Listening Room at Campus For Climate Action Conference


On June 4, 2021 I was invited to participate in an online live streaming event called Listening Room organized by Ella Finer and the Acoustic Commons network for Alternatives to Crisis – Campus for Climate Action conference at Bath Spa University.

We opened with a few minutes of live underwater sound from my Pond Station project before tuning-in to several streams from across the globe. As we chatted via IRC, we were together while far apart; distant listeners turning our ears toward the sounds of one location at a time. Online meetings remind me of a frustrating year of COVID remote teaching, so it felt refreshing to focus similar tools on the many worlds outside the screen.

From the Listening Room page:

Listening as a form of attention-giving that asks us to dedicatedly give time to what we are or are not hearing. What are we listening to when we tune in to environments at a distance? What are we listening for?

While humans are only ever implied presences on the locus sonus live streams — rarely appearing audibly, consciously — we can only listen in because a human has placed a microphone in the landscape. As listeners we attend to the stream with the streamer, the person who has opened the microphone, who wants us to hear something or everything of the world, from where they stand. On this networked map of streamers. Somehow it’s easy to forget there are bodies behind these sound channels —

So we connect with each other without hearing each other, purposefully meeting without the sound of us ‘getting in the way’. Because the open mic is an offer, a hope, a wish — for meeting in each others’ acoustic spaces, with little or no need for explanation or narration. We orient by ear. And we find each other by ear, even without hearing each other’s bodies. Because maybe what we discover is that we hear each other more acutely, more tenderly in the sounds we might share in common — traffic, birds, wind, water — which by attending carefully, sound out the specificity of their site and geographical location. Yes, we all hear birds, but the birds speak to us of difference. Of the time zone, of the hemisphere, the climate and a sense of the migratory journey. We listen to what we know and re-learn the common signifier as one that describes its environment in extraordinary acoustic detail.

Can we offer how we gather in the listening room as an approach attending to the world in greater detail? Can we offer this method as one that gifts time to finding the importance of what is in common, and what is not?

We travel far-away by ear, and we hear what’s outside our own window in sharper audibility, the range of our hearing expands. And with this new awareness, is an acoustic attention to the interconnected world. And our place within it. Some place microphones to hear what is around us, beside us, within us — right now. The streamers. By opening sound channels across the globe, these inaudible bodies remind us that listening happens in the present tense that always holds the fragile past and future; they remind us that listening is to witness, and advocate for, the world as it changes; that listening is a practice of action

Ella Finer   London, 3 June 2021 16:00