Siren Voices: Review of Yvon Bonenfant’s Beacons

The Performance Centre, University College Falmouth
21st October 2011

In Beacons, the audience is invited to share in a night-time motorway journey, designed to explore lights as signals ‘placed for us, by one another, warning or attracting, saying “come here” or saying “stay away”.’ The work is performed and composed by Yvon Bonenfant, with video editing and programming by David Shearing.

Bonenfant is known for exploring the tactile and textural qualities of the voice through the use of extended techniques. In this work in particular, the voice is never just a voice; it is always struggling with becoming a subject. What’s more, due to the extensive use of amplification and spatialisation, it often comes across as being not quite localised in the mouth. Its narrative function is questioned and intermittently obscured, at times slipping into gibberish and mumbling. Sense-making, then, becomes a sensuous rather than semantic process.

Sonically, the textures of the work always seem to exceed those that might signify a lone presence. The piece frequently takes on a polyphonic texture, making recurrent use of loops, delay and imitation. This is echoed by Bonenfant’s impressive use of vocal range; he exploits a technical capacity to jump between different ‘voices’ (from falsetto to bass, for example).

A feeling of the performer yearning to build a relationship with the audience grows from the moment the work opens with an eerie lone voice singing, ‘Can you reach me?’ Presence, too, is problematic. As the piece progresses the lights gradually rise, revealing Bonenfant to be sitting in profile: only slowly does he come to face forwards and take on a more direct engagement with the audience.  Early in the performance, at least, this figure is never fully illuminated and is always slightly out of reach.

The stage is empty apart from the performer and three large video screens, which hang asymmetrically above. The visual element of the performance comprises images of lights, predominantly red and blue, fitting in with the theme of a night-time motorway journey. The spatialisation of the vocals is reflected in the distribution of images across the three screens, leading to a (poly)rhythmic interplay between sound and vision in the gradual slippage between looking and listening.

As the end of the journey approaches, the loose and fragmented sense of narrative begins to draw together. ‘I see glass and a little bit of blood … I couldn’t quite get there in time … so f***ing cold.’ ‘You’re breaking up’ becomes ‘they’ve broken up,’ before Bonenfant switches to a speaking voice and addresses the audience directly, so that the final ‘I love you,’ is both surprising and discomforting. Ultimately, this is a work about attraction and repulsion, reaching out and pushing away. Perhaps it’s also about being unable to resist being drawn in. Rather than the warning siren implied by the flashing police lights in the video, Beacons presents the voice as a siren/Σειρήν; the voice luring the audience onwards, drawing it into an unavoidable catastrophe.

[cfp] eContact!: Biotechnological Performance Practice

eContact! extends an open call for contributions to an issue focussing on the use of the body in electroacoustic performance practice, coordinated by Guest Editor Marco Donnarumma. Performers, composers and others are encouraged to contribute their perspectives on the role or position of the body in experimental practices of musical performance.

Submission deadline: 31 January 2012
Publication: 29 February 2012
Submission Guidelines can be found here.

Suggestions for contributions include, but are not limited to the following ideas:

  • Use of Mechanical Myography (MMG), Electromyography (EMG) and other similar biological signal measurements in performance
  • Scoring / notation of body-related performance
  • Sound Art dealing with the body and biological aspects of performance
  • Development of DIY, biological-based, Interactive Musical Systems (IMS)
  • The definition / augmentation of Self on stage by means of biotechnologies
  • Cognitive aspects of embodied interaction between the biological body and computer
  • Composer—Technology—Performer: definition of roles?
  • Live electronics vs. fixed media in biotechnological performance practice
  • Historical overviews and reflections
  • Critical perspectives on gesture-based “human-computer interaction”
  • The sound of flesh…

We also welcome other contributions that engage in a discourse on the relation between biophysics and music. Feel free to propose other ideas!

To state your interest in contributing or for further information, contact Guest Editor Marco Donnarumma.

New and/or unpublished materials are preferred but reprints of previously published materials are also possible (eContact! will credit and link to original publications). The author is responsible for securing all permissions and clearing any copyrights related to the submission.

The inclusion of audio and video support documentation, photos, technical diagrammes and sketches is strongly encouraged. Audio and video examples should be submitted in the highest quality possible.



