Guest Edition # 3 Jed Speare/Sven Anderson

This interview between artists Sven Anderson and Jed Speare took place on February 24th 2010 in the Mobius performance space in Boston. It begins with a discussion of Speare’s early encounters with the disciplines of acoustic communication, ecology, and design at Simon Fraser University in 1978, after which it shifts through a series of Speare’s projects completed between 1982 and 2010. These projects operate across different social, conceptual, and geographical territories, articulating an acute environmental awareness coupled with an instinct to expand – rather than to reduce – throughout the evolution of each production.

I contacted Jed Speare in 2010 to see if he would be open to an interview focused on discussing some of his work in the context of my research at the time, which was focused on the use of site- specific, sound- based production strategies in urban space. We had met a few years earlier at a series of performance events that he co-curated in Studio Soto in Boston, after which I had learned more about his previous work and developed a particular interest in his ‘Quiet Zone’ projects sited in Fitchburg (1994) and Toronto (2004). This interview seeks to expose some of the working processes and concepts that lie at the core of these projects, emphasizing the balance of their openness with Speare’s intuition – Sven Anderson (Oct, 2012).


SA: To begin, I’m interested in your time at the Sonic Research Studio early in your career, and how some of the ideas and the ethos stemming from the community at Simon Fraser University (SFU) shaped what happened afterwards. Were you working on composition on your own before that?
JS: Yes – I was a composition student at Philadelphia Musical Academy – which is now The University of the Arts in Philadelphia – it merged with Philadelphia College of Arts.

SA: After that did you go immediately to SFU?
JS: That was about two years later. I had read The Tuning of the World a year before I went, then I worked to save money to move up there.

SA: How was that transition? Did you see it as an extension of your existing practice as a composer?
JS: I had done a little bit of work fooling around with tape recorders. I didn’t like the prevailing electronic music sensibility around the school – which was focused mainly on the electronic music studio and the synthesizer. The Tuning of the World answered a lot of questions about how a musician or a composer can be more integrated with the fabric of daily life and things around us.

SA: I can see that in your later projects, in which you often use sound as a core element from which to shift towards or embrace a larger environmental awareness. So this was on your mind at this early stage?
JS: You could say that works such as my Quiet Zone projects are related to that. They are also related
 to different paths or tendencies in contemporary poetry; I was writing poetry and also making concrete poetry and text-sound work at that time. An example of one of these tendencies would be mythopoesis – like in the work of Charles Olson. He has a series of poems in books – The Maximus Poems – that are about a certain part of Gloucester. Another example would be William Carlos Williams’ book about Paterson New Jersey. There was also a writer / publisher named Richard Grossinger, the founder of North Atlantic Books. He wrote a book about an area in Maine that I used to go to a lot called Book of the Cranberry Islands, which is off the Acadia National Park area. It’s about that whole notion of the universal and the local. It’s definitely a sort of poetic conceit – it could originate from William Carlos Williams, but then it extends into different disciplines. It goes beyond poetry. For instance, Richard Grossinger was a poet, but his training was in anthropology. Also I think of this whole notion of Open Field Poetry.

SA: How did that influence you?
JS: Open Field comes from Olson’s notions of projective verse. I interpret it as anything you define as an area – a charged, associative arena, either selected or created. Just as the page was for writers, there was the corollary with composers using a similar concept for scores; the relationships you identify or create make this thing comprised of their elements, in their own form. It’s like a soundscape. A soundscape is anything – any object, action, event, or environment in sound – that you decide to investigate. It’s a little bit like that; defining or creating a locus of or for activity, and its examination.

SA: If you assign something meaning, it can start to define other things around it.
JS: Right. So for me, that comes from poetry – or at least I knew it then from poetry. To shape or to make that connection with sound was quite important to me, because I could already see it happening in poetry. So The Tuning of the World answered a lot of questions that I had been wondering about latently or implicitly, about sound and the way an artist could integrate more with the environment – with my local environment and the places around me – but without consciously thinking that that’s what was leading me to it, making the connection. It just seemed a part of the times to think associatively and across disciplines. Schafer certainly did.

