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INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON SOUNDSCAPE


Tempo Reale - Villa Strozzi - Via Pisana 77 50143 Firenze
Scientific & Music Program May 20-22 2011

CONFERENCE

abstract

Hein SCHOER The Sounding Museum: Two Weeeks in Alert Bay.

At the 2009 FKL symposium in St Poelten I talked about my new research project „The Sounding Museum“, introducing the Sound Chamber we had built two years before at the NONAM (Nordamerika Native Museum) in Zurich, the Inuit/Arctic Soundscape I had helped to compose from archive recordings, and how I planned to use both in a series of workshops on North American Native culture for school classes.
A lot has happened since then: I was commissioned to create a work of my own dealing with the Native inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, in the course of which a field trip took me to the Kwakwaka’wakw of Alert Bay, BC, where I worked with members of the Namgis, one of the 17 Kwakwala speaking nations, collecting a wide variety of sounds from mono to full surround, from the forests and the seas to the Big House, where I had the honour of being a guest at a potlatch, the most important festivity of the Northwest Coast peoples, with countless ceremonial and profane dances and songs, and lots of food and presents. The physical journey was followed by a five months acoustic journey in the studio, resulting in the quadraphonic piece “Two Weeks in Alert Bay”. This composition may well claim an artistic and narrative quality by itself, but its greater purpose still is to serve as a didactic tool in the museum for cultural education and clearaudience.
The piece has been used in a series of workshops last summer, introducing the pupils to the natural, artificial, human, and cultural aspects of the traditional and contemporary soundscape of the Kwakwaka’wakw. The workshop also includes a comparison between our own (what is that?) and foreign cultures, which proved especially rewarding, as many pupils had a migrant background, and also relevant in the light of the project’s recent approval as a contribution to the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures.
When I started my research, the idea was to assemble a set of tools and best practices for soundscape production in the museum context, with a focus on ethnographic museums. This has determined the major obstacle of the work to come: How can I represent a culture that I am not a member of (I cannot!)? What can I do to make up for this shortcoming?

Presentation Format

My talk will introduce the project and its main research lines, namely sound as a tool for cultural education and representation of the Other. Since 20 minutes is a very modest timeslot to introduce a work of that scale I will deploy a rather atmospheric approach, not elaborating too much (but still a little) on the theoretical superstructure or the chronology and technical details of the fieldwork. Instead, a short introduction will be followed by the tale “How Raven Stole the Sun”, in which the mythical Raven serves as a means to mediate some basic concepts of the cosmology of the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the short version of “Two Weeks” in stereo to give an impression on how the Sound Chamber operates.
So there will be little talk, lots of audio, and some slides (photographs only).

 

Hein Schoer

works as researcher and lecturer at Fontys School for the Arts in Tilburg, NL, and teaches on soundscapes and acoustic ecology with Prof Sabine Breitsameter at Hochschule Darmstadt. He has a history in audio engineering and cultural science, and writes and composes conventional music as well as acousmatic pieces. His PhD dissertation “The Sounding Museum” is supervised by Prof Maaike Meijer and Prof Renée van de Vall of Maastricht University.



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