Listening Room

Live stream

A gathering of the Acoustic Commons Study Group, a simultaneous mix of live streams from across the globe, in delayed correspondence with Reveil 10.

In the wake of the Reveil broadcast, this years’ meeting of the ACSG is a counterpoint, an invitation to listen to a different compositional temporality, to consider how our listening-responding moves across the simultaneous and the sequential. While the Reveil broadcast (on the Reveil platform) asks us to listen sequentially to the sounds of the dawn chorus emerging with the line of first light, the ACSG broadcast here asks us to listen across streams simultaneously broadcast from ten points on the globe— an incidental overlapping mix of long distance friendships, in a community of audio cross-currents. This is offered as an opportunity to consider how we listen to the simultaneous mix and return to Reveil reattuned/reattuning to its particular sequential movement across the span of a single day.

How long is the time being?

ACSG 2022/2023: John Bingham-Hall, Lawrence Bradby, Sheila Chukwulozie, Tushar Hathiramani, Lis Huang, Martin Kohout, Flora Pitrolo, Bianca Stoppani, Luisa Ulyett, James Wilkes


Any other place / From a distance
Ella Finer, composed with an edited transcript from the ACSG IRC, April 2022

18:21 #acousticommons: < Bianca> We're hearing an indicator

18:22 #acousticommons: < Bianca> So beautiful, it sounds like a metronome

In my experience, with these ears, I miss things as I pick up on a sound (a beat, a word, a cry, a pitch) and attend to it with a far larger temporal attention span than the time-span of the sonic cue. A beat, a beat in the hearing – but the two events (of the sound and its hearing) do not occupy the same temporality. I love this as much as I am confused by it. That a detail can last a lifetime. This is sonorous tense. A tense that is elastic time. Peculiar. As soon as I say now it is not.

As soon as I say now it is not. We move continuously beyond the last word, the last sound or vision, the last sensation — we know this is a condition of time: to move us on, even while we make returns, even while the last word lasts. This is no new phenomenon of time and perception, we know, by living, these temporal loops in listening: the sound we heard we may still hear, the sound we hear we might have heard.

18:21 #acousticommons: < Bianca> We're hearing an indicator

18:22 #acousticommons: < Bianca> So beautiful, it sounds like a metronome

18:28 #acousticommons: < ella> Wind

18:28 #acousticommons: < Bianca> And birds!

18:28 #acousticommons: < ella> Whose is the wind

18:30 #acousticommons: < Bianca> Bells?

18:31 #acousticommons: < Bianca> Sometimes the wind sounds like a distant thunderstorm

In April 2022 the ACSG gathered to listen to the live streams of far away friends. The invitation was simple — to cast audio lines out to loved ones and listen to a pluralised present tense, sounding in, through, across time zones. The simultaneous mix brought many sites into correspondence: a Berlin fair in Palermo, a car door near Lake Michigan shut in a Lagos street. The confusion of sites in our listening created blurred hybrid environments: audio collisions of time and space.

18:32 #acousticommons: < Luisa> Driving?

18:33 #acousticommons: < web8> Is someone ordering something?

18:35 #acousticommons: < Bianca> Doors

18:50 #acousticommons: < Bianca> A dog maybe?

18:50 #acousticommons: < web20> is there a light humming? or am i hearing things?

The sensation of “hearing things”: the thing that is uncertainly heard; the thing that might not exist as audible for others, the thing that is the mistaken object. In writing-responding to our listening are we always “hearing things”? Always approximating and having to make the provisional shape of the thing we imagine we hear? In the compositional approach of the overlay, or the simultaneous stream, we also hear things on top of things, things inside other things.

18:54 #acousticommons: < sheilareborn> i think i have an existential worry as to whether we are all listening to the same thing right now

18:54 #acousticommons: < sheilareborn> like wanting to go around the class asking "what page are you on? are we on the same page?"

18:55 #acousticommons: < flora> I can never quite tell where we are

18:56 #acousticommons: < jbh> i think i keep hearing the same thing on loop

19:00 #acousticommons: < web579> Plane from martin

In 2022 we were both simultaneously streaming and simultaneously listening, attempting to collectively occupy the same space in time. But even in time we are always out of time — not only with various Internet speeds and lags, drops and gaps, but also with where our attention goes.

19:01 #acousticommons: < jamie> Song

19:01 #acousticommons: < Ella> In Berlin

19:02 #acousticommons: < Ella> Any other place

19:03 #acousticommons: < Ella> From a distance

19:03 #acousticommons: < Bianca> Funfair season

19:04 #acousticommons: < Ella> Palermo in the Berlin fair

Where is the proof we are ever listening to the same thing? And why do we search for it? When one of us is with the door, and one with the dog. When we are on different pages. We reach out to others to help us form the collective shape of what we hear; what we think or feel we hear, or imagine. We name things – plane from Martin, Song, any other place – we might give our attention to, in common.

