lecture by Ernst Karel

In his talk Ernst Karel traces the path of his work through the anthropology of sound, in the form of ethnographic research in South India, towards his current practice in phonography.  Along the way he describes approaches of his own and others to studying sound ethnographically and to using recorded sound as a means of generating or evoking anthropological knowledge.  Karel´s first fieldwork project had as its focus perceptions and conceptions of sound in the specific built environment of a Hindu temple in Chidambaram, Tamilnadu.  This project overlaps theoretically with the area of ‘sensorial anthropology’, in that it attempts to understand the moment of phenomenological sensory experience as itself already culturally elaborated and semiotically imbued.  His subsequent doctoral research looked more broadly at sonic practices in the urban environment of Thrissur, Kerala.  This work is connected to anthropological discourse not only on sound or sensory experience but also on notions of the social construction of space and place, by looking at the uses of electronically amplified sound as means of characterizing shared space, or in other words, of making place.  More recently, his interest has shifted from academic written work which is about sound, to work which is itself constitutively sonic.  Since Karel´s initial interest in sound as a subject of anthropological inquiry was rooted in experience as a performer of nonidiomatic improvisation and maker of abstract electroacoustic music, creating sound works that use location recordings to evoke aspects of lived experience represents a synthesis of what had been dual practices of music-making and ethnography.

appearance at Tuned City
Social Acoustemologies: Hearing Contexts / 09.07.11