Hearing Trouble: Sound Art in Post-Conflict Cities

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Arts, English and Languages

Abstract

Hearing Trouble is a cross-disciplinary research project that seeks to better understand the urban environment through an examination of sound and sonic art, focusing on the particular conditions of post-conflict cities undergoing rapid and radical change. Our research will focus on Berlin and Belfast, cities that support vibrant communities of sound artists and that have similar architecture and planning cultures. In contrast to the vast majority of research projects that examine the built environment through a visual focus, our research will analyse and respond to rapidly changing cityscapes via multiple aural perspectives.

The project will be lead by a sonic arts historian/practitioner (PI), and an architect/architectural historian (Co-I), who have established a strong foundation of collaborative research through their research group Recomposing the City: Sonic Art and Urban Architectures (www.recomposingthecity.org). Hearing Trouble will be the first major international research project to emerge from this group, demonstrating the significant potential of collaborative research between sonic arts and architecture.

In the first instance, we will critically analyse sound art projects and initiatives in Berlin since 1989 that respond to the city's post-conflict conditions. Berlin is internationally recognized as a leader in sonic arts research and creation and has a rich history of sound art exhibition, education programmes, and initiatives that engage issues of the built environment. The projects we will analyse range from city-wide sound art festivals to site-specific sound installations in urban and public space. Key projects include the Tuned City festival in Berlin, and Peter Cusack's Berlin Sonic Places (2012), which brought together sound artists, planners, architects and communities in considering three major redevelopment sites in Berlin. We will further study Bonn Hoeren, an ongoing project conceived and directed by the Berlin-based curator Carsten Seiffarth in which the city of Bonn appoints a City Sound Artist each year (2010-2020). By examining archival material (i.e. project documentation and critique), and by interviewing artists, curators, arts administrators, community groups, architects/planners and audiences, we will show how sound art initiatives have affected the ways in which Berlin and Bonn are understood. Our critical analysis of different projects will emerge from combined sonic arts and architecture perspectives, presenting a unique merging of sound studies and architectural research.

Using Berlin and Bonn as sources of exemplar projects, we will then examine sound art since 1998 in Belfast, a post-conflict city with an emerging community of sound art practitioners and a growing discourse about the built environment. In Belfast we will similarly interview a wide range of practitioners and other stakeholders, including architects and city planners.

Our ultimate goal is for the research to inform the future development of Belfast, as a potential exemplar for other EU cities. Through Collaborative Workshops with architects, planners, and sound artists in Belfast, we will develop and propose new design strategies that consider sound in relation to the urban environment. Further, through Information Sessions with arts and architecture communities and city planning officials, we will show how a more nuanced understanding of the sound environment can help build better communities. These discussions and the earlier research will form the basis of an Advice Note which will give recommendations on good practice in relation to planning and sound, as well as a co-authored book, conference papers and a Web site. Hearing Trouble is proposed as Northern Ireland's planning powers are being devolved from centralised control to local authorities in 2015. Thus this research has the potential for significant and immediate impact on policy as well as its eventual repercussions in the built environment.

Planned Impact

Hearing Trouble has the potential to produce long-term societal and cultural impact through collaboration and discussion with several stakeholder groups. The main non-academic beneficiaries are: (1) those directly involved with the design and planning of cities, and 2) artists and arts communities. The general public, residents of Belfast, and business communities will also benefit from the improved quality of the built environment.

(1) The project aims to influence architects and city planners in Belfast. We will target practicing designers, professional associations and government bodies. We have existing relationships with these groups and are in a strong position to impact on their practice and decision making. They are:
-designers of the built environment: architects, urban designers, planners and landscape architects
-professional associations: Royal Society of Ulster Architects/Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Town Planning Institute, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Landscape Institute
-government organisations: Belfast City Council, Dept of Culture Arts and Leisure, Dept of Social Development, Dept of Regional Development and Dept of the Environment
-heritage groups: Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society
-lobbying bodies for built environment issues: Forum for Alternative Belfast (FAB), PLACE Architecture and Built Environment Centre
-private developers

