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Literary Festival 2014: Sonic Landscapes: understanding the world through sounds


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Speaker(s): Professor Trevor Cox, Caroline Devine, Aleksander Kolkowski
Chair: Professor David Hendy

Recorded on 1 March 2014 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

In a world dominated by the visual, we can all benefit from opening our ears to the glorious cacophony around us, which can enrich our understanding of ourselves and our environment.

Trevor Cox (@trevor_cox) is professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford and president of the Institute of Acoustics. He has presented numerous science radio documentaries and has written for the New Scientist. He is an associate editor for an international journal of acoustics and author of Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound.

Caroline Devine is a composer and sound artist whose practice investigates the boundary between sound and music, encompassing electroacoustic composition, sound installation, radio and theatre. Born in London in 1969, she studied Sound Arts and Design at London College of Communication. Caroline’s works explore voices and sounds that are ordinarily imperceptible, silenced or in some way absent, such as natural radio transmissions, solar resonances, electromagnetic signals or hidden voices. She has a particular interest in the use of space as a compositional parameter and her site-specific sound installations include an outdoor parabolic dome structure, a lift, The Open University campus grounds and Alan Turing Hut 8 at Bletchley Park. Caroline's soundwork documenting derelict buildings at Bletchley Park featured on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme. Recent commissions include Space Ham, Between the Ears for BBC Radio 3, Oscillations, for ICA SOUNDWORKS and 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun, an outdoor multi channel sound installation that was shortlisted for a BASCA British Composer Award. Throughout 2014, Caroline will undertake a period as Leverhulme Artist in Residence with the Solar and Stellar Physics Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of Birmingham.

Aleksander Kolkowski is a violinist, composer and sound artist who uses historical sound recording and reproduction apparatus and obsolete media to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music. His work invites us to listen to the present through the audio technologies of the past, often by rendering sounds into physical objects and through live historical re-enactments. His numerous international projects in this field have combined wax cylinder phonographs, wind-up gramophones and antique disc recording machines together with live musicians and even singing canaries. A major project to date has been his archive of contemporary musicians, artists and writers recorded exclusively on wax cylinders. Begun in 2006 and continuing, the entire Phonographies collection may be accessed online. In 2012, Aleks was appointed as the first sound artist-in-resident at the Science Museum, London, and he has since held research associateships at the Science Museum and the Royal College of Music. His latest installation, In Search of Perfection, features a giant, newly reconstructed exponential horn loudspeaker from the 1930s and will open at the Science Museum’s Media Space in May 2014.

David Hendy (@DavidjHendy) is professor of media and communication at the University of Sussex, and author of Noise: a Human History, a 30-part series for BBC Radio 4, broadcast in 2013. The series traced the role of sound and listening in social life from prehistory to the present-day.

This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2014, taking place from Monday 24 February - Saturday 1 March 2014, with the theme 'Reflections'.

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