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Tunings of the World

Series Conveners

Sam Belinfante (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies)

Scott McLaughlin (School of Music)

John Mowitt (School of Fine Art, History of Art adn Cultural Studies)

Research Context for the Series

Though Sound Studies is widely recognised as a field of inquiry within the Humanities, certain assumptions about the sonic have in fact, further isolated sound and aural experience.

Tunings of the World is a project that rearticulates sonic theory and practice with ‘visual’ disciplines and spaces, offering ‘the installation’ as a locus for critical attunement and interdisciplinarity.

We want to explore how a conceptual model of attunement might be used to situate differing modes of thought, languages and disciplines.

Recent audio-visual installations by leading artists, such as The Otolith Group (Van Abbe 2019), Mikhail Karikis (Tate Liverpool 2020) have challenged their audiences (audiences rather than mere visitors) to attune to the world, addressing global issues of the environment and social justice.

‘The Tuning of the World’ as the late writer, artist and environmentalist Murray Schafer might call it. But attunement is also linguistically connected to the idea of Stimmung (Kant, Heidegger, Stockhausen etc.) a German word whose connotations extend from the human voice, to mood, to world harmony.

There is a growing community of artists and who use the instrumentation and essayistic, discursive possibilities of the audio-visual installation to attune deeply to the world, and often allow for sympathetic resonances. They are also overt in their referencing (and sampling) of work by late twentieth century, iconoclastic, multidisciplinary artists, who though often overlooked, were radical in their reshaping of a discipline. Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) is such an inimitable figure that demands further critical reflection, especially in relationship to contemporary theory and practice. Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations are a conceptual and practical matrix for this innovative Sadler series.

Exactly fifty years ago, the composer/performer Oliveros published a collection of text-based scores (Sonic Meditations, 1971), mobilising a profound body of work and a new therapeutic and creative discipline. These meditations utilise techniques for tuning both mind and body, and significantly incorporate innovative approaches to pedagogy and to collaboration. These compositions allowed Oliveros to attune to and incorporate a range of things (female/lesbian/human/musician etc.) that are nominally/supposedly out of tune/time with the dominant occidental canons and connected discourses.

In 2020 thousands of participants joined together on Zoom to perform Oliveros’ Tuning Meditation as an antidote­–or antiphon–to the coronavirus pandemic. Oliveros’ meditations are a model for a seminar series that incorporates, and brings into resonance a mixture of workshops, installations, performances, close reading and deep listening.

Tunings will host internationally acclaimed artists The Otolith Group and Mikhail Karikis who will install their work in collaboration with academics and technicians, utilising our special theatre, gallery and workshop spaces. As well as providing high profile exhibitions for the public and national cultural partners, these installations will be the stage for postgraduate reading and performance groups as well as five seminars, led by the main participants in collaboration with the invited artist and writers.

Research Questions

How, building on the work of Oliveros, can sonic/performative/intermedial practices become mechanisms for inclusive, interdisciplinary research?

How can ‘deep listening’ can be thought about in relationship to the creation and theorisation of audio-visual art?

How might ‘deep listening’ in resonating with deep ecology, and deep learning bring audio-visual


Planned events in the Series

Meditations on Tuning. Seminar
Led by Prof John Mowitt
4-6pm,15 December 2021
Online via Zoom

Buccal Philosophy: The Experience of the Mouth in Jean-Luc Nancy. Seminar
Led by Dr Andrea Gyenge (University of Toronto)
4-6pm, Wednesday 9 February 2022
Online via Zoom

Staging Eastman: concert

Featuring Kodwo Eshun, Anton Lukoszevieze and Elaine Mitchener

Saturday 19 February 2022, Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds

Staging Eastman Symposium

25 February 2022, Online

Staging Eastman: video screenings

Available between 17-26 February 2022

Attuning to Materials Seminar
Led by Dr Scott McLaughlin
4-6pm, 5 May 2022
Venue: Hybrid (Project Space and Online)

The Acoustics of Resistance. Seminar and performances Led by Prof Mikhail Karikis and Joseph Kohlmaier
6-8pm, Wednesday 4 May 2022
Venue: Hybrid (Project Space and Online)

Films from the series




Benjamin Patterson: Duo for Voice and String Instrument (1961)


Julius Eastman: JoyBoy (1974)

Julius Eastman: Stay On It (1973)

Attuning to Materials

Acoustics of Resistance

Title Image: The Third Part of the Third Measure, 2017. The Otolith Group Installation at Van Abbemuseum, 2019. Photo: Peter Cox