Winter 2014: Amsterdam

Part I: Spaces, Objects and Embodied Practices

(NICA / University of Amsterdam, January 13-17, 2014)

The historical emergence of phonography and wireless radio are often conceived as allowing for sounds to be detached from their source. However, such mediated sounds retain certain spatial characteristics of their performance (“spatial signatures”), whether determined by the room acoustics of concert halls, purpose-built studios or outdoor environments. In early radio broadcasting, for instance, poor sound transmission led to concerns about microphone and speaker quality, resonance and absorption levels, and forms of atmospheric interference. Listeners’ calls for a more faithful acoustic reproduction coincided with professional debates about whether to foreground the sounds considered most important to the recording, such as voice or musical sound, or to capture the full range of available sounds.

Against this background, the winter school will facilitate discussions about the interrelation of audio technologies, spaces, (material) objects and embodied practices. These interrelations allow for a consideration of how sound configures everyday media consumption and subcultures, artistic and scientific communities, or political and social communication. Questions concerning both individual and collective practices with sound will be addressed:

  • To what extent are embodied (listening) practices, auditory memories and sonic community expressions afforded by particular sound technologies?
  • How is sound stored and archived with different technological media, material cultures and bodily techniques, and what is the specific contribution of each to a sonic cultural heritage?
  • What impact do the politics and economics of technical design have on the spaces and environments in which sound cultures are embedded?
  • In what ways is the cultural politics of sound bound up with the formation of identities? How can sonic effects and qualities – like silence, immersion, echo, rhythm or atmosphere – further reveal the role of sound in community formation?
  • How do audio techniques circulate between different (local) fields and broader sound cultures?


We welcome contributions that respond to such questions from the perspectives from Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Literary Studies, Musicology, Art History, Theatre and Performance Studies, the History and Philosophy of Science, Science and Technology Studies, Archival Studies, Audio engineering, Architectural acoustics and Urban Studies.