pour une anthropologie des milieux sonores
MILSON Conference II – February 2012

Abstracts 2012

Résumés des interventions / Abstracts

Vincent Battesti

(CNRS, Laboratoire Écoanthropologie Ethnobiologie, MNHN Paris)

Mics in the ears: how to ask people in Cairo to talk about their sound universes (Egypt)

Last year, I presented here a paper that asked falsely ingenuous whether it was possible to do an ethnography of local soundscapes, received and produced in Cairo (Egypt). Nobody was fooled, the answer, as « militant » as scientific, was positive: yes we can, we must surely even do ethnography of neglected sections of our relationship — which is first sensorial — to our ecological and social environment.
With my colleague Nicolas Puig, we set up a an experience since last fall that is still under test. We asked some inhabitants of Cairo — chosen from among our acquaintances / informants for now — to make a routine trip (georeferenced) equipped with microphones stereo (binaural type) in the ears. The goal is that users of public spaces put into words sound events or soundscapes they received or not (or produced or not), with the technique of listen reactivation. Will be presented the first results of this experience, set up to go beyond the usual relatively silence when it comes to sounds, set up to better understand both the specific markers of sensorial universes and the construction of specific ways to live according to the urban areas … without losing sight of the strong personalities of our informants. (Présentation in collaboration with Nicolas Puig)


Tripta Chandola

(Asia Research Institute, National University Singapore)

Listening into Others: Moralising soundscapes in Delhi (India)

In this presentation, I evaluate the relationship between residents of a slum settlement and its middle-class neighbours through the politics of production and articulation of sounds. Here I evaluate this relationship as situated within the discourse of cleanliness and othering, but also stretching it to speak of the spaces (and the sensorial performances) through which the slum dwellers not only exert their identities but also appropriate, circumvent and subvert the discourse of othering/cleanliness.


Anne Damon

(Université Jean Monnet – Saint-Etienne, CIEREC)

Sounds of Hell and Sounds of Eden. Ambient sounds in Ethiopia in the missionary context, XVIIth-XVIIIth centuries.

Around 1620, the portuguese Jesuits used music and sounds as weapons to convert Ethiopians to catholicism. One century after their expulsion, Franciscans came incognito to the heretical Ethiopia and described a place where weepings and cries were the daily sounds. The missionaries’ descriptions give a precise insight of sensory environment. They create a sound world where the catholic, latin and tonal one is the only « in tune ».


Jean-Charles Depaule

(Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Urbaine/LAU-IIAC, Ivry-sur-Seine)

Poésie vocale, sonore, art sonore… ou quoi ?

Il existe aujourd’hui une pluralité de courants artistiques connus sous les appellations de poésie orale, phonétique, sonore…  voire d’art sonore. Qu’ils s’intéressent surtout à l’intonation de la parole ou qu’ils intègrent des « bruits » dans leurs productions, ces courants, qui se réclament ou non des futurismes, de dada et de mouvements plus récents comme le lettrisme, Fluxus (avec la figure difficilement contournable de John Cage) ou Polyphonix, ont en commun la volonté de sortir des limites du texte écrit et imprimé. Ils entretiennent un lien fort avec la notion de performance et l’implication du corps. Ils se réfèrent au « cri » d’Artaud, mais aussi au cut up de Burroughs et Gysin. Ils revendiquent une certaine sauvagerie et en même temps sont indissociables des progrès des instruments d’enregistrement, de mixage et d’amplification, des outils de conception informatiques et d’une pratique multimédia.
Il s’agit d’en tenter une topographie, en identifiant leurs relations mutuelles et leurs éventuelles frontières avec d’autres champs, à commencer par celui de la musique.


