British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual One-Day Conference

“Making Sound Objects: Cultures of Hearing, Recording, Creating and Circulation”

Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
Saturday November 24th 2012


This conference explores 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 is hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, and seeks interdisciplinary engagement with these questions. Contributions are welcomed from anthropologists, musicologists, acousticians, historians, geographers, organologists, sound engineers, song collectors and sound artists – in fact anyone engaged with the production and analysis of sound.


Conference Convenor:

Dr Noel Lobley (noel.lobley@prm.ox.ac.uk)

Organising Committee:

Dr Jo Hicks (Faculty of Music, University of Oxford)
Dr Tom Hodgson (Faculty of Music, University of Oxford)
Peter Hudston (Reel to Real Project, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)
Dr Carolyn Landau (Department of Music, King’s College, London)
Dr Noel Lobley (Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)
Nathaniel Robin Mann (Sound and Music/ OCM Embedded composer-in-residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum)

With special thanks to Dr Angela Impey at SOAS, Laudan Nooshin at City University, Whitney Conti, and all of the BFE Committee.
Design and Website: Whitney Conti

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