SA: Had you identified SFU as having a coherent and developed ideology when you decided to attend?
JS: Actually with SFU I went in completely from the cold. My ideology was about the kind of relationships and associations we are talking about here, and going to SFU was a pilgrimage – I just 
went up there and audited courses related to the Sonic Research Studio that was the home of the World Soundscape Project. I didn’t pay any money – I just went and took it in.

One specific thing that had really touched me about The Tuning of the World is that it related to experiences I had as a child. For example, I grew up in Wellesley, and there was a big carillon tower
a mile and a half away at Wellesley College, and for a few years at five o’clock every day there was a carillon player. It was something I heard every day. I noticed, and I liked it, and it was an experience that remained enough in my consciousness that when The Tuning of the World came out and I was reading about keynotes and soundmarks, it seemed like the carillon tower was an important soundmark. There was also a fire-station horn that sounded at 6:15 every day; 
the effect of hearing these sounds evoked an image of the vibrations in acoustic space modulating over the landscape. This experience of sound forms a kind of archetype of acoustic, environmental space in our consciousness.

SA: It’s satisfying when you find a text that names the concepts that you are already shaping or experiencing. I wonder if you had a notion of the personalities involved at SFU when you moved up there?
JS: I didn’t know too much about it. I didn’t know if Murray Schafer would be there – and in fact he wasn’t. Barry Truax was running the Sonic Research Studio. Hildegard Westerkamp was there – but that year I didn’t really see her; I don’t think she was teaching at the time. So when I went to SFU it was a little bit with a feeling that things had passed – that things had crested with the World Soundscape Project – and now because Schafer was gone, there wasn’t any current activity. They were focusing more on developing their own ideas around acoustic communication – Barry Truax eventually published a book by that name.

SA: Let’s move forward to your Cable Car Soundscapes project in San Francisco. At that time, the cable car system was about to change, with one of the major lines being decommissioned. Did you identify the sound of the larger cable car system as a potential focus of a soundscape project right away when you moved to San Francisco?
JS: That was two years after I had been at SFU, and I had acquired the portable recording gear that I needed to start working on things myself. I was working on some of the things that appear on my album Sound Works: 1982-1987 before the cable car project, while others were in parallel.

SA: I understand that the Cable Car Soundscapes project was something that was funded from the beginning?
JS: Yes

SA: When you presented the idea for the project, was it quite formal?
JS: It was formal. It was several months before the cable cars were going to be shut down for a year
- half of them were going to be remodeled. I’m sure I pitched it to them by saying that such a record would appeal to three audiences: Tourists, rail freaks, and industrial sound people. I thought there would be a crossover appeal, and they went for it. We did 80 percent of the work in the last three months before the cable cars were shut down. There were three of us. My friend Peter McCandless was the producer. He is also a film maker and we made a video to the tape piece at the end that has played in many film festivals as well as on public television. There was also a writer/interviewer, Shoshana Wechsler, who helped interviewing the cable car operators and the people around the cable cars, and who wrote most of the insert text.

The premise for the project was that the cable car is a significant sonic experience – that even though the cable cars are a visual icon of the city, they also represent a compelling sound environment. I wanted people to experience this in relation to the fact that they were going to be shut down, so it was partially a record of sound preservation – as the tracks were going to be replaced. The cables had this unique presence in the center of the city where the two lines cross each other. From six in the morning until midnight, you could hear the ringing of the cable travelling underneath the street, at nine miles per hour, in its slot below the track. So with all of this in mind, the record starts out as a documentary, and then ends up as a tape composition.

SA: I was curious about that. The project appeals to the three audiences you mentioned, as you were documenting an experience, a series of focused conversations, the different mechanical elements of the system, and then bookending these components with a more abstract tape composition. After the experience of putting these elements together within the framework of this project, did you ever look for a similar setting in which to explore this framework again? Perhaps in another city?
JS: No, I didn’t really consider that. I would not have wanted to duplicate the same format. The cable car project did however get me directly into the social context of a soundmark – out there beyond just recording, to a point where I was aware of these kinds of possibilities. For example, I designed a sound park which would feature sonic sculptures, elaborating a little more on producing sound in the public realm as well as working with soundscape concepts.

