Testing Ground: Listening: Afterthoughts

How may a series of ‘afterthoughts’ from our invited testing-ground-guests act as a form of documentation, continued wonderings, a possible staying-with, and as dialogue across weeks and encounters?


With an ‘afterthought’ are we interested in engaging with the concept of possible ‘after-thinking’ – delayed thinking or thinking after-effect/affect – too-late (vs. not-yet) or still-evolving thinking… – thinking that takes place as experiences are reshaping you. A thinking not possible and unknown in the moment of participation.

Brandon Labelle, for week I: Listening as a Framework



I’m wondering about the term “framework”, and how this might best apply to “listening”. I wonder what other term can be used? The notion of the “frame” feels embedded within experiences of looking, as well as ways of thinking grounded in bracketing, which are of course useful in many ways (I’m a great user of the term “framework”!). In bringing attention to listening, it feels slightly at odds – if we appreciate listening as being rather “borderless” (on some fundamental level), or somehow “spherical” or omni-dimensional: framing provides a particular (singular) perspective or view, demarcates and separates, whereas listening may be perceived as what surprises us – listening may point, but it does so in an effort to supplement a given view. Can we think of an aural equivalent to framing? Tuning?

I appreciated Jenny’s proposal of a “disoriented” listening; this feels suggestive for a general approach to listening as a creative (ethical) risk; maybe listening only orients by way of disorientation, by interrupting categorisation and fixed terms, derailing itineraries and planned destinations, defamiliarising known patterns and languages. I wonder if disorientation can be supportive of working at neurodivergent, non-binary arrangements?

The time we spent at the end of our event, looking out the window and watching together the passersby was very generative, and I think particularly by revealing how “looking” is equally “listening” – it became an invitation to listen with the eyes, and it was exciting and interesting to follow how this led to a range of scores, propositions, questions. Listening seems to call out for a greater “synaesthetic” understanding of perception, that can help us in appreciating neuro-plasticity, brain politics, crip culture, etc. Such “disorientations” become productive moments – and I sort of thought, maybe we are entering into what Kochhar-Lindgren terms “third ear theatre” – or a “third listening”? – as a listening that displaces sensorial hierarchies or dominant paradigms.

A listening-plasticity might be something to follow….

I also wondered about ritual: the evening had a ritual quality, from the arrangement of seating, the introductory listening exercise, the movements we together followed, and the letter given at the end; ritual often marks a transition, and I think this functioned well, as an invitation to transition one’s own mind-set, ways of sensing and discoursing, etc. It makes me think that “frameworks” might be more about instituting listening structures, architectures, arrangements, tunings, which set the conditions for listening as ritual: how might we move such instituting gestures into environments less inclined toward listening? (A question I carry with me as well…)

Finally, the evening seemed to touch upon what Isabelle Stengers highlights as the necessity to reactive “feelings of interdependency” (so as to upset and challenge dominant capitalistic systems, which damage and destroy “relationships of interdependency”); I think there started to emerge such “feelings” during the event, and I wonder how this might be articulated further (as an interest)? How does listening together differ from listening alone? How is my listening held by another’s listening? And how might my own listening support someone else’s listening?

Listening seems like a device, a poetic weapon, that can contribute to reactivating feelings of interdependency. … I hope we can do more together soon!

Barbora Kováčová, for week 3: The Listening Body



Fragments: resonance of the bodies through the stones, openness towards unknown and fragility inherent in the gesture, the natural habitat of the bodies in forgetful detachment, how to come across the feeling of pure being? Places that resound are like a settlement of bodies – changing little here and there, but persisting in time by their stubbornness, keeping the archive of everyone’s memories in resonating silence.

Jenny Gräf Sheppard, for week I: Listening as a Framework



Following are some reflections on the Bureau for Listening days together with Lucas, Amelia and Brandon and those present in the public event in Jan 24 and 26, 2024. In Frameworks for Listening. Brandon, Lucas and I spent a number of hours on ideas around Frameworks for Listening on the 24th of January. 


Below reflections are a blend of the present and the two referenced dates – in a sort of dialogue between situated events.


(we begin by speaking about listening frameworks)


I stumble on this term, not because it isn’t a good one, but because somehow, I hear ‘framework’ as an enclosure, that in stark terms determines what lies inside and what remains out. And I think about how hard it is to discuss sound without the visual, to lead us into discussions of sound. It is hard to avoid using objects, nouns, subjects and objects, and pictorial words to describe our entanglement with sound, while its contingencies do not always fit squarely inside of a frame, or framework. How to work with non-figurative figuration, if there is even such a thing. How to speak of something so tenuous and changing as listening, sounding, while also becoming aware of our own listening positionality? A moving, changing, reacting, balancing and imbalancing set of coordinates that marks traces. A negotiation. Despite my initial reaction, I appreciate the use of the visual term “framework” as a device that can reflexively attune one to one’s own contingencies of listening, and as a means to distinguish others’ too.


