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Listen, that's us! A sound ethnography on the local reception of the Paul Bowles collection of Moroccan traditional music

English title Listen, that's us! A sound ethnography on the local reception of the Paul Bowles collection of Moroccan traditional music
Applicant Schoon Andi
Number 163033
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut Y Hochschule der Künste Bern Berner Fachhochschule
Institution of higher education Berne University of Applied Sciences - BFH
Main discipline Arts
Start/End 01.02.2016 - 31.01.2020
Approved amount 267'955.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Arts
Music, Theatre
Ethnology

Keywords (6)

Paul Bowles; Sound; Morocco; Artistic Research; Sound Studies; Transcultural Listening

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Im Jahr 1959 verbrachte der amerikanische Schriftsteller und Komponist Paul Bowles vier Monate in Marokko, um an verschiedenen Orten traditionelle Musik aufzunehmen. Die resultierende Paul Bowles collection of Moroccan traditional music gilt als ein früher Versuch kultureller Pflege durch den Einsatz von Audiotechnik.
Lay summary

Das Ziel des vorliegenden Forschungsprojekts ist eine künstlerische und kulturelle Re-Interpretation der Sammlung, in der sich ein komplexes Geflecht aus Hör- und Aufnahmepraktiken niederschlägt.

Bowles’ Sammlung von Tondokumenten wurde im Jahr 2010 digitalisiert und aus der Library of Congress in Washington zurück nach Marokko überführt, wo sie heute in der American Legation in Tangier zugänglich ist. Aus der Perspektive der Klangwissenschaft und der Klangkunst handelt es sich bei Bowles’ Sammlung um einen bemerkenswerten Beitrag im Kontext einer Geschichte des Hörens und der Tonaufnahme. Bowles war kein Ethnograph, dafür aber ein etablierter Schriftsteller und Komponist mit einem ausgeprägten Interesse an klangästhetischen Fragen und avantgardistischer Musikpraxis. Als amerikanischer Auswanderer lebte er bereits seit 1947 in Tangier, verfügte über reiche Erfahrungen mit Marokko und vertrat klare Anschauungen hinsichtlich der marokkanischen Gesellschaft und Musik – diese spiegeln sich deutlich in Bowles’ Art der Tondokumentation.

Indem die historischen Tondokumente am Ort ihrer Entstehung untersucht und mit einheimischen Musikschaffenden diskutiert werden, soll das Projekt Aufschluss über unterschiedliche Arten des transkulturellen und ästhetischen Hörens geben und so einen wichtigen Beitrag zum Feld der Klangwissenschaft leisten.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.09.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Towards decolonized listening. A sound ethnography of the Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection
Aubry Gilles, Towards decolonized listening. A sound ethnography of the Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
European Sound Studies Association (ESSA) Denmark (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Norient Network Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
IFCAR Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Centre Jacques Berque Morocco (Africa)
- Research Infrastructure
Institut für künstlerische Forschung (!KF) Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Universität Siegen, Lehrstuhl Multimediale Systeme Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Sound Studies Lab, Universität Kopenhagen Denmark (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Sonologia international conference on sound studies Talk given at a conference „Towards decolonizing listening“ 22.11.2016 NuSom – Research Centre on Sonology, University of São Paulo, Brazil Aubry Gilles;
SGFA Conference (Sound, Gender, Feminism, Activism) Talk given at a conference „Listen that's us! A sound ethnography on the Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection“ 11.11.2016 London College of Communication, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Aubry Gilles;
Symposium "Pre-Acoustic Sound Studies" Talk given at a conference Enlightened Ear en Route. From Panacousticon to Transcultural Listening 21.04.2016 Universität Kopenhagen, Denmark Schoon Andi;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions and who ears the desert International 2017
Media relations: radio, television Extimacies documenta14 International 2017
Media relations: radio, television The gramophone effect documenta14 International 2017
Talks/events/exhibitions the sickle and the antenna (communism of waves) International 2017

Abstract

In 1959, the American writer and composer Paul Bowles spent four months in Morocco recording traditional music performances all over the country. The resultant Paul Bowles collection of Moroccan traditional music was an early attempt at cultural preservation by means of modern audio technology. In 2010, this collection was digitized and repatriated from the Library of Congress in Washington to the American Legation in Tangier (TALIM), where it is now accessible for consultation. From the perspective of sound studies and sound art, the Bowles collection is remarkable as a particular case in the history of listening and recording practices. Bowles was not an ethnographer, but an established writer and composer with an expressed interest in sound aesthetics and avant-garde music practices. As an American expatriate living in Tangier since 1947, he had long experience with Morocco and a clear opinion about Moroccan music and society. Such ideas had an impact on Bowles's recording practices and are thus also present in the collection.The goal of the proposed project is to conduct an artistic and cultural re-interpretation of the Bowles collection as a complex configuration of listening and recording practices. By returning the recordings to their places of origin and discussing them with local musicians, we want to explore modes of transcultural and aesthetic listening, whose significance applies to current debates in the broader field of sound studies. Our main research questions are: How can the Bowles collection be described as a specific case in the history of listening and recording practices? What can be learned about traditional, transcultural and aesthetic listening practices by researching with this collection in Morocco today?The research is designed in three stages. The first research stage is concerned with an analysis of Bowles's listening and recording practices that were involved in the realization of his preservation project. This includes tracing back the recording process via the study of Bowles's notes in the collection, followed by a comparison of his recordings with others using similar technology within the broader field of scientific, commercial and artistic recordings of his time. Informed by Sterne's definition of the sound recording as the result of a process that aims at “producing a particular kind of listening experience” (Sterne 2003: 246), this stage will result in a historico-cultural interpretation of the Bowles collection in terms of specific listening modes, such as the collector's ear, the arranger's ear and the Moroccan expert's ear. The second stage is interested in the memories and responses which can be elicited today by returning some of the Bowles recordings to their original recording locations in the Amazigh regions of Morocco. Lobley's method of “sound elicitation” (Lobley 2012) will be applied in order to evoke such responses with local traditional musicians and contemporary witnesses from 1959. The listening sessions will also be an occasion to explore with the participants the possibility of transcultural listening experiences, as an interactive listening mode through which “[cultural] difference is made visible and negotiated” (Willerslev & Suhr 2014: 9). The third and last stage of the research will consist of a series of artistic sound experiments, to be made in collaboration with three selected Moroccan artists, together with local participants. Based on field recordings of traditional music performances and other situations related to social aspects of traditional cultures, this approach will be an attempt to enact, render and externalize specific aspects of the traditional and transcultural listening cultures explored during stage two. This additional method of sound elicitation will lead to the collaborative realization of a number of short artistic productions which will be further interpreted in terms of collaborative knowledge-production. The project will start with a phase of preparation and historico-cultural interpretation of the Bowles collection (phase one), followed by the field research in Morocco (phase two) and the interpretation of the research data (phase three). It will culminate in the writing of a doctoral thesis by the PhD candidate and the organization of a symposium, with proceedings edited by the applicant.
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