Sonification: Transfer into Musical Arts was published as the program book for the Sonification Festival 2017. Jutta Ravenna, the artistic director of the festival, is responsible for the program’s conception and curation. The organizer was the Berlin Society for New Music (BGNM). The book contains program notes to compositions and sound installations of the participants as well as their biographies. Edited by Julia H. Schröder, the book includes original essays on Sonification in Music and Sound Art. These essays were written by invited specialists from a variety of academic disciplines. Each contribution offers a different perspective on the discourse and tests the theme’s boundaries.
Essays from: Miriam Akkermann, Christina Dörfling, Gesa Finke, Marion Saxer, Stephanie Schroedter, Martin Supper, Jan Thoben and Julia H. Schröder
On the Festival “Sonifications – Audible Data Streams”
What does a pulsar sound like? What does it sound like when the human brain dreams? How does it sound if the DNA data of a performer is sonified live on stage? And how can a panorama of the Swiss Alps be transformed into a concert? From 27 through 29 October 2017, the Berlin Society of New Music (BGNM) will present the festival “Sonifications – Audible Data Streams” at the Villa Elisabeth in Berlin. The festival will feature works from 26 composers, sound artists and performers. The term “sonification” is etymologically derived from the Latin “sonus”, meaning “sound”, and “facere”, meaning “to make”, thus “making into sound”. Concretely, the term refers to the process of turning data into sound. The historical roots reach as far back as the pre-Socratic era. Even Pythagoras was part of a tradition of research by ear: he demonstrated mathematical relationships via the playing of a monochord. The range of things which can be sonified is extremely broad, encompassing sociological statistics, brainwaves, seismic activity, DNA, photosynthetic or microbial data as well as constellations of the planets. These types of data can be rendered audible not only for scientific, but also for aesthetic and musical means. Since the introduction of interfaces and program codes brought about by the digital era, sonification – the acoustic counterpart to “visualization” in the visual arts – has been rapidly integrated into music. As a form of artistic translation of scientific data, such as: ocean currents or stock market trends, sonification can nowadays be used for musical purposes without being hindered by the technical difficulties of translation processes. One of the most divisive questions to have emerged regards the point at which the outcomes of this type of scientific-artistic research become art. What is the next coherent step for the arts in providing listeners with new ways to physically engage with sets of data? How are the aesthetics of a sonification decided upon? How does one move from there to the creation of an original musical work? And, how does an artist approach the newly offered advances in the sciences? The process of digitization – transformation into binary code – equals a neutralisation of the translated information: At this point the artists have to make decisions. The creative use of data by composers, sound artists and performers, their codes and the diverse ways to decipher hidden parameter-mappings on the ways to our ears, throw us new questions regarding production and reception aesthetics, media politics, culture and philosophy.
The festival is dedicated to this new musical genre, i. e. works of sonification, which has already brought about a broad spectrum of aesthetic productions. Many of these works are collaborations between artists and scientists. From this plethora of diverse current aesthetic sonification strategies, several compositions, sound installations and performances with succinct and original concepts have been chosen for the festival’s program. In addition to these works, the visitors will be offered the opportunity to hear panel discussions and experience the listening station Sound Bar all of which offer an extensive variety of concrete examples from the current sonification scene. During the festival special attention will be given to the sensory and direct experience of sonifications.
The Call for Works During the search for suitable works to be presented at the festival, it was decided that a competition would be held whose goal was to offer artists the opportunity to premiere new works. A call for compositions was issued for either percussion/objects or string quartets, both with or without a maximum 8-channel live-electronic accompaniment. The chosen works for percussion/objects (with or without live electronic accompaniment) are two performances which feature real-time sonification: From Cloud To Fog (2016), a collective work from Eliza Goldox, Jasmine Guffond and Holger Heissmeyer, as well as the premiere of Listening Back (2017), a laptop performance with percussion from Jasmine
Sonifikationsbuch: Einleitungen 5
Guffond. The Berlin-based Kairos Quartett will perform the premiere of the two winning entries and commissioned compositions: Dérive for string quartet and live-electronics, featuring the sonification of GPS data of a stroll through Berlin from Lula Romero, and Auflösung for cello, transducer and live-electronics from Luc Döbereiner. Martin Hachmann’s installation Angst transfers sociological data via three chairs as sounding objects.
One of the main criteria for the selection of works was their ability to touch closely upon the theme of the festival – sonification. A further criterion was the transparency and clarity of the works regarding the rules organising the relationship between data and the resulting sound. The jury should understand from the entered scores and concept proposals how the chosen data was interpreted and subsequently transformed into sound. Further central criteria for the decision of the jury were formal aesthetic aspects, such as economic use of resources, originality, work on sound qualities and approaches to the composition of time and space. The format of the works played an important role, especially in the exploration of performative aspects of sound generation, interactivity, site-specificity of installation works, as well as the use of objects or instruments for the transfer of data into sound. Other pragmatic aspects were considered, such as the work’s ability to be realised both on an aesthetic, as well as a technical level, its potential to complement the concert program and gender equality.
