As part of Balance-Unbalance 2017, MSAE founder and co-chair, Eric Leonardson led “The Advances In Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape: A Virtual Panel” discussion. The panel was made up of Linda Keane, Norman Long, Amanda Gutierrez, Lindsey French and Leah Barclay.
Advances In Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape: A Virtual Panel
Eric Leonardson, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology, Chicago, USA.
Paraphrasing Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar, it is surprising that our sense of place is so strong and yet it defies definition. Herein lies one of many paradoxes and conundrums that provide a kind of soil or spark for new ideas about how art and science attract constant appraisal and reappraisal of the questions: “Where am I, where do I belong?” as a state of being. Proposed is a panel discussion of several ongoing projects that intersected in 2015, under the name “Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape,” a course taught in the fall of 2015 by Eric Leonardson and Lindsey French, at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This studio course connected concepts and practices of acoustic ecology with the hacking aesthetic of art and technology to open up possibilities for transdisciplinary collaborations that offer new understandings of our environments and our boundaries, locations, and roles within them. Subsequently, numerous collaborations continue in new contexts and places with additional support for public engagement in the ecologies of sound, listening, and environment. The panelists, who join Leonardson on-site and online are sound and media artists Leah Barclay, Norman W. Long, Amanda Gutiérrez, and architect Linda Keane. Their individual and combined efforts engage and activate students and public communities in design of urban soundscapes using virtual environments, social codes of immigrant communities, river listening, soundwalking, plant communication, and new media.
Breen notes that support of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out In the Parks (NOITP) program helps Chicago teaching artists plan and lead our soundwalks. The schedule will be announced in early spring. Parks proposed for soundwalks this year include Ping Tom Park, Big Marsh, and West Ridge Nature Reserve, among others.
Also mentioned, Friday, March 17, Leonardson will present in the Shapiro Research Symposium with architect, Linda Nelson Keane, and artist, Lindsey M. French, at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s LeRoy Neiman Center.
At the beginning of the evening, on Tuesday, October 25th, visitors gathered under the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)’s Kern Terrace for a short introduction to the program titled Our Sonic Playground. Eric Leonardson spoke elegantly of the relationship, mediated through sound, between living beings and their environment. Folks were encouraged to actively engage through concentrated listening at the pop-up listening stations and among the black faux-marble floors, steel columns, and industrial lighting of the MCA. Paper and pencil were handed out to participants as they deployed themselves around the museum. Trace, gesture and sound patterns were to emerge in a process of multi-perceptual experience. Listening next to the sliced mobiles of Alexander Calder one might have literally drawn a distinction between sound that is omnidirectional and vision that is unidirectional. Emphasized throughout the program were exercises that led listeners to create, share, and connect with each other around content relevant to the core mission of the MSAE while remaining uninhibited to construct their own meaning from experience.
Pop-up listening stations were separated between three levels of the MCA and staged to introduce unconventional entrances into deeper listening. In short these pop-ups were an assembly of small listening systems that included inductors applied in an electromagnetic field, contact microphones submerged in thawing ice, friction mallets spontaneously stricken on smooth MCA surfaces and resonant structures, accelerometers placed on the museum’s signature staircase, and a parabolic reflector collecting and converging sound energy toward the focus of distant sources. Depending on which pop-up, sounds were diffused by either headphones or speakers. Collectively these systems generated a central question that asked how it is we interpret sound phenomena that embody specific places. Leonardson touched on this in his opening address, “Sounds are all around us, creating our environments, our sense of place and influencing our social interactions.”
In the Kanter Room a remote listening station was devised by SAIC faculty member Lindsey French with the input of students enrolled in her Sensing the Landscape course. A hand-drawn map of the city of Chicago was projected onto the wall with different points of light on the map vibrating and distorting according to an audio signal. Each of these points corresponded to live audio signals streaming from domestic interiors. These sounds were played on speakers inside the darkened and semi-isolated Kanter Room. It was transfixing to watch points of light swell and recede according to the amplitude, attack, and familial occupation of sound. Philosopher Jean-Francois Augoyard reasoned in Sonic Experience: A Guide To Everyday Sounds that sound should be understood primarily as temporality. The illuminated expansion and contraction of sound depicted on French’s map seemed to underpin Augoyard’s proposition; pointing further towards the paradox that embodies sound: that which is used to propagate it also extinguishes it. (Time).
For the phonography performance at the end of the evening unfamiliar participants brought an array of their own collected field recordings to play back as an ensemble. In the sound ecology formulation, hi-fi soundscape is generally associated with sparse wilderness and rural landscapes and low-fi is often associated with urban and industrial soundscapes. Over the thirty minutes of this improvised performance disparate soundscapes were merged inconceivably, collapsing narrative and leaving only texture in its wake.
By continuing to provide these kinds of participatory programs the MSAE teaches us that sounds are subjective and connote ways of human knowing and best supported through multi-directional content experiences. The MSAE is serving as a “platform” that connects different users who act as content creators, distributors, consumers, critics, and collaborators. While this means the MSAE cannot guarantee the consistency of every participant’s experiences, it does open up new ways for diverse people to express themselves and engage with the institutional practices of acoustic ecology.
SAIC faculty: Lindsey French, Eric Leonardson Listening stations: Laura Campuzano, Nicholas Davis, Devin DiSanto, Guido Gambo, Tom Haigh, Peter LaRue, Neal Markowski, Kyle Nilan Phonography performance: Chad Clark, Dan Godston, Norman Long, Monica Ryan, Jessica Speer
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E Chicago Avenue
Chicago IL 60611
Sounds are all around us, creating our environments, our sense of place and influencing our social interactions.
For this week’s Tuesday Evenings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, local sound artist and experimental musician Eric Leonardson collaborates with students and faculty from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago(SAIC) and members of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology to lead a unique, interactive sound workshop. Guided soundwalks and listening exercises are designed to engage awareness of the social, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of sound. You can collect your own sounds with portable field recorders as you explore ways to study and enjoy the voices of our local environment. End the evening with a group phonography performance, during which you are invited to playback and share with others the sounds you’ve discovered and recorded in the museum.
On Wednesday, February 29 MSAE member Eric Leonardson moderated a panel discussion at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) on the development of sound recording as an art form in its own right.
Hosted by the Departments of Sculpture and Sound, the discussion examined the development of the art via the historical development of photography. Discussed was the development of non-music sound recording as art in relationship to photography.
Katherine Bussard, SAIC Art History Professor and AIC Curator
Lisa Dorin, AIC Associate Curator in Contemporary Art Ken Fandell, artist, SAIC Professor and Photo Department Chair Bill Fontana, artist and William and Stephanie Sick Distinguished Professor for SoundSculpture Anna Friz, artist and Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Sound Lou Mallozzi, artist, Executive Director of Experimental Sound Studio, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sound