Text by CLOT Magazine
Our new mixtape stems from the recently launched journal-zine FOCUS On Sound, an anthology of scholarly articles and artist responses to the subject of sound. A one-shot issue featuring work by independent artists and articles by researchers and emerging scholars associated with different universities worldwide, where each contributor has a double-page, across which they present their focused take on the central topic, sound.
The magazine was founded and edited by Nicholas Burman – a writer, researcher and editor with a background in Comparative Cultural Analysis-and features articles on topics as diverse as the relationship between sound and modernisation in China, decolonial listening practices, aurality and orality in Latin America and the use of voice recognition technology on the German borders to name a few.
Among the multimedia spreads are a stained glass collage, a memory-based comic, psychogeographic maps of sonic experiences, and a meditative photo/text combination. There are also a few creative writing pieces.
The mixtape presented here was a response to the obvious question of whether there would be a sound element for the project and the availability of a bunch of unreleased tunes from one of the zine contributors.
Burman shares that this was a collaboration between himself and Harry Stott: Harry contributed an article to the magazine, and his day job is producing podcasts, so he was the perfect partner for this task. Some finishing touches and the final mix was provided (very generously) by Benet Serra. While putting together a magazine about the subject of sound, I, of course, got a few people asking me if there would be a “sound” element attached to the project.
I was lucky to have music exclusively tied to the magazine that I could potentially use for such a purpose. AMEK, the Bulgarian drone/ambient/noise collective, released a mixtape of unreleased tunes through their spread in the zine, and so I had twelve great electronic tunes from them to pick from. I also know that David Gauthier (another contributor) makes his own circuit boards and synth noise.
Burman thought doing a typical DJ mix would be a bit obvious and not really befitting the project as a whole, as FOCUS On Sound isn’t a music magazine in the typical sense. Mulling it over and discussing it a bit, it was decided that it would be cool to combine some of these noises/sounds with spoken word pieces. Make something that sits between a mix and a podcast.
I offered textual contributors the opportunity to send recordings of themselves reading extracts from the articles. What got sent to me, and the tunes I had access to, just happened to be able to be curated in a way I think generates some interesting aural palette. What went with what was decided on a relatively instinctual basis? I wouldn’t want to/couldn’t explain the result too much.
However, as with the order of the magazine’s contributions, I did keep in mind the wish to generate narrativity by ordering and partnering elements. Cherphile Ciao chose the music that beds her spoken words
I chose ‘sound’ as the subject for this issue primarily because I became captivated by this field while studying and also because there was a peer group at the institution I was at (the University of Amsterdam) also drawing on essays and books by the likes of Marie Thompson and Brandon LaBelle for their own work – he continues.
As a final reflection, Burman says that while curating and editing the contents of this magazine and curating the associated audio clip, his aim was for the collapse between form and content that sound studies work such as Marie Thompson’s encourages us to acknowledge, to be(come) clear.
Through bringing into play the sonic glitches and pulsations of circuit boards and synthetic sounds, and voices speaking about the use of voice recognition software on the German border or the relationship between sound and modernity in China, FOCUS On Sound understands the sonic realm as understood as something that both moves us (literally, being vibrational) and something that signifies.