music and ethics

… more good news … after the launch of “my” MOOC Music & Society a couple of days ago, today I found on my doormat the paperback version of “Music and Ethics”, the book I wrote with Nanette Nielsen. 35 GBP instead of the 95 GBP for the hard cover. IOW, affordable for more people!


I am happy (and a bit proud) to announce that the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) my colleagues and I from Leiden University developed about Music and Society is online! If you are interested in the relation between music and society, philosophy of music, sociology of music or aesthetics, make sure to check it out!…/…” or directly on the Coursera site:

My inaugural lecture, “Towards a ‘New’ Sonic Ecology” is now available online.

Please go on this site to “publications” and then to “articles”.


On November 29 and 30 the International Conference The Role and Position of Sound and Sounding Art in Public Urban Environments will take place at Leiden University, The Netherlands. Guest speakers (among many others): Salome Voegelin, Michael Bull, Gascia Ouzounian, Jean-Paul Thibaud, Edwin van der Heide, and Raviv Ganchrow.

Here’s the full program:



09:30 – 10:00: Registration

10:00 – 10:20: Falk Hübner/Maarten Zaagman: “I Will Carry You Over Hard Times”

10:20 – 10:30: Welcome (Marcel Cobussen)


Theme 1: Sound and Urban (Atmo)Spheres (Chair: Vincent Meelberg)

10:30 – 10:50: Miguelangel Clerc: “NS Den Haag-Groningen”

10:50 – 11:10: Jean-Paul Thibaud: “Atmospheric Impregnation”


11:10 – 11:30: Coffee Break + Cathy van Eck: “Für Kopfhörende”


11:30 – 11:50: Rene van Egmond: “Soundscapes in Human Product Interactions”

11:50 – 12:15: Gabriel Paiuk: “Technological conditions and engagement”

12:15 – 12:45: Discussion


Theme 2: Sound Art in Public Spaces (Chair: Jan Nieuwenhuis)

14:30 – 14:50: Salomé Voegelin: “Sound Art as Public Art”

14:50 – 15:10: Raviv Ganchrow: “Latent Aurality of Anechoic Chambers”

15:10 – 15:30: Irene van Kamp: “Understanding perceived soundscapes”

15:30 – 16:00: Discussion


Theme 3: Contemporary Urban Acoustic Experiences (Chair: Sharon Stewart)

16:30 – 16:50: Falk Hübner/Juan Parra: “Jukebox”

16:50 – 17:10: Gascia Ouzounian: “Acoustic Urbanism”

17:10 – 17:30: Tjeerd Andringa: “Experiencing Sound Annoyance”

17:30 – 18:00: Discussion




09:30 – 10:00: Registration

10:00 – 10:20: Justin Bennett: “Hyper-Forum: listening to the social”

10:20 – 10:25: Marcel Cobussen


Theme 4: Towards an Auditory Epistemology (Chair: Marcel Cobussen)

10:25 – 10:45: Edwin van der Heide: “Son-O-House, Spectral Diffractions, and Schwingungen – Schwebungen”

10:45 – 11:05: Michael Bull: “Sirens: From Sonic Myth to Sonic Materiality?”


11:05 – 11:35: Coffee Break + Cathy van Eck: “Für Kopfhörende”


11:35 – 11:55: Paul Craenen: “On sound art and listening time”

11:55 – 12:15: Christopher Williams: “Opening Ears and Selling MorrowSound”

12:15 – 12:25: Michiel Huijsman: “Is place confinement a form of deafness?”

12:25 – 13:00: Discussion


13:00 – 13:25: Cilia Erens: “Moving the Masses” (Soundwalk)

On Monday 28 November, I will give my inaugural lecture at Leiden University. You are welcome to attend. It starts at 4 pm. Find the official invitation here oratie-cobussen-uitnodiging

The title of the lecture is “Towards a ‘new’ sonic ecology,” an appeal in favor of a more prominent role for sound artists in the design of public urban spaces. Although the invitation is in Dutch, the lecture will be in English. With the cooperation of two musical guests!



Conference dates: 29-30 November 2016

Location: Leiden University, the Netherlands


Introduction to the Conference Topic

Sound is among the most significant, yet least-discussed, aspects of public spaces in urban environments (Hosokawa 1984; Kang and Schulte-Fortkamp 2016). Architects, engineers, and urban planners invariably stress the visual and tactile aspects while (re)designing urban environments but often pay less attention to the aural consequences of their interventions; sound tends to be considered mainly as an inevitable byproduct of industrial areas, traffic, commercial centers, and/or human activities. If sound attracts the attention of policy makers and users of public urban spaces, it is often in a rather negative context: as noise pollution which should be avoided by somehow reducing the amount of decibels (Devilee, Maris, van der Kamp 2010; Elmqvist 2013; Kamin 2015).