On the Tip of the Tongue


Last night I heard Anna Sadler give a talk about her recent work; the latest in the Penryn-based Independent School of Art series. Anna’s project, The Other Foreign Body: camera as probe, reminded me of some of the questions I’ve been asking about medical listening in my current research project. Her use of the camera in the piece Mouth Endoscopy provides a subtle visual counterpart to some of the work by Christof Migone that I’ve been looking at over the past two years. It also set me thinking about the relationship between techniques of medical imaging and techniques of medical listening, particularly as they might be co-opted for creative arts practice. I scribbled down a few notes:


The work I am reminded of most is Migone’s Evasion, or how to perform a tongue escape in public (2000). In this work, the performer is required to stick out his/her tongue as far as, and for as long as, possible, a move that Brandon LaBelle describes as delving into the ‘viscous materiality of the mouth.’ He argues that the work ‘exemplifies Migone’s practice: by uncovering an inside that suggests a different outside.’ As LaBelle points out, the work is intimately (tongue)tied to orality, implying the voice through exposing its fleshy, physical origins.


Mouth shapes. Correspondences between the shape of the lips and the position of the tongue. How are these understood by the eye when the ear has no part to play? Can the eye only understand as an implicit ear, the body unable to disassociate completely from memories of moving its own mouth, from the feeling of forming sound?


Mouth as opening to the interior of the body, something to be ‘looked into’. In sound works, the mouth and its sounds are always over-written with the potential for speech? Sadler’s work forestalls the possibility of diagnosis via the speech of the patient describing her symptoms and revealing both the interior of the body and the interiority of subjective experience. Thus while the materiality of the flesh is emphasised, it remains mute, impenetrable, and caught by the inability of the camera to reveal the body beyond the oral cavity. The lens reveals, but also silences.

There’s a lot to reflect on, and no doubt some of my thoughts and questions are naïve and poorly articulated, but this is definitely something I want to come back to. Perhaps I will do some proper research and try to get it all down in a longer essay.

In the meantime anyone interested in the relationship between medicine and the arts might want to check out Clod Ensemble’s Performing Medicine project.

Performing Medicine provides training to medical students and healthcare practitioners using the performing and visual arts (at undergraduate, postgraduate and at professional development level). We also curate events for the general public which engage with issues at the heart of medicine and healthcare.

As well as some wonderful performances, there are a number of workshops running during November and December. Topics include: Anatomy Through Movement, Anatomical Drawing, and The Poetic Body.

[Event] Symposium: rhythm & event

It suddenly feels like the summer hibernation is over and everyone’s getting back into the swing of things events-wise. There are loads of exciting things coming up, the latest of which is ‘Rhythm & Event’ hosted by the London Graduate School. This symposium sets out to explore philosophies of rhythm as a means for analysing events. Here’s a bit more about it (in their words, not mine):

King’s Anatomy Theatre & Museum, 6th Floor, King’s Building
King’s College London, Strand Campus, London, WC2R 2LS
(for directions please see

10.00 – 19.30, Saturday 29October 2011 (with registration from 09.00)

How can we think of novelty without attributing ontological prominence and metaphysical distinction between discreteness and continuity, or between the actual and the virtual, the analog and the digital, or the spatial and the temporal? Can a concept of ‘rhythm’ understood as a vibratory movement detached from substance, structure, metric property, and lived experience, become a method with which to account for how the new comes to be? Certainly, on the one hand, Bergson and, following him, Deleuze allow room for the coexistence of these concepts away from opposition. On the other hand, Bachelard and, following him, Lefebvre, have attempted to construct a rhythmanalysis of newness, while Badiou’s theory of the event signals an interruption in the spatiotemporal order. But perhaps there are yet other connections to be made between (what is absent in) these thinkers and towards conceiving ‘a rhythmics of the event’. For example, for theorists such as Kodwo Eshun and Steve Goodman rhythm points to a complex ecology of speeds, inciting mutations across the human-machine network to allow for the construction of a sonic futurity: a virtual coexistence of past and future in the present.

The purpose of this symposium is to elaborate a philosophy of rhythm as an appropriate mode of analysis of the event. Whether aesthetic, cultural, strategic, or other, we understand the event to be an instance of rhythmic time, summoning, expressing and animated by the abstract yet real (virtual) movements of matter. A rhythmic ontogenetics of this kind necessarily departs from a binary split between, on the one hand, natural bodily rhythms (breath, heartbeat and so on) and, on the other, a mechanics of steady tempo or pulse presupposing the metric organisation of spacetime. Instead, this symposium seeks to explore rhythm as an interface between diverse elements (human, machine or other) and a somewhat non-sensory, irregular and amodal movement, lurking at the most potentially unknown or ‘unthought ’ dimensions of the event.