SA: You have spoken before about sound morphology, and taking an interest in the transformation 
of sound. With Cable Car Soundscapes, you ground the context quite firmly through the direct documentary recordings, after which you have a certain freedom to direct the material towards more abstract composition and processing without losing the listener’s awareness of this context. But around the same time that you were working on this, you were working on many pieces in which you use sound as a compositional tool, divorced from place and context. Were you thinking about those two approaches to sound as divergent, or did you just naturally explore both directions?
JS: I didn’t think too much about it. When I look back now and relate it to the present, I can see that
I have a tendency to forget, to get lost the more I work and the closer I feel I am getting to something new, or to take something out so far that I cannot remember its origin. I have become friendly with that occurrence, because while one may forget the original sound, in its morphological sense it has expanded and shifted; in its process and spirit, I am sure that it changes you.

SA: Over the course of these 30 years that have passed since Cable Car Soundscapes, have these ideas of acoustic ecology and soundscape studies remained active with you, in terms of the way you communicate about your projects and your practice with others?
JS: Yes. I taught within that framework in Amsterdam, in a theatre school, and also in Boston. It was sort of the backbone of what I was doing, but because I was working in experimental theatre and performance, as well as with video and directing performance, my focus broadened.

SA: So 1982 -87 was when all of that was happening, after which you moved back East?
JS: Right. Then around 1990, I went into a graduate program in art school. I was working on a text and image book about my personal environment. I wasn’t keeping up with audio or digital technology, but I was still thinking about environmental / ecological / soundscape concerns around me.

When I went back to school, I also did a hearing conservation training program at the Boston Guild
 for the Hard-of-Hearing. A few times a year they had a five-day training for a certificate in hearing conservation – in other words, for learning about hearing loss, hearing protection, and how to give hearing tests and advice to workers in industrial settings. I thought: “I’m curious about what this side of things is about”; essentially the institutionalization of noise. I got the certification, and somehow I got
a job in a health maintenance program through Burbank hospital in Fitchburg, where every week I was sent out to some industrial production environment in central Massachusetts.

These places had mandatory hearing tests because sound pressure levels exceeded 90 dB for over eight hours during a work-day. That’s the threshold beyond which hearing protection is EPA-mandated for any work environment / work schedule. Hearing tests are mandated to the industry, so the industry has to find someone to carry out the tests. The hearing conservationist is then working between the audiologist and the industrial factory, meeting with everyone who must be tested and also with any of the workers who need to be seen by the audiologists for particular hearing loss. The main thing is to administer hearing tests, and to advise individuals about hearing loss and hearing protection, and to ask them if they are using it. You can’t get into diagnostic kinds of things, but you need to tell someone if there is progressive hearing loss going on.

SA: Was this about seeking a change in work environments in which there would be better work conditions?
JS: No – this was just to advise people on how to work within these conditions. Some of the situations were pretty heavy duty, and I respected the workers. But also, this was a whole area of sound that was very powerful, but very negative – the things you have to do to attenuate noise in various environments. There were a few sites where I took photographs of the subjects- with their permission. I made a piece with these photographs called Audiograms (1992), also integrating texts about some of the things I heard about hearing loss from the workers.

SA: So Audiograms was your reaction to working in this role. Were you taking an ethical stance behind this, by portraying these negative condition?
JS: Yeah – it was a little bit about just showing it, but it was also about the intractability of the situation. There were probably 20 quotes in the piece. Probably the best example would be a statement like ‘If I use hearing protection, I can’t tell if the lathe is cutting right’. That’s a particularly vexing irony.

SA: Right – that they’d have to be damaging their hearing to be doing their job right. This project occurs around the same time as your first Quiet Zone project, A Quiet Zone, Fitchburg, MA (1994).
JS:Well the Quiet Zone project is also a soundscape project, since it’s a particularly designated area for a field study. I took it on in a more elliptical, nonlinear way, even though there is a narrative to the progression of my involvement.

