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Goethe Annual Lecture Series: Matthew Herbert: Hearing Beyond

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Time 18:30
Date 01/12/22
Price £5

Through a series of extraordinary sound recordings, Matthew Herbert pushes us to hear further than ever before and tells us how systemic listening can lead to meaningful action.

For the last 140 years or so, audio recording has allowed us to re-hear ourselves. We have subsequently talked and sung a lot into microphones and pressed the results onto wax cylinders, vinyl discs, tapes and hard drives. On Spotify alone, there are 65,000 songs uploaded every day. But beyond music and the human voice, there is a profound new terrain emerging in audio that has the potential to unlock new ways of understanding. We can hear disease growing and waves emerging from black holes. We have recordings of 23,000 people singing a single note and 20,000 dogs barking.

At the same time as the capacity to record, store and manipulate sound has evolved, we have also brought to life a near-perfect economic system for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. From subsidising fossil fuels, to prioritising harmful foods, to distorting information for profit, to proactively stimulating over-consumption – it is consciously designed to maximise short term rewards over long term sustainability. This system has at its core a fundamental requirement for related injustice: exploited workers, an exploited environment and a commitment to the patriarchal and white supremacist historical structures and narrative justifications that keep it running smoothly.

What if we could apply the new reach of sound recordings in order to be able to hear how the workings and consequences of this system might sound? And once heard, can we go even further than our microphones can - what Anne Balsamo calls ‘listening with technology’ - to listen to the previously impossible? Can we hear all the water pumps on farms in Iowa, or all the supermarket tills in Rio? Once we have heard such noises, it can become harder to defend the status quo as healthy or harmonious.

Through a series of extraordinary sound recordings, Dr. Matthew Herbert will push us to hear further than we might have thought possible, and finally ask us: “How can systemic listening lead to meaningful action?”

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