Cooperation the program benefitted from the co-operation of Strömungen, Sonifyer and Sonarisationen, who have addressed the theme of sonification in Karlsruhe, Switzerland, and on the radio respectively. Prior to the Berlin-based Sonifications festival, the radio series Sonarisationen, under the direction of Marcus Gammel of Deutschlandfunk Kultur, will be presented in the form of a panel discussion. From the 2016 festival program Strömungen at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, a selection of works was chosen to be performed again in Berlin. All partners will contribute to the Soundbar, a headphone listening station, which will be playing excerpts of the various works presented at the festival and will provide information about the compositions. The Soundbar’s genre categorization is based on the sonification portal www.sonifyer.org, which was developed by Florian Dombois and colleagues at the Hochschule der Künste, Berne.
Acknowledgments I am grateful to all participating artists, the Stiftung Kulturfonds of the Berlin Senate as well as its cooperations partner the Kultur Büro Elisabeth, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, the Elektronisches Studio of the Technische Universität Berlin, www.sonifyer.org at Hochschule der Künste Berne, Galerie Zwanzigquadrameter Berlin and the Deutschlandfunk Kultur series Sonarisationen. Special thanks go to Dr. Angela Lammert, head of the interdisciplinary projects of the visual arts department at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Arnold Dreyblatt, René Block, Ursula Block, Marita Loosen-Fox, Dr. Andreas Schalborn, Berliner Kupferstichkabinett, Wulf Herzogenrath, Florian Dombois, Prof. Volker Straebel and Prof. Dr. Sabine Sanio
Jutta Ravenna in: Heroines of Sound. Feminismn and Gender in elektronic Music, S. Sanio und B. Wackernagel (Ed.), Hofheim: Wolke 2019, https://www.wolke-verlag.de/musikbuecher/sabine-sanio-bettina-wackernagel-heroines-of-sound-book/
Jutta Ravenna in: Sonification: Transfer into Musical Arts, program book with essays published during the festival Sonifications - Audible Data Streams, Julia H. Schroeder (Ed.), Wolke Verlag 2017http://www.wolke-verlag.de/sonifikation.html
Carsten Seiffahrt/ Markus Steffens: 1996-2006 singuhr-soundart Berlin, Cyan-Verlag 2010
Oliver Schneller: Sonic Arts in Germany, by DEGEM, The MIT Press 2002, pp. 101-104
Jutta Ravenna in: Starlings over Berlin: Aesthical Analogies of Birdsongs. Tilman Küntzel (Ed.), Pfau Verlag 2004
Sabine Sanio in: Soundart. Ringing Objects and Sounding Spaces. Handbook of Music of the 20th Century, Volume 12, "Autonomy, Intentionality, Situation. Aspects of an enlarged Art Term" :
Helga de la Motte-Haber (Ed.), Laaber-Verlag 1999
Jutta Ravenna in: singuhr-hoergalerie in parochial. „Where will sound-artists be driven, in their search for spaces in which their works can be produced and presented?“
Soundart Exhibtion Catalogue, 1996-1998 Materialien zum Symposium "Klang-Kunst-Räume" 1998, Susanne Binas und Carsten Seiffahrt (Ed.), Pfau-Verlag 1998
Jutta Ravenna in: Music in Dialogue III. Soundart/Musictheatre „Inter-Vention in Public Space“, Pfau-Verlag 1999
Matthias Ludwig in: Light and Sound, The Data-Soundwindow of Jutta Ravenna, art and church, 1/99, Darmstadt 1999
Jutta Ravenna in: Fidesarte Nr. 18, Cataloghi d´astra, Rom 1998
Golo Föllmer in: Music..., changes. The Electronic Studio of the Technical University of Berlin 1953-1995, Soundinstallations, Wolke-Verlag 1996
Antal Lux, Jutta Ravenna: Emphatic Chairs 4, Daten-Klangsäule
in: Home Stories , T-Systems Nova GmbH Berkom 2002
Jutta Ravenna: audio-visual extracts in: Degem-CD-ROM : Soundart in Germany, Wergo/ Schott-Verlag 2000
Jutta Ravenna: Quiet Phonemes (extract) in: LeiseLaute. Elektroacustic Music, Degem Audio-CD 3, Cybele 1997
Gisela Nauck: Klanginstallation Pulsating Patio in: Heroines of Sound Berlin, Deutschlandradio Kultur 2015
Ruth Waldeyer: Raudio Aasland with Jutta Ravenna: Rotation, Artradio Reboot-fm 2014
Cluster, Deutschlandradio Kultur 2012
Sabine Sanio: Digital Sounding Fields, Sender Freies Berlin 1999
S. di Fusco: Data-Soundwindow, Radio Brandenburg 1996
Research and Teaching
Goethe Center Santa Cruz, Bolivia 2019, Workshop for composition and audio engineering students: Listen to Santa Cruz
hybrid platform, Visualization and Sonification, transdiscplinary Research of the UdK and TU Berlin 2016
Sound Studies University of Arts of Berlin 2015 , Artist-Talk at Mastercolloquium
Sound Studies, University of Arts of Berlin 2014 , Lecture
Lecture Series Technical University of Berlin 2012, Facultry Audio Communication, Electronic Music Studio, Artist talk
Lectureship University of Oldenburg 2012, "Soundbridges"
Lectureship University of Oldenburg 2012 , "Searching for new spaces of listening"
Lectureship University of Oldenburg 2011 , "How sounds red?"