Ticket/ entry details:
Early-bird registration WAGED: £15 (Until 30th September)
From 1st October: £20
UNWAGED (Concessions and Kingston University staff/ students): £10
Includes coffee, tea and reception

Registration link

Download programme

Download abstracts

Further details are available on the LGS blog.

[While I’m here I’d like to offer a quick apology for the complete lack of non event-related content recently; I’m in the final stages of writing up my thesis, so time is short …

I hope some of you get chance to attend some of these fantastic talks, performances and symposia, whether they include self-reflexive meditations on their rhythmic structuring or otherwise.]

[Event] cfp: INTER/actions >>> symposium on interactive electronic music

INTER/actions: Symposium on Interactive Electronic Music

April 10-12, Bangor University School of Music

In collaboration with Electroacoustic Wales, Risk of Shock, GEMINi (Gestural Music Interaction) Research Group and Bangor Sound City.

Featured composers and performers: Karlheinz Essl (Vienna), Lauren Sarah Hayes (Edinburgh), Andrew Lewis (Bangor), Xenia Pestova (Bangor), Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay (Huddersfield),  Ed Wright (Bangor)

INTER/actions is a three-day symposium and mini-festival focusing on performance and interaction in electronic music. We aim to provide an environment to exchange ideas and instigate collaborations for composers, performers, sound artists and music technologists interested in the role of the performer in electronic music, whether in the traditional sense, or audience-as-performer. We are looking for creative proposals for performances, interactive installations and paper sessions.


Call for Proposals: Pieces and Interactive Installations

Deadline: December 16 2011

We invite composers and performers to submit works for instruments and interactive electronics, instruments and fixed media, gestural controllers and interactive sound installations. Compositions and installations submitted must be fully documented with technical performance specifications. A concert recording, studio recording, simulation or video should be submitted, sufficient to give a reasonable idea of the final form of the piece / installation / performance. Please send a link to an online audio excerpt or email an mp3 file along with full technical requirements and a score, if applicable, as well as a short biography (150 words) to If you would like to send a hard copy audio CD or audio files on DVD instead, please address to Dr Xenia Pestova, Bangor Unviversity School of Music, College Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 1YY, UK to arrive by the 16th of December 2011.

Performances will be able to make use of the following facilities:

  •  8-channel loudspeaker playback (ATC)
  • Various microphones (including Schoeps Collette and AKG414)
  • Soundcraft mixer with 16+16 inputs (switchable), 16 direct outputs, 8 groups, 2 mix, 4 AUX send, 2 FX send
  • Mac Pro computer with MOTU PCI-424 and 24 I/O interface
  • 3x MOTU 828 FireWire interfaces
  • Large-screen video projection
  • Boesendorfer Imperial Concert Grand Piano

Composers / performers who need additional equipment are requested to bring their own. Composers / performers who make use of their own software (for example, Max patches, SuperCollider) will be expected to take responsibility for installing and operating the software, including providing any libraries that may be required.


Call for Proposals: Papers and Demos

Deadline: December 16 2011

We are open to proposals for 20-minute paper and demo presentations on topics including, but not limited to:

  •  Performance practice in electronic music
  • Gesture
  • New interface design
  • Compositional issues
  • Improvisation in interactive contexts
  • Analysis of interactive work

Please send a 250-word abstract, as well as a short biography (150 words) to

[EVENT] Workshop: the body in electromagnetic fields


Field Effect with Martin Howse

A three day workshop actively exploring the effects of electromagnetic fields on living systems; on the human body and the human psyche. The effects of complex field interactions with such systems, particularly with the psyche, are largely unknown and open to debate. Field Effect proposes to obtain first-hand,experimental knowledge of these relations, using DIY technologies. Experiments already suggest links between low frequency electromagnetic emissions and experiences of hauntings and UFO sightings. The first two days will be devoted to the construction of devices to both generate and measure magnetic fields and to examine the effects of these fields on living systems (such as plants or moulds), and on the body and psyche (measuring skin temperature, skin resistance, heartrate). In parallel, a series of experimental situations will be constructed to provide insights into the interactions between complex spectral ecologies (communication technologies such as wireless networks, mobile phone bases, TV, radio, power lines, motors, all electronic devices) and life.

Participants will learn how to construct simple devices to measure heart rate and skin resistance, how to interface these to software and log/interpret results and how to intervene within electromagnetic space. No previous knowledge of fields required.

