My long essay on the future of acoustic storytelling has finally been translated into English. You can read and download the full text on my website. Here is the tl;dr version:
Radio plays, features, radio art, reportages and literary readings are acoustic storytelling. Acoustic storytelling is the art of radio. With its production of acoustic narratives, radio generates cultural assets whose lasting value is expressed in the currency of attention. In a changing media landscape, linear broadcasting models become the enemy of attentive listening. The only place listeners can choose when to listen is online. The internet is not a supplementary medium to accompany radio programming. It is becoming the medium and the technical infrastructure through which radio is received. Media convergence has rendered the concept of broadcasting obsolete. In response to changing listening habits, acoustic narratives must be made available via the internet: on demand and forever. This requires a central online portal for acoustic storytelling. Radio becomes a platform for creating contexts where listeners can put together their own programme. Content producers must be properly remunerated. The networked radio play is a form of acoustic storytelling that has yet to be invented, but which might be a timely response to the changing media world.
The text discusses the German radio landscape, where the federal structure of public-service broadcasting is in contrast to the anglo-american system. But nonetheless, my deliberations might pose some general questions about the challenges radio plays are confronted with in the digital age. The translation was accomplished by Nicholas Grindell. The text was also the basis for some sort of manifesto I developed together with Heiko Martens and presented at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste in March of this year. The “digital manifesto” can be listened to at this site, but only in German.
Hey, I’m on Bandcamp now! The first album available there is called “Chronostasis Revised” and is based on a composition from 2009 for Studio Akustische Kunst of German broadcaster WDR. All is entirely made from clock sounds. There are two “Songs” for free download that were taken from the two longer pieces “Chronostasis Revised Part One and Two”. I have chosen the symbolic price of 1 € for the album. All revenues from these sales will go straight into my next recording with the London Symphony Orchestra – I hope you don’t let me wait too long for that…
The entire piece will be played on Monday next week, 1st of April, in Mannheim at the Jetztmusik-Festival. The location is quite special: it is the entrance hall of the Mannheim airport, from where you can look over the runway. Heidelberg’s visual artist Pong aka Dominik Rinnhofer is providing live visuals handtailored for the location and event. Come if you can! For all being at the show I’ll have download codes to get the tracks from my new bandcamp page for free.
My first audio-visual work: Eolo originated in a lot of time lapse video recordings I did in 2010 on La Palma, one of the Canary Islands. There, steady winds drive fields of clouds over the volcanic mountains forcing them into movements of sometimes opposite directions. Together with the sparse vegetation of pine-trees and the dark lava ground, the fast moving wisps of clouds generate a fascinating visual display. For the italian netlabel Galaverna, I set the video to a canon sung by German vocalist Almut Kühne. Her voice is subtly warped with wind like effects that lead to a haunting atmosphere. The song is available as a free download at the Galaverna website. You can also download the video at my site on Vimeo.
Baby break is over – time to revive my blog. What you can expect: some German blog posts in the near future. But no worries: I will still post the occasional english ramblings here and share field recordings. The thing is: writing in English is exhausting and time-comsuming, and it is hard to reach a level of reflection I’m happy with outside of my own linguistic homeland. And after I spend most of last years time following the debate in Germany revolving around copyright and transformative works for a feature I finished some months ago, I feel urged to put my 2 cents in German language in from time to time. So from now on, this will be a bi-lingual blog, as are my tweets and Facebook updates. If you follow silent listening through a feed reader: you can always visit this site directly and check the menus above to filter English and German content – personal news, field recordings, reflections and acoustic flotsam are as always English entries, “deutsch” stands for all the German stuff I will post and “lately / neulich” is a chronological news feed with all posts.
