Date of workshop: 30 November and 1 December 2012
Location: Berlin, Germany
Deadline for proposals: 10 September 2012
The production of sounds from outer space involves collaborative work and extensive communication networks to support methods and technologies for rendering celestial objects into sonic forms that are not only discernible but can also be recorded, manipulated, augmented, and reproduced. This workshop on ‘Sounds of Space’ will examine the fundamental role of technology, craft skills and situated knowledge for realizing outer space and space exploration in sonic forms that resonate through physical, perceptual and imaginary worlds. Focusing on the period extending from the late 1940s to 1980, the workshop will examine ways in which sonic technologies, sound and music production, soundscapes, media and listening practices have shaped and been shaped by knowledge and understanding of outer space. Participants will be invited to respond to the core question: How have sonic experiences been conceived, articulated and elided in cultural practice and discourse on outer space and space exploration in Western Europe and the US during the post-war period? Key themes and questions to be examined include but are not limited to the following:
i.) Electronic instruments, music and sounds of space
Since at the early 1950s, tape machines, computers, synthesizers and other instruments have been used as sonic technologies for producing and conveying knowledge about outer space and simulating the experience of space travel. Contributions that critically engage with the work of composer–performers of electronic music including Oskar Sala, Laurie Spiegel, and Klaus Schulze and studies on the Berlin school of electronic music, space music and ambient soundscapes are especially welcome. How have composers and musicians employed and shaped communication technology and electronic instruments to create a vocabulary (literal and figurative) and sonic aesthetic for realizing the sound of space and future space travel?
ii.) Voices from space
Audio communications between ground based facilities on earth and humans in space have existed since the first crewed orbital flights around the Earth in the early 1960s. In addition to technical jargon created for communication between the flight team at mission control and crew on board spacecraft, stylistic features such as staccato and stilted dialogue, acoustic artifacts including quindar tones or beeps, static noise, echoes and temporal delays are routinely associated with electronically mediated vocal transmissions from space. How and why has the sound of the human voice from outer space changed over time?
iii.) Sounds of space in entertainment media
The tag line for 1979 film ‘Alien’ warned audiences ‘In space no one can hear you scream’, adding a dramatic edge to the observation that sound waves do not propagate in the near vacuum of space. Although aware of the silent conditions outside Earth’s atmosphere this has not deterred media producers, musicians and sound artists from creating a vast repertoire of sound effects and music to convey not only the human voice but also space-related technology and natural objects in space most notably in science fiction programmes broadcast on radio and television as well as commercial films. From the dreamlike electronic score for the 1956 film ‘Forbidden Planet’ to Kubrick’s audacious scoring of silence and orchestral music in the 1969 classic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, the medium of cinema has had a profound influence on our conception of the intricate relationship between sound, outer space and future space exploration. In what ways do sounds of outer space in entertainment media afford opportunities for exploring the interplay between science and popular culture in the history of spaceflight?
Confirmed speakers include Tim Boon (British Science Museum), Honor Harger (Lighthouse Digital Culture Agency), Konstantin Kaminskij (Universität Konstanz), Trevor Pinch (Cornell University), and James Wierzbicki (University of Sydney).
Proposals for twenty-minute papers are invited from researchers working in history, sonic studies, musicology, science and technology studies and other disciplines as well as artists and performers whose work engages with the historical relationship between sound and outer space. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words together with a short CV (up to two pages) before 10 September 2012 to the convener William R. Macauley. The organizers will arrange and pay for accommodation in Berlin. Travel funds are available for invited participants unable to obtain funds from their host institution.
Dr. William R. Macauley
“The Future in the Stars: European Astroculture and
Extraterrestrial Life in the Twentieth Century”
Emmy Noether Research Group
Freie Universität Berlin
Email: [email protected]
Freie Universität Berlin
Henry Ford Building