Olivier Féraud

(Université de la Méditerrannée Aix-Marseille 2 / Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Urbaine-IIAC)

‘Noising’ the city. How fireworks can be a popular way of experiencing noise in Naples (Italy)

The use of firecrackers (« botti »)and fireworks (« fuocchi ») in Naples has become an increasingly popular practice in recent years. Traditionally used during the New Year and religious processions, firecrackers are becoming overtaken by the increased use of fireworks in a range of contexts often connected to celebrations such as marriages, baptisms etc. The attraction that certain firecraker amateurs have toward powerful explosives as well as the excessive use of fireworks has provoked strong oppositional reactions within some local inhabitants due to a perception that assimilates noise pollution to prevalance of crime and social and cultural poverty. In contrast to this, the users of the explosives insist that their actions encourage feelings of pleasure, strong emotion and value of courage. Through the controversies that surround « botti » and « fuocchi » emerges divergent relationships to sound environment and public space – creating an opposition between two societies – expressing social and cultural dynamics that are representative of the neapolitan context.


Christine Guillebaud

(CNRS, Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, CREM, Paris-Ouest Nanterre)

Prominent sounds. Sonic spaces and attention modalities in India

My paper is concerned with sound ethnography of Indian cities, ones of the most noisiest cities in the world. In an anthropological perspective, I will discuss the limits of the concept of « sound pollution » (mainly based on quantitative measurements), that do not give any account on the different attention modalities of local dwellers and users. Based on ethnographic examples (fireworks, ritual sound engineering, selling techniques etc.), the presentation analyse how sound spaces are perceived and how dwellers attribute to prominent sounds particular meanings and efficiency. We will also explore the local implication of measurement logics in a context of sound captivation practices, and the differences in cultural interests that recently came to the fore.


Claire Guiu

(Université de Nantes, Espaces et Sociétés – ESO)

Sons et représentations de la ruralité – work in progress

Les représentations sociétales de la nature ont façonné l’image d’une campagne comme espace de calme et de qualité sonore (Schafer, 1974). Aujourd’hui, les distinctions établies au niveau des politiques européennes quant aux émissions sonores tolérées entre zones urbaines et rurales, la mise en place de périmètres d’action aux conditions sonores spécifiques (« zones calmes » ou « quiet areas », « zones de silence » en forêt par exemple) et les initiatives générées dans le cadre de territoires de projet notamment, valorisant les aspects identitaires des sons et des territoires (inventaires, paysages sonores remarquables, associations, jardins musicaux, projets de création sonore, etc.) nous amènent à nous interroger sur les représentations sociales et leurs effets dans la construction d’une ruralité associée au calme et à des marqueurs sonores spécifiques. A partir d’un travail de terrain sur les perceptions sonores, nous aborderons les représentations sonores associées aux espaces de nature et de campagne. Puis nous verrons dans quelle mesure ces représentations peuvent constituent des éléments actifs dans le développement d’actions territorialisées mobilisant le sonore.


Pierre Manea

(Department of Sociology, Keio University / Université Lyon 3, Etudes japonaises)

Ritornellos in JR East Train Stations: Managing Passengers Behaviors through Departure Melodies (Japan)

In 1989, JR East (the largest railway company in the world) initiated an experiment on several of its train stations with the use of a complex system of « departure melodies » (hassha merodii), while in the meantime its european counterparts favored policies toward limited reliance on sound signals. Ten years later, the company firmly stepped into a general use of departure melodies on all of its railway network, ‘ballasting’ train lines and stations with sonic cultural symbol, in a japanese tradition of journey, but above all in an attempt to further control the flow of passengers through sound. This policy shaped a sound environment that researchers criticized as being composed of « cultural noises » (bunka sôon). By describing its formation, we would like not only to touch on its impacts in the society, but draw attention on how sound was and still is considered by the company as a tool for crowd management.


