necessitated by both evolution and physics.

Natasha Mhatre trained as a biologist, but played hooky as a photographer, illustrator and writer. Her biological research focuses on understanding how animals communicate using sound and vibration. She works mainly with crickets, singing insects and with spiders that use vibrations to communicate and perceive their world. She thinks about the physics and mechanics of communication, and tries to understand how the embodied physicality of animals is central to how they perceive and process the world. She now lives in ‘the other London’, in Canada and runs the Biophysics of Communication lab in the Department of Biology. She has previously lived and studied in Bombay, Bangalore, Bristol, Berlin and then, to break the streak, Toronto.

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Lisa Schonberg

Amplifying the Tropical Ants

I am excited about the potential for sound art to bring people into conversation around our relationship with and assumptions about non-human species and their environments. In this workshop I will talk about my recent work and interest in this realm, and we will engage in exercises in listening, writing, and soundscape composition.

I am currently working in collaboration with entomologists in Manaus, Brazil investigating ant acoustic communication in the Amazon in our project ATTA (Amplifying the Tropical Ants). Through a process of interdisciplinary exchange and synergy, we are producing scientific knowledge to be disseminated through music composition, sound art, and traditional scientific infrastructures to the public.

Ants are doing so much of the vital work maintaining tropical rainforest ecosystem functions: herbivory, seed dispersal, predation, decomposition, soil aeration - and their habitats are in turn crucial to global climate regulation. Can listening to insects through music and sound work activate our collective auditory imagination and shift our perspective towards an ecocentric viewpoint? What relationships do we have, as listeners across oceans and boundaries, to these insects, and how can listening help strengthen these connections?

Listen to a recent feature on BBC Radio 4, a talk on Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Lisa's musical releases on Bandcamp.

Lisa Ann Schonberg (Staten island NY, 1977) is a composer, percussionist and sound artist with a background in entomology and ecology. She conducts studies in ecoacoustics to create music composition and sound works that draw attention to insects and environmental issues. Her recent work includes studies of endangered Hawaiian bees, old growth forests in Oregon, and ATTA (Amplifying the Tropical Ants), a project investigating ant acoustic communication in the Brazilian Amazon. Her percussion and electronic compositions are performed by Secret Drum Band and UAU. Lisa is the author of The Hylaeus Project and The DIY Guide To Drums. She is working towards her PhD in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

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Auraldiversities Session 1

Auraldiversities Session 2

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Session Contact/Queries:

Helen Frosi | SoundFjord and Alice Eldridge | University of Sussex

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With thanks to:

Those facilitating, leading, and chairing sessions.

Department of Music, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex.

Curated by: John Drever, Alice Eldridge, and Helen Frosi.

Cover image: Helena Lopes | Pexels

All activities are supported with CHASE cohort development funding.

CHASE Terms and Conditions

By registering below you are requesting a place on this training programme or selected sessions that form part of the programme. A member of the CHASE team or the workshop leader will contact you in due course to confirm that a place has been allocated to you. If you are allocated a place but can no longer attend, please cancel your Eventbrite registration or email so that your place can be reallocated. CHASE training is free to attend and events are often oversubscribed with a waiting list. Failure to notify us of non-attendance in good time means your place cannot be reallocated and repeated failure may mean that your access to future training is limited.

The training is open to:

• CHASE funded and associate students

• Arts and Humanities PhD students at CHASE member institutions

• Students and members of staff at CHASE partner institutions

• Arts and Hum PhD students (via the AHRC mailing list)

And all others interesting in the programme, should there be places remaining after the priority academic bookings.

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