David Toop and Max Eastley in Conversation at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 24th November 2012. David and Max gave the keynote presentation to complete our 'Making Sound Objects' one day British Forum for Ethnomusicology Conference. Beginning with sounds from their 1994 album 'Buried Dreams', and ranging through their engagement with sound and instruments at the Pitt RIvers Museum, the history of sound recording, and the role of sound in societies, their conversation was intended expand the dialogue between sound theorists, sound practitioners, and ethnomusicologists.
The conference explored the contemporary and historical creation, collection and circulation of sound and sound-producing objects, and is guided by the following enlightened advice of Henry Balfour, first curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum: “Any object whether natural or artificial, and however simple, which is employed for the purpose of producing sound (whether ‘musical’ in an aesthetic sense or not) should be included as a musical instrument.” He gave this advice in 1929 to anthropologists engaged in the collection of musical instruments, advice which seems prescient indeed, as distinctions between sound and music are dissolved and re-articulated in contemporary thinking about the sound and sound objects. Such objects have been amassed over 130 years of recording, collected, documented and stored in archives, lofts, memory sticks, phones and clouds, while new technology creates exciting new sonic possibilities: for example, electronic artist Aphex Twin can conduct an orchestra by remote control, engineers use microphones to capture the inaudible, and sound designers use ambisonics to encode sound fields with incredible fidelity.
At this exciting time in the history of sound recording and objects – when the influence of the commercial recording industry is declining, and the age of personal sound production and inter-personal distribution is proliferating – several key questions arise: What methods and resources might scholars use to collect, analyse, create and use sound? How best might we conceptualise the relationships amongst sound archives, museums, contemporary communities and soundscapes? What type of knowledge is it possible to achieve and share through sound and sound-producing objects? How does the creation and sharing of sounds influence and change societies? This one-day conference was hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, and sought interdisciplinary engagement with these questions. Contributions have been welcomed from anthropologists, musicologists, acousticians, historians, geographers, organologists, sound engineers, song collectors, audio archaeologists, and fine and sound artists – in fact anyone engaged with the production and analysis of sound.
Full Conference Schedule
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