SA: In both the Fitchburg Quiet Zone project and the project stemming from your work as a hearing conservationist, you are isolated from sonic production. You’re working with sound as a center of relationships and experiences, and you are producing textual and visual observation and commentary, but not sound.
JS: As musicians and people involved with sound, aren’t we constantly looking for signs in the environment where sound is present, or where sound is particularly important, or heard? We’re looking for other ways to identify it, other contexts of experience – so the Quiet Zone is a really obvious marker for this. Obvious and also obviously anachronistic – or just strange – that there could be something like this that I encountered at the bottom of a four-way intersection!

This project is about the sound in the Quiet Zone (as a container of the soundscape), and what happens inside. It was also about the sinister circumstances of how the sign came about, and how, in my investigation, Quiet Zones themselves come to exist. And then there are simple images; for example there’s an old man wearing hearing protection – but then there’s a mother putting an ear bud headphone into the ear of a two-year old – these kind of juxtapositions. I was trying to put all of this together; the imagery I had gathered as the acquisition of the story. This was also the summer that in two cases in the midwest there were bottles of Pepsi sold with syringes in them – and there was something garish and surreal about that and the way ephemera rises to the level of importance. So many things made it into the book. It tells a story linearly, but it’s also an attempt to combine nonlinearity and simultaneity, and to use the page as a field for that.

SA: What was the installation setup?
JS: It was a photographic exhibition. I tried to make a linear narrative video about the Quiet Zone – but it didn’t work. So I created video captures on 35mm film and enlarged them to 20×24 prints. Along with the photographic exhibition there was a 32-page book as a handout. There was also an installation on a computer of Quicktime movies that were related to other imagery I shot in Fitchburg.

SA: Was there ever an impulse to do something on the actual site?
JS: My involvement on the site (in the site) was substantial – for instance with the church. The 
Unitarian Church allowed me to use it as a base with unlimited access. And eventually the minister – Charles Ortman – did a Sunday service about the Quiet Zone: Its origins, my project and the question 
of eradicating the zone. That ultimately did not occur, but it was discussed in meetings. It was also significant that the museum was close by, only a few blocks away. Its proximity to the Quiet Zone made it a timely exhibition site.

SA: What were some of the reactions that you got to the piece?
JS: I suppose that the most direct response to the project had occurred during the process of making it. People in the zone (and I say that deliberately, like a reference to the Tarkovsky’s film Stalker) knew what I was doing. I was talking to them, videotaping them and producing imagery there for the better part of a summer. It culminated in the Sunday church service focused on the project and the discussions that it spawned about removing the Quiet Zone signs. The parish was shocked and knew nothing about how the signs had come about; this was the strongest indication that the project had affected many people and raised a lot of questions about the signs’ origins. It demonstrated how the mechanism of the Quiet Zone was part of a bureaucratic apparatus that had been set in motion to suppress freedom of religion. The Quiet Zone had been used as a solution to an intractable situation between a nursing home and a Latino Pentacostal church in an alley behind it. The nursing home was filing complaints about the church’s bi-weekly night-time services, trying to organize the neighborhood against them. These two sides ended up in City Council meetings, with the Quiet Zone designation as a solution. In the end, it did not change a thing; it only temporarily ameliorated the problem. Strong overtones of racism persisted. Threats had occurred. By the time I arrived (a year and a half after all of this had gone down), very little had changed and animosity still existed.

Ultimately, the newly-informed Unitarian parish voted not to take the signs down. They felt that to do so, they would then become an instrument of the dominant culture that had created the signs. The Unitarian minister had a very perceptive read on this. He introduced the notion of neo-racism, which is simply the dominant culture naming the experience of the minority one. What one sees as silence, appears as censure and condemnation to the other. A lot of top-down social service and community- based work treads into this. The Quiet Zone thus stood and remained, not as a resolution but as a reminder of the troubles that The City had sought to remediate.