2) Hearing Trouble will also impact stakeholders in arts communities: artists, curators, festival directors, arts administrators, funding bodies, and promoters. In Belfast these include:
-contemporary arts festivals: Belfast Festival, Culture Night, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Sonorities Festival
-contemporary arts centres, galleries, and music presenters: Metropolitan Arts Centre, Ulster Museum, Golden Thread Gallery, Black Box Belfast, PS2, Moving on Music
-arts administrators and funding bodies: Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council
-curatorial groups that focus on contemporary art: Brown&Bri, Household Belfast
-media that promote local arts initiatives: BBC Northern Ireland, Belfast Telegraph

The cross-disciplinary impact activities outlined below will be purposefully conversational; stakeholders will be involved directly in their design and delivery.

a. Collaborative Workshops will benefit designers and artists by enhancing their knowledge and skills. They will enable designers to better understand and shape Belfast in its current phase of post-conflict development. They will also help artists by showing the potential of their practice to impact upon urban design.

b. Information Sessions for debating and disseminating Workshop outcomes will benefit both groups by showing new ways to understand and regenerate Belfast as a post-conflict city. They will also enhance the knowledge and skills of those in public organisations. Further, by bringing together two normally distinct groups, these Information Sessions will put creative practitioners and decision-makers into dialogue in ways that have never been facilitated in Belfast.

c. An Advice Note, a standard means of impacting on planning policy, will benefit the city by providing a series of distinct and concrete suggestions for future development to the new Belfast Planning Authority. Our Workshop Facilitators Forum for Alternative Belfast and PLACE Built Environment Centre have established contacts with the intended recipients, which will help ensure the Advice Note is received by the most appropriate people. The Advice Note will be rooted in our evidence-based research.

d. A co-authored book will impact professional practice in architecture, planning, and sonic arts by showing how creative design strategies can emerge from collaboration across these groups. This book will enable us to share our research findings with the original communities that contributed to the research in Berlin, Bonn and Belfast.

Publications


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Lappin, S. (2016) Sonic Places: In Conversation with Peter Cusack in Journal of Sonic Studies
Ouzounian, G. (2016) Recomposing the City: New Directions in Urban Sound Art in Journal of Sonic Studies

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/M008037/1 01/06/2015 18/09/2016 £197,382
AH/M008037/2 Transfer AH/M008037/1 19/09/2016 31/05/2018 £112,697
 
Description Advice to Belfast City Council Tourism Department
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Invited Briefing Paper for Belfast City Council, 'Planning for Healthy Acoustic Environments' (9 pages)
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2018
 
Description 'Sound Making Space' at Royal Academy of the Arts, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI was invited to give a talk as part of a public event, Sound | Making | Space, co-hosted by the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Royal Academy of the Arts, London. The event was sold out, with over 200 attendees, and generated a great deal of discussion and interest on the part of the audience. Following the talk the Royal Academy expressed an interest in hosting workshops by the research team on the 'Hearing Trouble' project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/sound-making-space
 
Description 'Supersonic' event at Ashmolean Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI Dr Gascia Ouzounian was invited to present a 'bitesized' lecture at a public engagement event, Supersonic, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The event was co-presented by Oxford Contemporary Music, TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), and the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. The event itself drew over 3,000 people, and the talks were attended by approx. 80-100 people each. After the talk Dr Ouzounian was invited by TORCH to discuss future collaborations with them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ashmolean.org/livefriday/2017-03/
 
Description 3 Workshops on Urban Sound Design and Acoustic Planning 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The research team hosted 3 day-long workshops at Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast. The purpose of these workshops was to introduce policymakers, architects and spatial designers (urban planners, etc.) to the idea of working with sound as a creative medium in urban environments. We presented exemplary projects from other cities and discussed how these ideas might help in the place-making of towns and cities in Northern Ireland. Emerging from this workshop we were invited to provide a briefing paper on 'Health Noise and Sound' to Belfast City Council. We were also invited to provide a briefing paper to Belfast City Council Tourism section on the potential of 'Sound Art and Tourism' for Belfast.

