Musarc: Field Studies

Recording sounds on the Thames

Field Studies is an ongoing summer-school programme led by acclaimed sound artists and composers. It explores the possibilities of engaging with places through listening, and working with recorded sound as a creative and practical tool in the context of architecture, the city and art practice.

Field Studies is organised by Musarc, a sound and architecture research platform at The Cass, London Metropolitan University, and led by Joseph Kohlmaier. Field Studies took place in 2010, 2011 and 2013. A new, reworked version of the course is in preparation or Easter 2014.

Outline and context

In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of galleries that exhibit sound-based art; books that engage with the phenomenon of sound and the listener; radio programmes and blogs; symposia, teaching programmes and festivals around the question of sound. New, ‘audial’ histories of modernity are being conceived and written. Yet ‘sound’ still very much occupies a place outside the mainstream; it still holds the promise of looking at culture in a different way, and new opportunities to engage with the environment specifically in the context of architecture and the city.

The word sound conjures up an immensely colourful, and sometimes contradictory spectrum of associations. We may think of birdsong and churchbells ringing out in the countryside; the birth of polyphonic music in medieval cathedrals; Tyndall’s lectures on sound in the mid 19c; the ghostly voices on Edison’s wax cylinders; the industrial noises celebrated by the futurists and abated by American city councils; Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète; Murray Schafer’s invention, and Tim Ingold’s critique of the soundscape; the acoustic telegraph, the personal stereo, the mobile phone.

When we speak about sound we may in turn refer to a phenomenon of human perception, the act of hearing, an aspect of the environment, or music. Sound is the subject of legislation and manifestos, and of philosophical debate: do we hear sounds or objects? Is sound like light or like colour? Is it an event or a property?


Recording sounds by the river

Field Studies: Lecture at The Cass

Sonographic maps made by students in Justin Bennet’s masterclass

Class conversations

Field Studies related content


Musarc is a research programme organised around a choir, lead by Joseph Kohlmaier.

Joseph Kohlmaier


MA Architectural History, Theory and Interpretation MA by Project: Course in Poetics

A sonic view for Architecture Choir

News, Exhibition

Musarc perform at Bold Tendencies in Peckham.

Gama radiate music


Exhibitions and performances by Cass MA by Project student Victor Gama were curated by Yinka Shonibare as part of the Deloitte Ignite Festival.

Performance as Composition

17th October, 6-9pm

Workshop using a computer-mediated performance strategy by sound performers (musicians and non-musicians)