SA: Following on from that I wanted to talk to you about your Quiet Zone project in Toronto, and then your work in Taiwan. But first let’s talk about something more present – your recent work in the Transpositions exhibition at the Distillery Gallery here in Boston. It was a group show with Derek Hoffend and Asher Thal-Nir, right?
JS: There were three individual pieces, then a collaborative piece based on miking up the space. One piece has the word ‘Transpositions’ written out in used sets of ear plugs, and then there are two images from Google Earth imagery (from the ground) of this sidewalk – two views from different angles – next to a Gillette parking lot where I found all of the earplugs over the course of a few years on the same stretch of sidewalk.

SA: What possible conclusion did you come to about this situation? Were they all different types of earplugs?
JS: They were different – some were the orange type shaped like nipples, others were the yellow spongy type. These are from production inside the Gillette factory. Maybe the same person just threw them out there every day. Then there were the two Google images, between which I put the text ‘Somewhere around here’. The other piece is an image of a big clump of cassette tape, with a photo of me untangling it and where I found the tapes – right outside of 119 Gallery in Lowell. Then on a pedestal is a set of headphones where you can listen to the tape. I untangled it and re-spooled it onto a reel and then recorded it to a CD.

SA: What was on it?
JS: It seemed to be some sort of ethnic music – I thought maybe it was Greek because Lowell used to have a large Greek community and I’m half Greek – hard to tell exactly between the unusual style and the tape destruction. It was about six and a half minutes long. I’m glad the tape came out – it was a fun surprise. You think about sound artifacts in the environment – and these were literal, distinct examples.

SA: You mentioned live micing, which reminds me of something you had talked about in relation to the Quiet Zone II project in Toronto (2004). How did that project develop?
JS: It was set in a project series called Five Holes about the senses, and this part was called Five Holes: Listen. I proposed the idea of creating a Quiet Zone through municipal channels, by petitioning the city to create one in a certain area not for the purpose of restricting sound but for promoting awareness and contemplation of the sounds within it. The project changed quite a bit from where it started. When I first went there in the summer following several remote attempts to locate the appropriate city jurisdiction, I thought that I would instead create an installation on a median strip near a hospital quiet zone. But it was loud – it was a median strip between two busy streets. I was going to put microphones along the street and have the sounds routed through a mixer, transformed, and output inside a box or a dumpster. I would be inside of it, and the only way you would be able to hear it would be through bone conduction. The idea was based on capturing lo-fi, internal combustion sounds, as a sort of garbage or trash, and recycling it. But towards the end of that first visit, I realized that the project had diverged, and that it wasn’t fulfilling its conceptual end, which was to petition the city for a quiet zone.

SA: So that first idea set on the highway median was part of a Quiet Zone project framework – as you originally conceived it?
JS: In my enquiries to the city (which took place between Boston and Toronto), I was shifted to different departments. Then when I told them it was an art project, they shifted me to a public art coordinator. When I got to Toronto, I met with her, and right after that initial planning, I went online to look up Toronto by-laws and I found out that there was actually another department that controlled the development of Quiet Zones. That’s when I realized that I had been led in the wrong direction. I went back to Boston and pursued the matter with that department – but it never happened. In the meantime the public art coordinator put me in direct contact with the sign-making shop for the city, so I had them make four signs.

At this point, the director of the sponsoring art organization (FADO) contacted me and told me that there was something happening on Toronto Island. There are about four or five hundred people living there, but it’s primarily a tourist destination – or a place to go during the day as well as for special events. There was a noise problem on the island, originally stemming from a club on the edge of
the lake on mainland Toronto. It was some sort of nightclub, and during the summer they had loud music on an open terrace that was reflecting off of the water, and everyone on the island could hear it until 2am. So they were going through different city jurisdictions – with help from different city representatives – to try to deal with that. I joined an internet group for Toronto Island and introduced myself. So by the time I got there to meet with a noise awareness group, they knew who I was, and understood the nature of my project. At that point there was still no legal jurisdiction for my Quiet Zone – but I had these official signs and I had selected four locations … I was in limbo.

SA: So did you place the signs, or did they place them?
JS: I placed them. What I was trying to do was to say to the noise awareness group that they should use the project as a vehicle that supported their attempt to create noise abatement around the club. In the end the signs stayed up much longer than the two weeks that were originally designated for the project.

