Sound Series #3: Sound and Architecture

I finally found it. A real architectural structure of sound. Muttering and uttering voices, music and speech along with an ever-present echo of static.

There is nothing quite like a moment of inspiration. It is childish glee: Christmas come early. That moment you realise there is someone else who has made that same connection. Rather than worry about the lack of original thought, it is affirmation and excitement that sparks my brain into action. It is moments like this when I remember why I study.

IMG_3509 Recently, I have been playing with the idea of ‘visualising the invisible’, considering the architecture in Chaucer’s The House of Fame dream vision to be structures built of sound. It was Cildo Meireles’s Babel (2001) which – when I visited before the June re-hanging – was positioned in the centre of its own room at the Tate Modern, and sparked so many ideas.

Meireles’s piece explores ideas about the unity of humanity despite language barriers, paralleling the story of the Tower of Babel. The work is an imposing structure made of hundreds of radios tuned to different stations in many different languages. I was most struck by my reaction to take a picture of this architectural structure of sound. Pressing the shutter-button, I realised that this was not an experience to be captured as a still image.

The hearer/viewer moves around the structure; the eye is looking for something that is not there. I took in the barely audible noise, the music I recognised and started to hum too, the languages I cannot speak and wondered at this at once static and constantly moving piece of architecture, like the House of Rumour in Chaucer’s dream vision. It was a moment of connection, with the music and speakers, with those in the room moving around me and the tower. It was a moment that will never happen again. And yet a memory of it lives on in the sonic space of the room.

The sound is heard and disappears and it is held in the sonic structure. While Meireles is concerned with exploring ideas of overcoming barriers and unity, I question how do we deal with the transitory nature of sound? Do the radios demonstrate a fixity? Or simply a way of transmission? The room was almost overwhelming with the various sounds and yet most of the people around me where silent when experiencing Babel (2001). I, however, was speaking rapidly to my very bemused friend. Sound can become tangible in these moments, for language, for communication, for the artwork; adding another layer human radios.

IMG_3510


Charlotte Rudman is a second year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London, researching sound and sound representations in medieval dream vision poetry, @charrud.

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Footnotes on Digital Selves

In a special edition of Footnotes on KCL Radio broadcast live on the 27 July 9-10am, hosts Fran and Char invited PhD researchers to take on the theme of The Still Point‘s first blog symposium: Digital Selves in Research.

From online facsimiles of manuscripts to social media profiles, PhD students from across King’s College London explore how they work with, analyse and are shaped by the digital. Thank you to Colleen Curran, palaeographer and historian; Anna Khlusova from Cultural and Creative Industries; and Rachael Kent, whose PhD spans the Digital Humanities and CCI as a member of the Ego-Media project.

The Still Point Journal‘s blog editor, James Fisher, also joined the panel to discuss all things ‘real’ vs ‘virtual’.

Links:
Colleen Curran https://twitter.com/cmcurran21
Anna Khlusova https://twitter.com/annakhlus
Rachael Kent https://twitter.com/RachaelCKent
European Research Council Ego-Media project https://www.ego-media.org

Four Selves

These are all creations inspired by the hectic digital life doing my masters Cultural and Creative Industries in London. The name of each painting says it all. Every time I was doing an activity/ attending an event, if I have a strong image in my head, I feel that I have to bring it to life on canvas. So these four were inspired when I was feeling that the digital had constructed me in such a subtly important way. When I was DJing alone, posting online, studying alone, I felt too that I was somehow connected but also disconnected. I was so intrigued to search and explore for the inner self.

Lonely self
lonely self
social media self
social media self
searching self (DJ alone)
dj self
free soul self
free soul self

Tianmei Chen is an explorer, constantly looking for the passion of her life. She was born in a small village in Hubei, Central China. She has worked in fashion and advertising as a producer and blogger in Shanghai since 2008. She also co-founded a flower brand named Flowerbox and created Queen’s Art spot, a painting studio for beginners in 2013 because her self-taught experience of oil painting inspired many more Chinese young women who wanted to join her. She believes that art is for everyone and everyone can paint. Her experience encouraging young Chinese women’s development made her stand out in the Chevening Scholarship selection among over 36000 applicants in over 170 countries funded by FCO, UK, which sponsored her to study Cultural and Creative Industries at KCL. Now, she is in love with this amazing city, London.

Instagram @maychenyolo  //  Chinese Blog on Wechat: MAYCHENYOLO

 

Keynote: Ego-Media – A Group Portrait

who-does-the-internet-think-you-areEds’ note: we chose our inaugural Online Symposium theme ‘Digital Selves’ because we as PhD researchers wanted to think more critically about how we engage with our subjects of study.

We wondered how we were different as researchers because of how we access and create our work: how does working between books and pixels, pens and touchscreens, affect our methods and conclusions? How does being able to look more closely than real life at manuscripts with a pinch and zoom, relying on journal search algorithms over catalogue cards, or using ctrl+F to skim for keywords make our work different to the pre-digital academic?
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Snow

Ning told Jing not to expect snow in London.

It would just be cold and grey as usual, said Ning, staring at her phone screen.

But what’s the point of being cold without snow? Jing asked, her body slightly leaning
forward.

Well, I don’t see the causality between being cold and snow. You really need to improve your logical thinking and knowledge in geography. Ning frowned. Ning’s patience was always quite transient, but it disappeared faster than usual when she spoke with Jing. Probably because she knew Jing was extremely stubborn, and reasoning with her was just a waste of time.

