21 September 2017
Site-specificity and sonic urbanism

Atelier TM

Speakers : Richard Sennett, John Bingham-Hall, Marta Gentilucci, Alexandra Lacroix 

In May and June 2017, two meetings of Atelier TM asked “what is a sociable acoustic?” By heightening our awareness of, and also performing sound, participants experienced different sonic qualities urban space as social potentials. This served as a starting point for discussion about the relationship between the noise of the city, aspects of musical structure, and urban sociality. Several ideas emerged for different ways that performed sound can be a tool for embodied understanding of urban/social space, and inversely how thinking in a specific urban/social context can open different approaches within the creation of sound, in music or otherwise. A continuing series of monthly meetings throughout 2017 will investigate, practically and conceptually, specific ways that elements of music embody and reconfigure social relations, following the threads that emerged in the first two sessions: idiorrhythmy, amplification, porosity, silence, and so on.

In this session, two presentations will form the starting points for discussion about the potential for music to reconfigure the socio-spatial characteristics of place, and the problems of site-specificity.

Richard Sennett & John Bingham-Hall
With the Chappelle Charbon site explored in the previous sessions as a focus, the spatial typologies of the border and boundary will be interpreted as sonic conditions. This leads into a wider discussion of whether sonic intervention, through performance, can act as an urban design strategy to change the workings of a space and its boundary conditions. It also raises a debate about the problematics of site-specificity as a strategy in performance, between the contextuality and universality of music.

Marta Gentilucci & Alexandra Lacroix
Responding to the spatial problematics raised in the previous presentation, artistic questions will be raised about intervening in a space through site-specific music: what elements of a space can be incorporated into performance?; what are the implications of different ways of staging the relationship between performers, spectators, and site?; what kind of citizens are audience members and producers in a performance in public?; how much ‘artificial’ sonic and physical material, not native to a place, can be introduced?


Thursday 21st September 2017 | 2-5pm
Room TBC | Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme | 54 boulevard Raspail | 75006 Paris

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Atelier TM

Atelier TM is a group of city-makers and sound-makers working together to mutually enrich their crafts by forging shared questions and new modes of collaboration. It forms part of the Global Cities research chair at the Collège d’études mondiales, held jointly by Saskia Sassen and Richard Sennett, and is therefore based within the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, and part of the international Theatrum Mundi network. 

Atelier TM responds to several issues in the way the urban is described, imagined, and ultimately designed. Firstly, that urban design is an overwhelmingly visual practice, carried out through screen-based computer-aided design and evaluated through images that privilege visually-replicable forms. Secondly, that experimentation in urban design tends to be focused on products rather than processes. Sound and music offer valuable ways to work past these issues. Sound emerges from the way spaces are used: it is produced through the movement, communication, friction, and resonance, of bodies in and against architectural space. Music, as a craft, involves distinct social and technical forms that are alien to the practice of urbanism: non-verbal cooperation, rehearsal, improvisation.

How, then, could acoustic terms and techniques be used to describe places and their social character? In doing so, can urbanism find invisible ways to intervene in the city and measures of value beyond the visual, privileging embodied use over fixed design? Can aspects of musical craft such as rehearsal and improvisation be translated into the practice of urban design? Would this help designers find new modes of collaboration and cooperation with other practitioners and with citizens? Finally, in the context of Paris’ attempts to overcome its separation from its suburbs, what is revealed about the spatial politics of the city in looking at its musical cultures?

Atelier TM will build a group of fellows in Paris from across the worlds of urbanism, architecture, sound, and music, in both creation and research. They will have access to monthly workshops in the form of discussions, site visits, sharing of works-in-progress, and co-creation. These will bring together the local fellows with guest practitioners and facilitators from elsewhere. Fellows will also be invited to take part in informal working sessions using multi-media facilities at FMSH to develop projects or techniques together. When ideas or projects emerge, that fellows would like to share with a wider public, Atelier TM will help to disseminate these through a seminar series titled Re-crafting urbanism, taking place at FMSH or partner projects

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Global Cities research chair

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Global cities
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John Bingham-Hall
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