Musical Sferics, 2023

Several artists within the festival take inspiration from, look at or listen to the surrounding landscape of Watou. This is also the case for Funda Zeynep Aygüler, who developes a sound installation within the framework of LANDSCAPES | Feel Flanders Fields.

Aygüler together with musician Anton Filatov listens to normally inaudible sounds of the earth’s ionosphere and beyond through a custom made Very Low Frequency (VLF) receiver and antennas. The receiver is directed towards the open fields around Watou, where it records the disturbances created by natural phenomena such as lightning and solar storms. The natural electromagnetic waves from the magnetosphere are captured and converted to sound by sensitive sound amplifiers and antennas. At the extremely-low-frequency and very-low-frequency (ELF/VLF), quite a few peculiar sounds can be heard. Such as crackling or grunting when lightning is captured or sounds like the chirping of a bird when frequencies are subject to dispersion by traveling over long distances. Sometimes it seems like hearing the wind blowing through a forest when repeated reflection, dispersion and absorption of the waves lead to longer whistling tones.

Low frequency band was used for military communications in Europe and the US from WWI onwards. VLF methods are also used to discover historical graves on battlefields. VLF frequencies are almost untouched by human-made telecommunications signals but as digital and wireless technologies continue to develop, the use of these frequencies for our communications drowns out the natural phenomena active on the low frequency spectrum.

The installation consists of a soundscape of which a visual translation is projected. In doing so, Aygüler and Filativ express the boundaries between the natural and technological audible and inaudible. The installation aims to express not only a link to an invisible war past, but also questions whether hearing unfamiliar, normally inaccessible and perhaps even monstrous sounds can contribute to a more equal, non-hierarchical handling of the non-human? For instance, can letting these sounds be heard disrupt contradictions between nature and culture, technology and biology, materiality and immateriality?

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