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Sounding Museums

An interdisciplinary symposium on the functions and aesthetics of sound in museums

2019-04-09 Sound Environment Centre hosted the interdisciplinary symposium on the functions and aesthetics of sound in museums.

Sounding Museums

Sounding Museums

Within recent years sound has played a more and more prominent role in museums. Fine art galleries now integrate sound as part of the aesthetic expressions exhibited meanwhile several cultural history museums add sound designs to strengthen the narration and affect of the historical content.

This symposium is dedicated to such auditory dimensions of the museum. Gathering researchers and practitioners within the fields of sound design, ethnography, media history and sound art curation, we invite to an afternoon with presentations and discussion of how to deal with sound in museum: how is it designed? What are the aesthetic benefits and compromises? How can historical and distant worlds be evoked through sound? And how is all this experienced by the visitors? The presenters’ background and approach to these questions differ. What they do share is their approach to museums as Sounding Museums. 


James Mansell, Associate professor, University of Nottingham/National Science and Media Museum
Shaping Hearing - The Museum as a Space for Critical Listening
useums shape perception. Scholars of visual culture have detailed the various ways in which museums have shaped the way we see. If museums are to become spaces for sound, telling the history of auditory objects and cultures, then we must attend not only to how this can be practically achieved, but also to what kinds of new listening – and hearing – we wish to create and why. This paper will focus on the challenge of re-sounding artefacts of media history in museums of science and technology, advancing a new theory of critical museum listening which places a sonically-engaged, critical public history at the centre of our future work.

Erik Brattlöf, Interactive Producer & Music Coordinator & Anton Ahlberg, Sound designer, Red Pipe Sound design - music production - voice agency
On the practical aspects of recreating the sonic landscape of a lost time
In this talk we will present our collaboration with the Swedish Army Museum, where we were tasked to recreate the sonic landscape of a military parade in Stockholm anno 1701. We will detail all the different aspects of the production, from initial research and ”audio archeology” to recording, design and physical implementation.

Rasmus Holmboe, Post.doc., Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde
Sounding the white cube
So-called sound art has often been cast as challenging the predominantly visually constructed institutional apparatus of the white cube, famously theorised by Brian O’Doherty. However – even though white cubes cannot be generalised from a strictly acoustic viewpoint – listening within this context has its own set of social technologies that govern and condition our experience of sonic artworks in the gallery. Based on past curatorial projects, my paper will outline this institutional situation for sound art and propose a concept of sounding that draws on Steven Feld’s notion of acoustemology and thus engages both with the artworks and their (expanded) contexts of presentation. My proposition is that such a relational and agential model will enable us to reconsider the entwinement of matter, sensation and meaning within the white cube. Having presented this, mainly theoretical, argument, I hope to raise discussion about the practical implications of trying to curate from the perspective of sounding.

Robert Willim, Associate professor and Artist, Lund University
Sounding and sensing the otherworldly in museums
I will present and discuss the two art projects Artificial Past and Possible Worlds. The first conceived at the museum Kulturen in Lund and the second at The Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm. Both projects dealt with and tweaked ideas about world making in museums. They took the point of departure in the mundane and used sound combined with other sensory modalities to evoke the otherworldly.