SA: When you communicated with this community, did you feel like you sided with their take on things? Were they trying to have the club shut down?
JS: They were open to some solution – they weren’t trying to push an ultimatum. Some interesting facts came back to me. The way that one person experienced the noise was that when they lay down in
bed, they heard it, but when they sat up they wouldn’t hear it any more. So it all came down to bone conduction – through the frame and the mattress!

SA: Did your involvement in the dialog between the community and the municipality feel like an extension of your process working on the project, or did you want to try to keep focused on installing the signs and letting them operate on their own? You suggested that the community could use your project as a means of attracting more attention to their concerns, but did you go to meetings when you were there as part of the project?
JS: I did meet with a few of them. I also spoke with them beforehand. I was only in Toronto for five days to install the signs and for the opening event. But it happened there with their support, so they could allude to it. That was as far as I felt I could go – to suggest an indirect connection – because I really didn’t know enough about the dynamics of what was going on, or the extent to which they could pursue it.

SA: Let’s move on to the project in Taiwan – Peaceful – An Ping (1999). This occurred within a design and exchange program between groups of artists, architects, and urban designers. Was this framework set around specific locations and conditions?
JS: Yes – it was based on the waterfront issues in two cities, Boston and Tainan (in southwestern Taiwan).

SA: Did they give you specific directives within those frameworks to focus on?
JS: The Boston side and the Taiwan side were organized differently. The Boston side was organized into teams of five people each. They included at least a Boston artist, a Taiwan artist, a Boston planner / architect, a Taiwanese planner / architect, and so forth. Those teams were assigned arbitrarily; luckily they worked out. We were in the project space for maybe ten days. Half the time would have been meeting / planning, followed by a few days of intense building and then a few days of exhibition. In Taiwan there were the same number of participants (30 – 40). We held group meetings focused on certain issues and processes, and we started to discuss projects. Based on the ideas that emerged, people would generate interest in their projects and form teams to realize them.

SA: Your work for the project involved a plan to revitalize an area based on sounds that might remind people of older activities. Was that focus on revitalization a definite element of the entire project,
or was it more just that this was an opportunity to look at a particular site as a target for less definite development, whether it was through building or art-making?
JS: I think there was a not-so-hidden agenda that a project like this could re-imagine a waterfront
that had been polluted and neglected, and that the project implicitly wanted to re-imbue this with visions of a future reclamation, and vitality. Through its scope and scale it suggested that through art, architecture, and planning, there were these different elements and possibilities that could bring the waterfront back.

SA: At the final exhibition event where people came to focus on this issue and this place, was there any impulse to create a longer-term or more permanent vehicle for the strategies that your project suggested, or did you feel confident in the event itself as a means of making people aware of the potential of working with the sound environment with these goals?
JS: I think the event and the project did unearth a lot about the sound environment of the village, and how people felt about it. So that’s what it was. Tainan – this city – and the one part of it – An Ping, whose name was also important to me because it means “peaceful” – is more like a village with very narrow streets with no four-wheel vehicles. There were two parts of my project: There was a soundwalk through these narrow streets, where people notated what they had heard on a map that I had given them. Those notations were later transposed
to a larger map that was installed in the gallery space. The second part of the project was a series of interviews, which produced a direct oral history about the particular environment, and about the past in relation to the waterfront and the activities that took place there. It seemed like by remembering those things, they could be brought back in a sense – if the water were cleaner – if it was restored as a fishing village – or if some sort of planning / creative application of sound occurred within the environment.

SA: Was that idea of bringing back a trace of a past activity validated by the people you interviewed? Were people open to these conversations, talking about memories of sounds?
JS: Definitely. It’s a fascinating place – that village. It is a simultaneously part of as well as juxtaposed with the so-called ‘Taiwan Miracle’ which is based on the fact that there is very little regulation concerning what you can do on your own premises. For example, it is common to see small family-run factories on the ground floor of buildings, with the family living above. There are no sidewalks – so some of the activity spills out onto the street.