It’s fine, thought Jing. She still expected to see snow in London, but she didn’t think she was being stubborn. She just believed in miracles.

SNOW1

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The Secret Autobiography of my PhD #4

sinead biography

As a child, I hoped the Salmon of Knowledge would end up on my plate.

I dreamed that every horse I met would whisk me off to Tír na nÓg, giants might build me a causeway, and every swan was the lost child of a king. I wondered why some men on the news had no voice when they spoke, and why the angry man shouted ‘never!’ so much.

My mother read only the stories of ancient Ireland to me, though modern myths were everywhere. But they didn’t tell all the stories, either. Perhaps I might tell one more.


Sinéad Kennedy Krebs is a second year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London. Her research examines the cultural legacies of the Great War in Ireland. Follow her @sineadkk, or head to sageolympia.blogspot.com

The Secret Autobiography of my PhD #3

Sound has always filled my house.

charbookcasesmallWind whistles through the old doors and windows, stairs creak  and floorboards groan. Every genre of music has issued from multiple instruments and iPods. My house has never been silent.

I am a dreamer for what could be and what might have been. I am a lover of fantasy. Find me a literature student my age who didn’t grow up with Harry Potter? I read my horoscope. I am interested in the nature of dreams. I am absorbed by a good story.

Medieval literature, particularly the dream visions, ticks all my boxes.


Charlotte Rudman is a second year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London, researching sound and sound representations in medieval dream vision poetry, @charrud.

Your PhD, Your Brain, and Your B-Movies

Your brain – big, buxom, full of neurons, and a pineal gland, and an amygdala, and a basal ganglia, and then some – is what is doing your PhD. It reads your stuff, it writes your stuff, and it decides which Sainsbury’s korma to microwave whilst you email your supervisor to postpone your stuff.

“Everyone has a hidden emotional motive behind their PhD,” my friend always says, “what is yours?” Day to day, I write about connections between contemporary French philosophy, cinema and neuroscience, so I like to think that I was always aware of the brain. Since undergoing an out-of-the-blue Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy this Christmas due to a rogue blockage in one of my brain’s water tanks, however, I could not be more aware of it.

I have realised more than ever that I owe it to my brain to figure out who it is and what it does. So as well as using it to think about other brain-workings in French philosophy and cinema, I have decided to get to know my own much better. I have decided that I’m going to treat this throbbing alien in my skull with the respect it deserves – like the true Genovian princess it really is – and that this journey might as well be a voluptuous, bawdy experience, and needn’t necessarily start with the MRI scanner.  

An unforeseen delight which has emmerged from my research – between libraries and hospitals and cinemas – has been the brain B-Movie. B for Brain, if you can stomach that degree of tweeness. Whatever your own reason for wanting to explore the brain writing your PhD, here are three gloriously campy places to start:

The Brain from Planet Arous

This 1957 favourite, directed by Nathan H. Juran, does exactly what it says on the tin. A brain-shaped alien by the name of Gor descends to earth and takes over the body of a young scientist, using his powers to destroy the planet bit by bit. Meanwhile, another of the brain-shaped race also descends to earth, explaining that Gor is a wanted terrorist on their own planet. It is found that Gor’s weak spot is his Fissure of Rolando, or the central sulcus: a line that separates the parietal lobe from the frontal lobe in the brain. Continue reading

The Importance of Unplanned Research Trips 

I have embarked on a three-year project which involves spending my time reading ancient Greek speeches and thinking about long-gone ancient Greek gods, so when I tell people I am off to Greece for two weeks, they assume I am going there to ‘do research’, ‘for work’, whatever that may be. I tell them, slightly embarrassed, that actually I am going on holiday. I am just travelling, hiking around for a bit.

I have been to Greece many times, and have travelled the well-trodden route of the country’s unforgettable and unimaginably affecting ancient sites, from Athens, via Delphi, Olympia, Corinth and Mycenae to Sparta. My PhD looks at political and legal speeches written in Athens in the fourth century BCE, and examines the religious discourse found in these. It is a study based on texts. Texts which are preserved in books and manuscripts and papyrus rolls not in Greece anymore, but dotted around libraries and archives around the world. I am not an archaeologist, nor an art historian. As such, I don’t have a particular, pressing need to go to Greece for my study. Continue reading

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Writing in the sunshine and looking out over the Huntington gardens, I have a secret to confess. Something that I have been hiding from the books I’ve been researching for the past year, I am the person they are trying so desperately hard to discount and philosophically disarm. I am an Epicurean.

Some might wonder what exactly a research student of eighteenth-century British poetry is doing in Southern California. Yet, by some turns of a revolution and some serial book collecting by an American railroad millionaire, my research is just as at home in San Marino as it is in London.

I share my above confession with one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the same in a letter of 1819. Having moved to his country, I find myself asking who couldn’t help but be one when working in a veritable research paradise? A place that has Jefferson’s reverberating political statement to serve the unalienable right of ‘the Pursuit of Happiness’ as one of its treasures on display. Here I have access to the first editions of my texts, reading the very same warnings against the dangers of Epicureanism my eighteenth-century readers would have been, in amongst a garden where a conversion to such a philosophy is all but inevitable.

life liberty

The Huntington Library, set within its vast botanical gardens, is a unique experience for any researcher, and for me has become my own Epicurean garden. If we are to believe William Temple writing on the Gardens of Epicurus, or, of gardening in the year of 1685, ‘no other sort of abode seems to contribute so much, to both the tranquillity of mind, and indolence of body’ as a garden. Continue reading