Brandon mentions a potential nesting of frameworks. I think of the Russian Matryoshka dolls -containing dolls within dolls. How do we move between the layered frameworks that contribute and react to how we perceive and know. Do we move through the world with a polyphony of frames, or nested dolls, that each attune us variously? The variously shaped, changing and moving frames, with borders that blur and maybe even interact in ways like waves. Can I listen with multiple frameworks at once. Is there a hierarchy? How can we listen in ways that sustain ecosystems large or small?


What less 2-dimensional term could we use as a prompt to reflect upon how one conceives of listening and how one performs it based on certain concepts and expectations. What about a word that contains movement, and performs a non-fixed, instable, shifting negotiation.  If language can world (in the sense of Le Guin or Haraway) or wor(l)d (in the sense of Helen Palmer) might another word be a way of speaking of how we orient and disorient through sound? 


We discuss the importance of naming, how a name performs what it holds such as in Lukas, Randi and Amelia’s decision to name Bureau for Listening instead of “of” Listening. 


Brandon notes the value of stable frameworks and I find comfort in this. I to myself, Ok stop pushing back against stable frameworks and appreciate the fact that some things are more enduring than others. Remember photography, how a freeze frame can be just as important as an original time-based act itself. It represents something. It captures, and in the capture it reveals. My little bird (like the Shama Bird, first animal recording captured on a wax cylinder 1). But even our instruments for recording are tuned to listening frameworks. I put the microphone near it’s beak to get “closer”, but the bird is captive. A recording is made of a bird out of context. Who does the Shama Bird sing for?


Today, we discuss listening frameworks with a public group. The group is positioned so that everyone looks toward a large storefront window. Lukas leads us in a short listening session. In relative silence, we listened, moving from more local listening (Oliveros) to listening attentively to activity outside of the building (global listening), which we could see through the window. The movement between these two spatial conceptualizations, created a slight difference in orientation – a small disturbance in our perceived scope of listening. Although the world outside the glass was muted, our attention to the space changed the sound in a certain way. The act of listening had a certain kind of agency (change, movement, force, energy), that could render certain things audible. 


As we opened up for discussion, A man noted that due to our roles as expert or speaker who were in a sense leading the silent listening session, there was a sense of power imbedded in the silence. Our frameworks for listening may amplify differently, according to various systems of power, induce ripples of former frameworks to occur in this one. Frameworks for listening may be slippery.  


When is listening a form of control, when is it not a form of control but performed via conditions of power? 

And when is the power of listening limited to the person listening and when is it a distributed power, or agency. 

When is listening a gift and when is listening becoming an accomplice. When is it a gift to be someone’s accomplice. When is listening dangerous?


Thinking of frameworks for listening is a bit like thinking of orientations. The ways in which we orient, shape and reflect what we perceive. Frameworks and orientations are potential, infinite configurations, cosmologies and scales of time. They can operate without people knowing and they can be intentionally attended (for example by working with Pauline Oliveros’ scores) realised through Amacher’s spatioacoustic works/ binaural compositionings. 


How is it possible to hear another person’s framework and is that even fair?

 The listening framework of a rock, of a bat, of a river, of a person born into conflict of war.


One listening is different from another. 

Listening across space-time logics as mother’s voice 

breaths ‘hi’ into my hypnopompic right ear.


What is animated by listening is not always seen.

Attending to that which is animated by listening is important.

In what ways does listening act upon the world, seen or unseen, heard or unheard, tasted, smelled, intuited?


Isn’t about attention?

The intention inside of attention.


Institutions as frameworks, and frameworks of differing durations


How a can listening situate you, when does it unsettle you?

Nana Francisca Schottländer, for week 3: The Listening Body



This is species evolutionary training. By training our abilities to attune our bodies to sense and respond, we develop our response-ability. We store new forms of knowing and other ways of being-with all that is here with us in the fleshy archives of our bodies. Experiences and embodied realizations forming part of the continuous evolution of our own cultural-natural bodies and the interconnections between them forming our local and global collective body/ies.


By letting these experiences, realizations and ways of knowing resonate into our flesh, we transmit them to other bodies, human and more, through our reverberating, resonant encounters. And thus, our species will evolve in intra-active exchanges that reshape our ways of being in and with the world and will travel on as genetic imprints passed on to future generations.


The entry-point into this training is anytime, anywhere. We train our abilities to enter into resonant, reciprocal encounters and exchanges with that, which is right here, right now, against all (capitalistic) odds, that tell us, that the right time/way/place is always sometime/someplace/somehow different that we must earn through our commitment to the production/consumption/growth/optimizations wheel.


But even within these structures, the staying-with what is right here, right now, inside, outside, can be an entry point to a tangent of awareness and sensuous re-calibration, that breaks this cycle and opens a different trajectory.


The training is humble, ongoing, curious and deeply revolutionary.

Preparing us for another world, which we already encounter and create as we train for it.


Do not underestimate the deeply transformative potential of an intimate encounter with a cigarette bud, a cobblestone, a crack in the paint and the resonances from this, traveling on through the individual and collective flesh of the world.

An afterthought offered by Bureau for Listening will be added after all four weeks of the testing ground program is ‘completed’.