Date: Oct 21, 22, 23 2011
Time: 12:00-19:00
Maximum nr. of participants: 12
Fee: 45 (participation) + 15 (material)

Location: NK
Elsenstr. 52 2HH 2Etage 12059 Berlin DE

Instructor Martin Howse

Preregistration is required and can be done by sending an email to If you dont get a response within 3 days to your registration mail please call us under +49(0)17620626386 to make sure that we have received your mail.



[Event] Soundwave ((5)) Humanities

San Francisco: July – September 2012

The next season of Soundwave will explore our sonic connections to the human condition. For HUMANITIES, Soundwave seeks artists, composers and musicians to investigate our human experience, and examine the future of our human constructs, cultures and rituals through sound.

From Season 4’s outward examination of the environment to Season 5’s inward reflection of our own being and existence, the 2012 festival attempts to voice what makes us human in the backdrop of the MesoAmerican Long Count Calendar “Rebirth” and the ensuing mythologies and theories.

Soundwave seeks experience-driven performances that reinterpret the connections between sound and our human experience through its instrumentation, concept, visual collaboration, installation, audience interaction, or production by local and international sound and media artists, technologists, designers, musicians, and composers.


How can the human body, mind and spirit affect sound? What are the future sonic traditions of our cultures (ethnic, social, community)? How will technology affect our humanity and our sonic experience and traditions? What does it means to be human? (How we live, where we come from, how we think, and how we construct existence (physical, emotional, spiritual)). How will we construct our humanness (ideas about higher power/purpose, myths, legends, cultures and traditions, human consciousness, metaphysical constructs, human identity, human exchange, and our relation to the world)? How do we measure existence now and in the future? What does evolution look like/sound like for the self, body, mind/intellect, and the world?


electric body impulses; mind-manipulated sound technologies and recordings; body sonics; body instrumentation; brain waves to soundwaves; re-imaginations of ritual acoustics, spiritual, cultural, social acoustics, sonic legends, myths, folklore and fables; new concepts of the Griots, Bards, & Minstrals; hybridized traditions/cultures; imagined utopias; evolutions, regeneration, rebirth, and revolutions; how the world came to be in present form/ future form; supernatural heroes, gods, shamans; magic, illusions and faith; re-imagination and re-interpretations of existence; regenerations and cycles of life; re-interpretation of the home/soul/heart; new ways of experiencing human instinct and desire; human-enabled sonic technologies; dance collaborations, film collaborations, theatrics, and other artist imaginations.


HUMANITIES hopes to engage artists and audiences with new voices exploring / celebrating / challenging human existence, and re-inventing a world of human possibility. It hopes to inspire thought and action while showcasing sound’s inherent connection to our physical and spiritual bodies and innovative artistic voices for the ‘rebirth’ of our humanity.


Further information is available from  the project website: or Me’di.ate.

[EVENT] Sounding Cultures: From Performance to Politics

Cornell University,  14th & 15th October 2011.

This conference, organised by the Society for the Humanities, is free and open to the public. Here’s the programme:

10/14, 1:15 pm: Introduction
Timothy Murray, Director, Society for the Humanities
14/10/2011, 1:30 pm: Listening in Motion
Jim Drobnick (Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory, OCAD
University, Toronto), “Listening Awry”
Art Jones (Artist, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), “Motion Graf:
Electronic Media as Public Art”
14/10/2011, 3:00 pm: Audition from the Middle East
Ziad Fahmy (Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Assistant Professor of Near
Eastern Studies, Cornell), “Listening to Egypt: Vaudeville and Sound Media
during the First World War”
Jeanette Jouili (Fellow, Society for the Humanities), “Connecting ethical
audition with ethical spectatorship: Islamic performing arts and its
14/10/2011, 4:30 pm: Plenary Lecture (Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin
Smith Hall)
Emily Thompson (Senior Invited Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Professor
of History, Princeton University), “Sound and Fury: Projecting Change in the
American Film Industry, 1926-1933”
15/10/2011, 9:30 am: African-American Performance
Caitlin Marshall (Doctoral Candidate, Performance Studies, UC, Berkeley),
“Power in the Tongue”
Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman (Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Assistant
Professor of English, Binghamton University), “Reconstructing Music: Race,
Listening, and the Jubilee Singers”
15/10/2011, 11:00 am: Sonic Practice
Sara Drury (Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts, Temple University),
“Unsound Practices: Variations on Themes of Sensing, Sending, Inscribing”
Nina Sun Eidsheim (Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Assistant Professor
of Musicology, UCLA), “Considering Sonic Site Specificity”
15/10/2011, 12:15 pm: Interactive Lunch
Eliot Bates (Music, Cornell), “Ithaca Soundscape Project”
Renate Ferro (Art, Cornell), “Suspicious Packages”
15/10/2011, 2:00 pm: Plenary Artist Presentation
Keith Obadike (Assistant Professor of Integrated Media Art and Sound Design,
William Paterson University) and Mendi Obadike (Assistant Professor of Media
Studies, Pratt Institute), “African Metropole / Sonic City”
15/10/2011, 3:30 pm: Soundscapes
Helen Thorington (Artist, Co-Director of New Radio and Performing Arts),
“Thoughts on Acoustic Space and Contemporary Practice”
Jonathan Skinner (Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Assistant Professor of
Environmental Studies, Bates College), “Ecopoetics: Poetry and the
15/10/2011, 5:00 pm: Concluding Panel: Resounding Cultures
Marcus Boon (Fellow, Society for the Humanities; Associate Professorof
English, York University)
Eric Lott, Fellow (Society for the Humanities; Professor of English,
University of Virginia)
Tom McEnaney (Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature,
15/10/2011, 9:00 pm: TechnoBeat Sound Performance
Art Jones (Artist, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) with Erin