What has happened over the last year? Watching my little boy growing. Writing music for two radio plays. But mainly I was reading and thinking about the German copyright debate. Because the subject is so complex and it is very hard to cover all aspects of the debate without loosing substance, I focussed on one particular field of interest, namely musical mashups and remixes. Thinking about those so called transformative works, one easily arrives at questions about the origin of ideas, authorship and whether there are still any new ideas in the music world at all. Other tricky questions are touched as well: what does the digital revolution do to media, what is the role of extremely monopolistic global players like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, how is the cultural landscape shaped and changed through digitization? All this musing and reflecting led to the radio feature “Pasted! Wir sind die Zukunft der Musik” which was premiered in October 2012 on German public service broadcaster Deutschlandradio Kultur. But the work on this subject didn’t end there: I’m preparing an interactive web player for the radio feature with a lot of additional content. The website will be launched in March on a congress about the future of radio. Also upcoming are some unorthodox thoughts on the future of the “Hörspiel” (the German radio play) in the new online media landscape. Maybe it will progress into some sort of manifesto, we will see. All this will be in German and you will be learning about it here first. Also on the horizon: a new release on the netlabel Galaverna. Some of my older pieces will be digitally available through some familiar channels. And other things… Stay tuned. English and German.
I have been silent for some time, but for a good reason: I became a father last year and I spent most of the last months with my newborn son. What a wonderful experience! And how irrelevant the digital world turns…
But there is another good reason, which has to do with a project I’m contemplating for more than a year now. It has to do with the future of music in a digital world, with copyright problems, the sources of innovation and creation and with musical algorithms. It will eventually cumulate on a German web platform and condense in a radio feature. I can’t say so much about the project in the moment but you might get an idea when you find time watching the documentary below which I stumbled upon recently. Think of all the questions left open at the end of this beautiful film, that is where I intend to start off. There is a tremendous amount of work to do, so don’t expect too many posts here over the next half year, but I might drop in with some updates from time to time. The documentary is called “Press Pause Play” and was produced by House of Radon:
I’ve been working on the soundtrack for a documentary about German dramatist Heinrich von Kleist recently. An excerpt can be heard on my Soundcloud page or here:
Here is the trailer for the documentary:
Die Akte Kleist
The Film can be seen at:
Goethe-Institut Paris, 16th March 2011
Buchmesse Leipzig, 20th March 2011
Kleistforum – Frankfurt/Oder, 24th March 2011
on French-German broadcaster Arte at 28th March 2011, 21:55
“Fire and Frost Pattern” is now available in CD and digital download format at the German label Gruenrekorder. The booklet contains extensive liner notes and background information on the sounds presented in both pieces. The download version is coming with a PDF booklet of the same content. The “famous” recording of the dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets is part of the composition “Frost Pattern” of which you can hear exerpts on the Gruenrekorder site along with my volcano recordings at Mt. Yasur on Vanuatu. The pieces have been awarded the Phonurgia Nova Prize in 2008 and “Frost Pattern” received an honorary mention at the 35th Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art. Support came from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, the company of Fielax, Hanna Hartman, Kain Karawahn, Bastiaan Maris and Andreas Oldörp, who gave me some of their ice or fire related sounds or helped me to record them. The photos on the cover and backside of the CD were kindly provided by Murray Fredericks. Deutschlandradio Kultur was the original producer of the twin pieces, the editor Götz Naleppa wrote an introduction for the booklet. To all of them I’m very grateful, not to forget Lasse and Roland at Gruenrekorder and Daniel for his meticulous art work. Thanks a lot! Buy the CD or the download here.
The english translation of my essay “On Trees and Sounds” is now available for download on my homepage. I wrote the text for the July/August 2010 issue of the German magazine “Neue Zeitschrift for Musik”. It takes the old question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, credited to George Berkeley, as a starting point to reflect on various ways to define the term sound. Here are the first two paragraphs:
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This koan-like question is often quoted in texts on sound and perception, and the answer given is often a counterintuitive no. The argument is as follows: a sound is something created in our brains when our ears perceive the vibration of molecules. Consequently, a sound is nothing but a mental representation in our nervous system, while the sound waves outside our ears are simply part of a larger physical continuum of vibrations. A sound is a product of our sensory apparatus: without ears to hear, no sound.
A similar case can be made in terms of acoustic communication: the production of a sound runs through the classic stages from sound source via medium to recipient. The movement or vibration of a sound source generates sound waves in a surrounding medium such as air, water or solid objects. The sound waves spread concentrically and reach the recipient, who then translates these fluctuations in pressure and density into electrical pulses and perceives them as sounds. If any one of these stages is missing, then there can be no sound. In the absence of a recipient, as in the abovementioned forest, though it is possible to speak in physical terms of a transfer of energy from the falling tree to the surrounding medium, acoustic communication in the sense of an exchange of information does not take place: without a recipient, no transfer of information, and thus no sound.