The Politics of Ambience – Open Call

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OPEN CALL for talks/presentations/art works/performances for an event at Oxford Brookes University, 25th June 2016

The design of ambience is the shaping of affect. In his definition of ambient music, Brian Eno wrote that ambience is “a surrounding influence”. Ambient music has been used to make workers more productive, to make shoppers buy more, and to calm down disgruntled claimants for government benefits. Exerting an influence in these settings is surely a political act but, less obviously, perhaps so is the production of ambient music for consumer leisure. The resurgence of interest in ambience in an era of increasing information about oppressive global power structures amounts to, for Seth Kim-Cohen, a retreat from the world in an untenable attempt to “play possum”.

This event will draw together explorations of the politics of particular instances of the design of ambience. What can we learn about and from the political implications of past and present uses of ambience? What other possibilities have not yet been fully explored? Is a reflective and ethically/politically-engaged design of ambience possible?

Confirmed keynote speaker: David Toop (musician & author of Ocean of Sound & Sinister Resonance).

Other contributors confirmed include Seth Kim-Cohen, Terre Thaemlitz and Adam Harper.

What we are looking for

We are interested in the broadest possible range of readings of the relationship between ‘ambience’ and ‘politics’. Although the main focus for the event is ambient music, we are also interested in the design of non-musical ambient sound, as well as the relationship of sound/music to other dimensions of ambience – visual design, built environment, and any other practices which design and manage ‘atmosphere’. We encourage proposals for talks, discussions, presentations, installations, workshops and/or performances.

Resources available

We will offer support towards material costs, travel and subsistence for selected participants. We will have access to equipment from SARU and Brookes and can book a number of spaces across the university (lecture halls, studios, etc) so hope to facilitate a number of audio-visual installations/presentations/ performances as well as talks. Please contact us as soon as possible to discuss any ideas you may have.


Please send a proposal of 200 words by the 21st of March. Questions/comments/ feedback also welcome: 

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