For more information, check out the press release.

[Event] Gadget & App-Culture: sound and the machinery of the senses

‘How does mobile audio technology transform our perceptual techniques?

How does an anthropology of sound and the senses offer new insights into our everyday life with sounds?

The DFG Network for Sound in Media Culture has invited two of the most important international researchers in the field of sound studies, Jonathan Sterne and Veit Erlmann, to an afternoon of explorations: to explore the anthropology and cultural history of audile techniques – as examples of sensory technologies in populare culture. An audio performance by AGF a.k.a Antye Greie is at the center of this symposion. Michael Bull and Peter Wicke will respond to the two main lectures.

An introduction into sound studies as a – rapidly expanding and developing – transdisciplinary and international field of research.’


Friday October 28, 2011
4pm – 8pm

Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin
John-Foster Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin


Further information is available on their website.

Douglas Kahn @ STEIM

[Stolen from the STEIM mailing list]

‘Douglas Kahn: Listening Session

1966: Natural Electromagnetic Sounds, From Brainwaves to Outer Space

Date: Monday, October 10
Venue: STEIM, Utrechtsedwarsstraat 134, Amsterdam
Time: 20.30 hrs.
Charge: 5 euros

 A special evening at STEIM, organised by Sonic Acts, DNK and STEIM on Monday 10 October 2011 at 20:30 hrs, following Douglas Kahn’s lecture at Stedelijk Museum on Sunday 9 October.

Douglas Kahn, author of the acclaimed Noise, Water, Meat, a History of Sound in the Arts, and co-editor of the brand new Source, Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973, guides us through the fascinating history of art which uses natural radio, electromagnetic sound and brainwaves. It’s a listening session, so it includes many audio recordings and video material, some of it very rare.

In a 1966 preparatory note for Variations VII, John Cage wrote to David Tudor that they should include sounds of brainwaves and a radio astronomy telescope, and that they “give credit to Lucier for brain and outer space.” Alvin Lucier had already performed his “brainwave piece”, Music for Solo Performer (1965) and Whistlers (1966), based on natural ionospheric and magnetospheric radio. For Lucier, both compositions used forms of “natural electromagnetic sound” and, in combination, they described a new type of spatial environment. Also, in 1966 the Swedish composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl created Altisonans, a nationally broadcasted television composition relating natural radio and satellite telemetry sounds to those of birds. These activities involved physicists, Rudy Kompfner, Billy Klüver, Edmond Dewan, Millett Morgan, and Ludwik Liszka to varying degrees, from non-cooperation to close collaboration. This session will include ! these audio and visual compositions, as well as background recordings from the period, some of them very rare.

Douglas Kahn is a Research Professor at the National Institute of Experimental Arts (NIEA), College of Fine Arts, at University of New South Wales, in Sydney. He is a historian and theoretician of the media arts and music, with a focus on sound, electromagnetism, and natural media. His books include Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999), the newly published Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973, a rich documentary source of experimental music, edited with Larry Austin, and the forthcoming Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins. His major project, Earth Sound Earth Signal, is the product of a decade of research into natural electromagnetic and acoustical phenomena occurring at a geophysical scale in the arts, media, science and military from the late 19th century to the present, and includes an attempt to theorize media in terms of nature.’