Travelling Sounds studies sonic artefacts in Copenhagen and London: sound art, music, voices, activist interventions and everyday sonic practices that shape and are shaped by the postcolonial condition of Europe.

This sensory ethnography of travelling sounds seeks to extend traditional ethnographic methods to include sound recordings and sound editing, artistic research methods, performative writing and theoretical approaches from sound studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies and material feminism.

Travelling Sounds is a research project (2018-2020) conducted by Carla J. Maier as part of her Marie Curie fellowship at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies (IKK) at the University of Copenhagen / Denmark.

In this postcolonial and globalised world, the movement and criss-crossing of people, ideas, and sonic artefacts across the boundaries of nation states have become integral to the everyday cultural practices of individuals and groups. Travelling Sounds will elaborate how the specific sonic practices, spaces and media can be investigated with regard to the specific spatial, temporary and transcultural entanglements in postcolonial Europe. The overall aim of this project is to establish a comparative perspective which includes case studies from Denmark and the UK, and to investigate the cultural, social and political potential of sonic artefacts – sound art, music, voices, and everyday sounds – to forge a better understanding of Europe’s transcultural and entangled postcolonial histories and how they have shaped contemporary sound cultures.

Travelling Sounds studies sonic artefacts found and created in Copenhagen and London – field recordings in the urban space, recordings of artistic works, performances, and activist interventions – as affective archives. The project develops a critical perspective of archives and practices of archiving. The aim of the project is to forge a better understanding of how Europe’s transnational and entangled postcolonial histories have shaped and are shaped by sounds, objects, bodies and narratives that travel.

Travelling Sounds is a research project that is carried out through an individual Marie Curie post-doctoral research fellowship. I am working at the intersection of Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies and Sound Studies, and also have a background in Cultural Anthropology. The sensory ethnography of Travelling Sounds seeks to extend traditional ethnographic methods to include sound recordings, artistic research methods, as well as theoretical approaches from material feminism.

The notion of Travelling Sounds is a particularly compelling concept that is at the heart of this project, and it informs both my understanding of the postcolonial as an on-going process of decolonisation and of transnational and transcultural exchange, as well as my aim to establish an original and interdisciplinary methodology extending ethnographic research through the perspective of a sensory ethnography and confronting my findings with a critical transcultural analysis of (sound) artworks, musical and non-musical sounds.

Another focus of this project is how postcolonialism has shaped Europe – and also ideas about Europe – through its musical, but also through its wider sonic cultures. It takes into account sonic artefacts from different contexts, such as: artistic and activist sonic reinventions of urban space, sound art that works across sites, media, and different artistic practices, and the identificatory power of sound in cultural memory and commemoration. Hence, Travelling Sounds explores a variety of sonic artefacts within concisely defined case studies from Denmark and the UK, which prove that the travelling languages, intonations and gestures that saturate urban soundscapes as reverberations do not represent but constantly reinvent the colonial past.

This project sets out to trace these transnational and transcultural sound practices in order to tease out the performativity of cultural hierarchy and marginalisation, the sensory potential of (often only visually framed and interpreted) cultural expressions, and to propose a new methodology of sonic knowledge production in contemporary Europe. Thus, Travelling Sounds puts postcolonial theory and sound studies into dialogue, and thereby closes the research gap between them.

The scientific and socio-cultural relevance of the project makes it a particularly innovative enterprise, as the outcome of the research may result in new theoretical conceptions of postcolonial sound cultures. The project’s research outcomes might also be used by policy makers across Europe, since in the present and future, Europe needs to acquire transcultural competences in understanding its diverse cultures (including the sonic cultures). With the help of understanding those cultures, it is possible to create conviviality- and community-building processes and to repudiate nationalistic and discriminatory tendencies that gain currency in Europe today. All in all, Travelling Sounds helps to gain a better understanding of different cultural, historical and current sonic and cultural phenomena in this globalised world.