Workshop participants were drawn from the following organisations:
Ards and North Down Borough Council
Belfast City Council -- Planning and Environment; City & Neighbourhood Services Department
Belfast Harbour Commissioners
Belfast Healthy Cities
Belfast Tourism
City Reparo Lobbying Group
Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs
Healthy Ageing Strategic Partnership, Belfast Health Development Unit
Hogarth Group, Landscape Architects
Ciaran Mackel Architect
Mid Ulster District Council
Optimised Environments Consultants
Peter Lloyd Associates Acousticians
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://recomposingthecity.org/news/2016/8/10/workshops-on-urban-sound-design
 
Description Invited Lecture at PhD Colloquium (Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Approximately 60 postgraduate students attended a lecture by Dr Gascia Ouzounian (PI) as part of the PhD Colloquium at the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. The lecture sparked lively discussion afterwards. It led to an invitation for Dr Ouzounian to give a guest lecture at UNIQ, Oxford's only official summer school programme for students studying in their first year of further education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.music.ox.ac.uk/event/research-colloquium-gascia-ouzonian/
 
Description Invited talk at art opening (Berlin) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 150 people attended the opening of a sound art exhibition by Belgian artist Jeroen Vandesande at the Schering Stiftung in Berlin. Dr Gascia Ouzounian (PI) was invited to give a talk on sound art at the opening. Following this talk, Carsten Seiffarth, a leading sound art curator in Berlin, invited Dr Ouzounian to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming edited book.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.scheringstiftung.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2910%3Ajeroen-vandesande...
 
Description Keynote Speaker for 'Sound and Sounding Arts in Public Urban Environments' (Leiden) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI was invited to be a Keynote Speaker at an international conference on 'The Role and Position of Sounds and Sounding Arts in Public Urban Environments' at Leiden University. 28-29 November 2016. The conference attracted a broad mix of professional practitioners, academics from sound studies, music and applied acoustics, as well as postgraduate students, undergraduate students and the general public. After the conference the PI was contacted by a number of European researchers who were interested in discussing future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/news/2016/11/conference--sounds-in-urban-spaces
 
Description Keynote for Postgraduate Study Day, KCL 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The PI, Dr Gascia Ouzounian, was invited to give the keynote lecture at a Postgraduate Study Day in Music at King's College London. Dr Ouzounian's talk focused on building new pathways for interdisciplinary research between music/sound studies and architecture/urban studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Panel at Royal College of Arts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The PI was invited to give a talk as part of an expert panel on 'Sound Art and Music' at the Royal College of Arts, London. The panel was attended by over 80 artists, curators, postgraduate students and faculty. The event organisers expressed an interest in potentially developing the conversations into a new book.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.crisap.org/event/colloquium-sound-art-music-book-launch/
 
Description Presentation at Errant Bodies gallery (Berlin) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Gascia Ouzounian (PI) and Dr Sarah Lappin (CI) gave a presentation on the Hearing Trouble project to approximately 30 sound artists and architects at the Errant Bodies gallery in Berlin. The purpose was to introduce our work to key professional practitioners in Berlin, one of the principal sites of our research. The presentation sparked lengthy discussion afterwards, and lead to an invitation to present our research at a leading arts university in Berlin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://errantbodiesspace.blogspot.de/2015/09/hearing-trouble-sarah-lappin-gascia.html
 
Description Presentation to Urban Studies research group (Belfast) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Sarah Lappin (CI) was invited to discuss the Hearing Trouble project with the 'Cinema and Architecture in the City' research group, a regional research group based at Queen's University Belfast. The audience included film-makers, students and interdisciplinary scholars who are currently engaged in a project to map and study cinema in various European cities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/InstituteforCollaborativeResearchintheHumanities/Interdiscipli...
 
Description Radio broadcast (Montréal) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On 25 October 2015 Dr Gascia Ouzounian (PI) gave a 30-minute radio interview for CKUT 90.3 FM, a popular community radio station in Montréal, during which she discussed aspects of the 'Hearing Trouble' project. The interview was accessible to international audiences for approximately 4 months via an online archive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://ckut.ca/en/node/1646
 
Description Sound Art Matters (Denmark) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Co-Investigator presented a paper emerging from the research project at the international conference 'Sound Art Matters', 1-4 June 2016 at Aarhus University in Denmark. The paper, titled 'What's the Matter with Architecture: Sound Art as a Challenge to Architectural Practice,' generated lively discussion and lead to invitations for future collaborations with European researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://conferences.au.dk/soundart2016/
 
Description Workshop: Sound and Architecture and the Centre for Creative Arts 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Approximately 40 people attended a workshop to discuss the design of the new Centre for Creative Arts building at Leeds Beckett University. This workshop included clients, users of the building and designers (including architects and engineers). The purpose of the workshop was to discuss how sound can be better integrated into the design of the building. It included a lively discussion where the Co-Investigator reported on current research underway in the 'Hearing Trouble' project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017