Hearing Landscape Critically

Sound and music are intrinsic to our experience of the world in myriad ways: we orient ourselves acoustically as much as spatially. It is almost impossible to conceive of music and/or sound without invoking metaphors of space and/or place , whether through performance, embodiment, or other modes of representation. The Hearing Landscape Critically network, supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, draws new critical attention to the significance of sound in landscape, and investigates how landscape shapes our understanding of music. The network breaks fresh ground by embracing a broadly interdisciplinary methodology and bringing together scholars (at various stages of their academic careers) from music and sound studies, ethnomusicology, art history, cultural geography, anthropology, and comparative literature, working across diverse geographical contexts. The network’s subject matter will be correspondingly wide-ranging, and will explore new questions as they emerge through ongoing discussion and debate. The strategic research focus will remain tightly attuned to the tasks of interrogating sound in landscape, as both a formative and representational presence, and of investigating the role that landscape, space, and place have played in musical communication and performance.

Key research objectives for the network are as follows:

1. To investigate particular privileged sites and sounds of musical power: interpreting the role that landscape, space and place have played in ideas of occupation, reservation, institution, restitution, academy, capital, knowledge, authenticity and legitimation;

2. To analyse the relationships between music and political landscapes , attending to issues of subordination, exploitation, destruction, and survival;

3. To interpret performed landscapes, especially by considering the relationships between space, place, theatre, narration, embodiment, language, song, immersion, and the everyday;

4. To reimagine landscape as a series of structures and topologies: interrogating the notion of musical space as smooth or striated, complex or chaotic, fixed, dense, or in flux;

5. To assess the significance of music and mobility in landscape: especially the role and value of sound and music in tourism, commuting, returning, tracing, dwelling and/as wandering, stasis and acceleration;

6. To review the interconnections between music and the philosophy of landscape, space, and place, as shaped by human and non-human spaces, transcendental metaphors and the nature/culture debate, ontologies and epistemologies of sound and space, phenomenology.

The network was launched at a conference in Oxford in May 2012. Further activities were centred on a three-stage programme of academic meetings, cultural events, and cross-disciplinary encounters, organised according to the following chronology:

1. A critical workshop at the University of Stellenbosch (September 9-11, 2013)

2. A follow-up symposium at Harvard (in January 2015)

3. A final plenary session in Oxford (in April 2016)

Network events have also included specially commissioned creative works from sound artists, film-makers and curators in Stellenbosch and Harvard, in order to promote greater dialogue between scholars and practitioners working in Landscape Studies.

For further information, contact the Principal Investigator, Dr Daniel Grimley, or the Network’s Administrator Adam Harper