Vincent Rioux

(Pôle numérique, ENS Beaux-Arts, Paris)

Tribute to a footbridge : Contact Dance and Sound Spaces Improvisations in Choisy-Le-Roi

During the late fifties, following a utopian and functionalism architectural trend, the town of Choisy-Le-Roi located in the south of Paris region, endured a rather drastic reshaping. In order to supposedly achieve a smooth and efficient traffic through the city as well as a satisfactory social urban interaction experience, main traffic axes were enlarged and a large concrete slab was built for pedestrian above ground plane. A footbridge was later built in order to join the historical part of the city to the shopping center built on the slab. Fifty years later, urban planners completely changed paradigm in favor of a multimodal transport system implying among other things the complete destruction of the footbridge. On this occasion, a young dance collective was asked to perform a rather unusual “ceremony”, celebrating the life and death of a rather urban still organic part of the city. This paper intends to show how this improvisation sessions were technically and artistically imagined and instantiated on the 15th of december 2009. We will develop and motivate the choice of combining contact dance and computer-based live composition under those circumstances. This modest experience raises a few questions concerning the possibility of art at the edge of the entertainment sphere. Moreover, this paper intends to explain how artists did play with urban atmospheres (sound light and movements) under working days conditions.


Iñigo Sánchez

(Instituto de Etnomusicologia INET-MD, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)

Tuning in to the Sounds of Urban Transformation. Preliminary Reflections on a Sound Ethnography of Mouraria’s quarter  (Lisbon, Portugal)

In this paper, I present some preliminary reflections on a research in progress that seeks to explore the soundlines of the urban transformations that are taking place in the Lisbon’s district of Mouraria. This historical quarter has been socially and urbanistically constructed as an object of urban redevelopment since the mid 1980s.  Today the area is subjected to an intense and ambitious plan of urban regeneration that involves a complex web of various political, institutional and social agents. The plan is oriented to the renewal of the public spaces and the improvement of quality of life of its residents. Moreover, it seeks to promote a new, more positive image of the neighbourhood, for Mouraria has historically dragged on the stigma of insecurity, poverty, decadence and social exclusion. My research examines how these processes of urban change impact on the sensory qualities of the public spaces of Mouraria and, in turn, shape the exclusion and inclusion of certain cultural practices and expressions. As the research is still in a very early stage, the aim of this paper is to reflect on some of the problems, challenges and opportunities of conducting a sound ethnography in an urban milieu in transformation.


Victor Stoichita

(CNRS, Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, CREM, Paris-Ouest Nanterre)

Music as enchantment of place in Romanian popular parties

In Romania professional Roma musicians (lăutari) are often hired for popular parties such as weddings, christenings, village fairs or political meetings. The music they perform on such occasions is rarely the focus of the participants. To most of them, it is rather an environment in which they pursue particular interactions. This is particularly true since the bands have started to perform amplified. Not only is their sonic outreach wider, but also specific electronic effects enable them to re-spatialize the sounds. How does their musical space/time interact with the space/time of the party? What experience of place does this combination foster? To address such questions, I will focus on the « edge » between musical and ecological perception, at in- and outdoors live events.


Heikki Uimonen

(School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere, Finland)

Verbalized Sounds: Methodological Challenges in Soundscape Studies

The ever-present contradiction of the anthropological research is present in the study of sonic environment as well: if the everyday phenomena, such as environmental sounds are mainly in the interests of researchers coming outside of the community, locals might find these issues somewhat challenging to relate to. This includes the verbalizing of the sonic phenomena of the acoustic community. The sounds of everyday life are hard to verbalize also in another sense: a lot of acoustic information escapes our conscious attention for perceptual psychological reasons, because of the vast amount of acoustic information and simply because we are accustomed to sounds familiar to us. This is reflected in the fieldwork. Especially while conducting interviews, the informants found it difficult to talk about the issues that concern their everyday, contemporary environment. To some extent, this held true to the soundscapes of the past as well. This paper introduces the methodological challenges on how the acoustic communities are being articulated during fieldwork and the possible solutions to overcome these challenges. The methods proposed are Sound Preference Test s, Recorded Listening Walks and Listening Tests. The empirical part of the paper consists of fieldwork trips on six European villages during the Acoustic Environments in Change (2000) and Soundscapes and Cultural Sustainability (2011) projects continuing the study Five Village Soundcapes (1975).