On Vibration


‘On Vibration’ is a new nine-week virtual course that is open to all, run by Dr. Patrick Farmer and facilitated by the Sonic Art Research Unit.

The total cost for these nine lectures is £60. Upon purchase, an email will be sent with zoom links for all nine lectures, and other materials.

‘On Vibration’ consists of weekly one-hour sessions ,every Wednesday from 7-8pm (GMT), on the video-conferencing platform Zoom.

The lectures will start Wednesday April 14th and end Wednesday June 9th 2021.

Each session will last one hour, consisting of a half-hour lecture and half-hour group discussion, during which we will think about such things as: the strange notion of a history of vibration, texts by ancient Hermetic and Vedic philosophers, surrealists such as Leonora Carrington, and Romantic Scientists who would sooner experiment on themselves than on animals, many of whose hearing habits we will also study. We will consider whether vibration makes boundaries permeable or impassable, formulating our own questions about vibration and its fluid agency in the world.

This course is designed to act as an open space in which we can share and listen to ideas whilst discussing works of art and philosophy, familiar and otherwise. There is no set work, but a reading and listening list will be circulated for participants to explore in their own time.

For a brief breakdown of the lectures, please see below.

Please note that both the Tuesday and Wednesday slots have now sold out.

Please contact patrickwilliamfarmer at gmail dot com if you have any questions.




Week 1 will serve as an informal introduction to the course and its format as a spiral, we’ll read some of the poet Will Alexander’s thoughts and theories on aural deepening, and think about how difficult and strange it can be to speak and write about sound directly, a recurring theme in these lectures.

Week 2 is concerned with the concept of World is Sound, which here we’ll translate as World is Vibrating. We’ll look at the wave as primordial phenomenon, moving between Gnostic dualism and the Vedas, the Alchemical maxim of ‘as above so below’ and morphogenetic fields.

Week 3 looks to the weather and the animation of matter, at a brief history of electricity and its application before opening up vibration into the atmospheric fields of meteorology and galvanics.

Week 4 will be the start a two-part session on the jaw, beginning with the treatment of the intermaxillary bone in the 19th century, we’ll discuss the evolution of the mammalian jaw and the middle ear, studying various examples, notably snakes and hearing via bone conduction, before practising listening with the jaw.

Week 5 will see us looking beyond normative models and anatomical locations of hearing, building on our work with bone conduction to study inventions that sought to listen to the world by a means other than the ear, we’ll slowly push this model out into the present day to look at ever more ethically murky waters that relate to the jaw and its ability to conduct and translate vibration.

Week 6 has us looking into the cochlea, at spirals, snakes, and the ancient concept of Dragon in Chinese cosmology, this will unfurl into Leonora Carrington’s novel, ‘The Hearing Trumpet’, and the anthropomorphisation of hearing devices.

Week 7 is all about frogs and worms, love waves and Faraday waves, we’ll read a little about Charles Darwin’s fascination with worms and their sense of hearing, listen to recordings of frogs made by physicist Felix Hess, who himself equates such behaviour with mind, and learn how the vibratory capacity of worm’s bodies has been linked to a number of surprising hypotheses.

Week 8 opens up the inner ear into its vestibular, or balance, capabilities, compiling examples of the inextricable relationship of gravity and vibration by delving into the otolith organs of the ear, and some of the theories of an overlooked psychiatrist who rode elevators and lifts all day long.

Week 9 will branch out into the world of the Hermetic Corpus, by focussing on what Isaac Newton left behind, the living earth, we will place an emphasis on certain Hermetic laws and their relation to vibration, paving the way for a fresh look at Gaia through the writings of Mary Midgley and Lynn Margulis.

Dr. Patrick Farmer is a co-founder of Compost and Height, editor of the new-music journal Wolf Notes, founder of the Sound I’m Particular lecture series and Significant Landscapes Festival, and a curator of the audiograft festival. He teaches in Oxford and lives on the Malvern Hills. Farmer has published several books and written compositions for groups such as Apartment House and the Set Ensemble. www.patrickfarmer.org