In contrast, this conference aims to increase the attention to the role of sound, sound design, and sounding art in urban spaces – with sound considered both as an epistemological tool and as an aesthetic instrument.

Sounds in urban spaces – including the “omnipresence” of music – (co-)regulate our behavior, attract specific groups that give a space a specific identity, call for certain actions, make us nauseated, etc.; sounds thus have social, political, ethical, and economic power. Reflections on everyday urban soundscapes – their features as well as the way they are used and experienced – could lead to a new theory of sonic ecology.

Furthermore, sounding art has the potential to contribute directly to an improvement of city soundscapes, while a more fundamental and scholarly attention to sounds in public urban spaces can lead to a concrete contribution to already existing discourses in urban studies, history, anthropology, and philosophy.


In this conference three questions will play a central role:

  1. How do sounds in general and sounding art in particular contribute to the general atmosphere of a public urban space?
  2. How do users of that space – dwellers, tourists, people working in that neighborhood, passersby – experience its sonic qualities and how does that influence their behavior as well as the function of that space?
  3. How can we, on a theoretical level, develop a new sonic ecology?


Keynote speakers: Salomé Voegelin, Gascia Ouzounian, Holger Schulze, and Jean-Paul Thibaud.


Conference Coordinator: Prof. dr. M.A. (Marcel) Cobussen



Abstracts: Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent to Gabriel Paiuk before October 1, 2016. Submitters will be informed before October 15.


The conference is sponsored by KNAW, LUF, JSS, and ACPA (Leiden University)

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sounding art companion

I just received an email from Routledge that that The Routledge Companion to Sounding Art has now officially published! The book presents an overview of the issues, methods, and approaches crucial for the study of sound in artistic practice. Thirty-six essays cover a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to studying sounding art from the fields of musicology, cultural studies, sound design, auditory culture, art history, and philosophy. The companion website hosts sound examples and links to further resources.

The collection is organized around six main themes:

  • Sounding Art: The notion of sounding art, its relation to sound studies, and its evolution and possibilities.
  • Acoustic Knowledge and Communication: How we approach, study, and analyze sound and the challenges of writing about sound.
  • Listening and Memory: Listening from different perspectives, from the psychology of listening to embodied and technologically mediated listening.
  • Acoustic Spaces, Identities and Communities: How humans arrange their sonic environments, how this relates to sonic identity, how music contributes to our environment, and the ethical and political implications of sound.
  • Sonic Histories: How studying sounding art can contribute methodologically and epistemologically to historiography.
  • Sound Technologies and Media: The impact of sonic technologies on contemporary culture, electroacoustic innovation, and how the way we make and access music has changed.

With contributions from leading scholars and cutting-edge researchers, The Routledge Companion to Sounding Art is an essential resource for anyone studying the intersection of sound and art.


Just published in Revista Musica: a dialogue between myself and a good friend of mine, Brazilian composer/improviser and Professor of Music, Rogerio Costa. Although the dialogue has as its main topic (the borders of) musical improvisation, it also touches on issues of identity, (Brazilian) politics, and educational systems. Here’s a link to the article.

concert hall

Aalto University researchers found that the emotional impact experienced by music listeners depends on the concert hall’s acoustics.

Earlier research has shown that the strongest emotional experiences by music listening may elicit shivers or goosebumps in the listener. Much weaker reactions can be detected from the variations in the electrical skin conductance. Based on this knowledge, the researchers presented the test subjects an excerpt of Beethoven’s symphony with the acoustics measured in different concert halls. During listening, the skin conductance was measured with sensors attached in the listeners’ fingers in order to record the magnitude of the emotional reactions to different acoustic conditions.

The results revealed that an identical performance of classical orchestra music evoked stronger emotional impact when presented in the acoustics of shoebox-type concert halls, such as Vienna Musikverein or Berlin Konzerthaus. The study included identically selected two positions from six European concert halls: Vienna Musikverein, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerhaus and Philharmonie, Cologne Philharmonie, and Helsinki Music Centre.

“Some interpretations of a same music piece can evoke stronger emotions than others. Similarly, our study has succeeded in demonstrating that the hall’s acoustics plays an important part in the overall emotional impact. After all, emotional experiences are a key factor in music to many listeners.” says Dr. Jukka Pätynen. For decades, researchers on concert hall acoustics have aspired to explain the acoustical success of certain halls with room-acoustic parameters. The study by Finnish researchers is the first to assess the acoustics of existing concert halls as the emotional impact. The group aims to understand how room acoustics affect sound signals, and how people perceive room acoustic properties.

The full article can be found in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA):