3 years post-doc — Investigations towards a Sonic Research Culture

27 November 2013

This article is part of the series 3 years of freedom — a report on my stay as a post-doctoral researcher at the Media Lab of Aalto Universiy.

Sometimes, especially in the beginning of my stay in Finland, it felt like being dropped into a parallel universe where things seem to be the same. However, after a closer look, everything turns out to be different. I was eager to explore and I grasped for every opportunity to gather thoughts and ideas around this new environment.

Luckily there was pixelache 2011 and a friend of mine, Marije Baalman held a workshop on distributed realtime sensing technology. I attended, and got to know Tapio Mäkelä, the head of M.A.R.I.N., a “Media Art Research Interdisciplinary Network”. He invited me to join his residency program and spend 10 days on an island in the Saaristomeri.

Anemos Sonore

During this beautiful and inspiring stay, I decided to continue working on the idea I had at the MARIN workshop; turn the natural phenomenon of wind sound. I already got very nice feedback in the workshop presentations at pixelache, however the days on the island turned the idea into something bigger. Anemos Sonore is about listening to wind as a holistic phenomenon. The tools I prototyped (I called them tools as I see them as sensing equipment for sonic investigations) augment the calm soundscape of the archipelago; they invite for intense listening sessions, in which the sense of wind (e.g. as a tactile impression on the skin or visually observed in the movements of trees and waves) is complemented by drone-like sounds captured from the tools’s ribbon movements. Still in the time bubble of the island, I made a series of videos which are, admittedly, too long for a quick overview but may give you a hint of an insight on how it was there in Naantali.

Back in civilisation, I presented the project at several events and also reworked the system to show it at the SuperCollider Symposium in London and at the CARTES Flux Festival in Espoo.

The bigger picture

Being in Finland meant for me that nature grabbed my attention immediately. Maybe this was because nature and especially the weather are more radical than in central-europe. Before moving here, I was not aware that my mood is so depending on amount of daylight or outside temperature. This dependency (and me recognising it) initiated Anemos Sonore, which is directly connected to weather and nature.

And this affection to natural phenomena and their communication by means of sound and interaction continued; One of the biggest supporters was the finnish society of bioart and its director Erich Berger, who not only gave me the opportunity to spend time at their arctic residency program but also invited me to join their Field_Notes laboratory in 2013, a bi-annual event where international artists meet and work in the harsh but beautiful environment of northern Lapland. This event opened up my horison quite a bit since it connected me with so many great people form all over the world who came together because of the same interests: curiosity, intervention and observation within the arctic circle. It was in relation to this event that I again found my connection to natural science, now, however from a more questioning point of view. Namely I am curious to understand how the tools used in the process of measuring and “data generation” influence the experience and therefore the way we look at natural phenomena.

And, since every scientific method adds its self-inherent subjective element to an observation (this also includes methods as fundamental as inductivity in gaining knowledge), why not choose methods that create positive effects, that draw a holistic world view? In any case, I continued what I started with Anemos Sonore and build an instrument to “bump” nature.

Hive Five

Related to this is Hive Five, an artwork and music event featuring bees and their sounds. It emerged from the Melliferopolis project of Christina Stadlbauer, supported by Aalto Biophilia) and its lovely Ulla Taipale.

I hope to continue this research strand also in the future. Lots of things to discover still.