19:11 #acousticommons: < flora> Someone is getting out of a car

19:11 #acousticommons: < flora> Back to the funfair!!

19:11 #acousticommons: < flora> I'm sorry Palermo hasn't quite supplied this kind of tragic gesture

We “hear things” differently again in the Reveil broadcast when collectively listening to one stream at a time, moving around the globe. Confusion happens, but there is a kind of clarity in the sequential singular space as acoustic commons: singular spaces with definition because where we are is named by the voice mixing the streams, we have an audio guide. When listening to Reveil we can all situate the dog in the stream we are told we are listening to, even as it reminds us of a dog we heard hours ago in a morning that has passed.

What this ACSG mix proposes, or attempts to experiment with, then, are the conditions and effects of another kind of commoned mix of streams: a mix in which streams interrupt or interpret each other, sounding through each other. Not Berlin and Palermo then, but Berlin—Palermo, an interrelated geography. How do we listen to a city describe another city, a lake describe a funfair, an indicator in the wind, the birds in the bells?

19:12 #acousticommons: < jamie> The effect is of walking round the funfair but I think that is an illusion

This kind of mix not only emphasises the illusory qualities of listening but makes these qualities a tangible focus: the simultaneous mix asks us to inhabit the illusion, to walk around it. We are hearing things. Many things. And at the same time we are unhearing things. The sonic markers we make familiar to attach us to a particular place can shift, can alter in volume or disappear. Sounds that move—particularly birds and traffic—can travel across locations, as if they fly or drive across the streams. We are always approximating in the present tense, and sometimes attempting to capture something of the experience of what is alive to the continuous, to the “lasting of the leaving” (Don Ihde).

19:12 #acousticommons: < jbh> ella I'm thinking about the text you wrote and leaning out of the window to try to capture an energy

…I want to remember this. The atmospheric energies that bring so much into relation… I wrote these words in a short piece to accompany the meeting of the ACSG in April 2022, I wrote about friendship across a distance “softened” by imaginative returns to past sensation:

When we listen collectively to the sounds of our close friends at distance, we are in the audio mix of a commoned far away. This is part of the invitation: to listen to a softer distance, from which we might find the correspondences with times and places we have forgotten or never known until now (though now somehow — through listening — might feel we’ve known forever).

And now we are here, hearing things, a year and some months on, again here, and also not. As well as the inevitable delays in our listening to each other’s audio streams across sometimes fragile connections, this is also a delayed event: unable to take place in May 2023 after the server system supporting the live streaming was damaged.

What is this doubled distance doing now to the translation of past events: our gathering in April 2022? Or our missed meeting in May 2023 when Reveil broadcast the few streams able to connect?

19:12 #acousticommons: < jbh> ella I'm thinking about the text you wrote and leaning out of the window to try to capture an energy
19:12 #acousticommons: < jbh> but also the impossibility of that
19:13 #acousticommons: < jbh> how you're always just too late or it doesn't quite translate

19:14 #acousticommons: < flora> Yes jbh
19:14 #acousticommons: < flora> Capture or record I guess
19:15 #acousticommons: < flora> Because I do feel capturing can be done, purely mnemonically somehow, but recording does put you in that place of too late/doesn't translate
19:15 #acousticommons: < jbh> true - making a tracing rather than holding onto it
19:15 #acousticommons: < flora> Omg this funfair
19:16 #acousticommons: < flora> Right jbh absolutely!
19:16 #acousticommons: < flora> I weirdly can't really hear outside the window here because I'm so in this stream

19:19 #acousticommons: < jbh> now i hear lagos!
19:19 #acousticommons: < jbh> unmistakable

What do we now find among our tracings? To regather ourselves is also to regather the finer details of what has remained, a practice of recollection whether or not we choose to name or reveal what returns to us through the noise of a year. …that place of too late/doesn’t translate.

As is familiar to deep listeners, sound continues, has after-effects, is replayed in memory, or in dreams, or in a new sound that reminds us of the past sound. This is a form of preservation resisting the record, through the dispersal of live and living sounds. Instead of holding on, making a trace. Returning to the fragments of communication in the 2022 chat, I read these too as tracings, words holding larger sensorial information than in any one glance they might appear to. Words and fast phrases in which to trace by ear the reality-illusion of shared space, to throw out a clash of co-ordinates and somehow attempt to find each other:

19:26 #acousticommons: < Bianca> Directions

19:28 #acousticommons: < jamie> Persistent

19:29 #acousticommons: < jamie> Running rhythm

19:33 #acousticommons: < jamie> What time is it now? For you? Isn't it 18.33?

19:35 #acousticommons: < web87> What soup of the day?

19:36 #acousticommons: < persistent_practice> jamie - yes. First chime happened already. Just heard another.

19:38 #acousticommons: < flora> the indicator again