SA: Who were you working with on this part of the project?
JS: There was a theatre producer / community activist from Tainan, along with two urban planners and an architect from Boston.
I also showed a video of the soundwalk in the exhibition space, so the final presentation consisted of the video and the map with notations as part of the soundwalk, along with photos of the people we talked to complemented by and Chinese and English translations of what they said.

SA: Were the other people on the team on board with the concept of using sound in this way?
JS: Yes, I wrote a summary of the project for the exhibition that talked about some of its implications for the city and the planning process. The idea of using sound was pretty unique to them. The whole project took place in a vast, new 20,000 square foot space located on the water. It had been offered to the fishing industry but they didn’t take it. When I returned I learned that after the exhibition concluded, they moved my project inside the Temple Matsu in the village part of the city.

SA (2012): As we are re-visiting this interview via Ear Room in November 2012, I thought it would make sense to finish with Ear Room’s customary concluding question ‘What is sound art?’, bearing in mind the preceding discussion of your projects?
JS (2012): This is a very free-associative question – it makes me think about the trace and influence of the sound environment on music as a path to understand the gradual emergence of sound as source material and sonic art, beyond music. Going back to Schafer, he made some observations about sounds in Western music that seem obvious but are compelling, like the evolution of and increase in percussion instruments in the orchestra from the 18th to 20th century, as a reflection of the environment; or Alberti bass as derived from or unconsciously referencing horse-hooves on cobblestone streets, as well as the flam coming from the sound of trains over bolted, repetitive track sections. Fast forwarding over many more references and the proliferation of ideas and tools, sound art comes from these kinds of influences and occurrences, evolved into a conscious, creative realm. Schafer also says simply that art is defined by the activities of artists, and for me this confers an openness and generosity to sound art and its many forms, that it will always continue to change and grow.



Download printable version [here]

*Since this interview took place, Mobius has relocated to Cambridge, MA.

Jed Speare is an artist working in a variety of media and settings. He has presented sound, video, performance and multidisciplinary work, locally, nationally, and internationally in Canada, Ireland, Poland, Belarus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, and Taiwan. In 1978, he studied at the Sonic Research Studio of the World Soundscape Project, in Burnaby, British Columbia, an experience that led to his extensive work in field recordings, sound art, and his advocacy about the sound environment. In the eighties, he was closely associated with San Francisco industrial culture as the creator of the record album, Cable Car Soundscapes (1982) on Smithsonian Folkways Records. He was the founder of the group, Research Library, who performed with video-performance artist Joan Jonas and recorded
on Subterranean Records. During this time, he was active creating numerous sound, collaborative, experimental theater, movement, and multidisciplinary performance works in San Francisco, New York, and Amsterdam. The double album, Sound Works 1982 – 1987, (2008) on Family Vineyard Records, includes several long-form works from that period.

Jed has also worked as an Industrial Hearing Conservationist, giving hearing tests to factory workers, and has created conceptual works about the sound environment, investigating and creating urban “Quiet Zones,” and sound as an element of urban planning. He has taught at Theatreschool Mime Opleiding (Amsterdam) and School of the Museum of Fine Arts and has been a visiting artist and guest lecturer at several institutions including MIT, Williams College, and Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has been a member of the Mobius Artists Group since 1995, and has served as Mobius’ Director and/or Co-Director since 1996. He is also Director of Studio Soto, and is currently active as a founding member of the New England Forum for Acoustic Ecology, the New England Phonographers Union, and the Mobius Quartet. In 2008, Wire magazine called him, “a pioneer of multimedia presentation,” and Dusted Reviews, (2008) “multimedia avant la lettre.”

Artist Profile at Mobius:
New England Forum for Acoustic Ecology:
New England Phonographers Union:

Sven Anderson is an artist working between Ireland and the US since 2001. Anderson’s work explores the act of listening within diverse architectural, physical, social, and emotional contexts. His practice is a discursive platform that operates through artistic intervention, academic publication, participatory projects, and interactive design. His research is focused on sound installation practices sited in urban space, and he is currently developing a project to work with Dublin City Council in the role of Urban Acoustic Planner in 2013.

For more information visit:


About mark peter wright

Artist-researcher involved in "humanimentical" doings.

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