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Jul 27, 2018 at 10:00 am – Jul 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Sound Ethnographies

With Jen Heuson, Ben Tausig, Amanda Belantara, Zach Poff, Kevin Allen, and Amanda Gutierrez

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

Please sign up for the waitlist below to receive updates regarding any openings or similar future opportunities.

This three-day intensive will immerse participants in using sound to understand and document the world. Through critical listening exercises, practical demonstrations, guest presentations, readings and discussions, participants will explore what sound is and what it does, learning to critically and ethically integrate sound recording and sound research into their artistic and scholarly practices. Over the course of the workshop, participants will develop a range of sound recording techniques and will learn to craft stories, arguments and artworks from recorded sounds.

Produced by UnionDocs in partnership with Jen Heuson, this intensive will introduce the practical methods and theoretical debates of sound ethnography to nonfiction media makers, artists and scholars. Participants will have the unique opportunity to develop skills and workshop current projects with guests working in a range of fields, including sound art, radio, music, film, anthropology and media studies.

Workshop topics will include: understanding sound basics; sound walking and mapping; field recording techniques; DIY microphone construction; sound editing; working with sound and image; developing stories and arguments with sound; engaging audiences in critical listening; noise and silence politics; soundscape study and sound heritage; and the ethics of sound recording. The workshop is designed to introduce participants to a range of approaches that include sound ethnography, acoustic ecology, archaeoacoustics, ethnomusicology, and aural heritage. Scholars and audiophiles of all types are encouraged to attend.


Open to everyone. We are looking for filmmakers, radio producers, phonographers, sound and media artists, anthropologists, museum curators and archivists and others interested in working with field recordings and sound-ethnographic methods. All lovers of sound welcome! Those with a desire to expand field recording techniques and to use sound recording for creative research and design encouraged to apply.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. Before the workshop begins, you will receive instructions to enroll in the course Google site. The site will include assignments to complete in advance of the workshop. You will also be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your sound-ethnographic experience and what you hope to learn from the workshop, plus a bio. There will be a spot to link to work samples (nice, but not required).

$295 early bird registration by July 13th at 5PM.

$350 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until July 13th. After July 13th, the fee is non-refundable.

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is b-y-o-m, bring your own laptop. Recording equipment is not required, but iPhones or other handheld recording equipment is welcomed. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their own computers or other equipment.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full. After the early deadline, course fees are not refundable or transferable, and any withdrawals will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Friday, July 27 – 10:00am - 5:00pm

An introduction to sound as ethnography

What is sound and how can it help us understand other peoples, places or things? The first day of the seminar will explore how we think about and document sound. Participants will be introduced to basic field recording techniques and sound study debates and will begin thinking about how to tell stories and share experiences through sound.

AM: Ben Tausig

In this session, we will discuss interpretive strategies for sound recording. Although acoustics is often given as the foundation for understanding sound’s nature, something different happens when we listen like anthropologists, listening for meaning first. But what can we do to tease out meaning? What strategies and methods can we use? Let’s find out together.

PM: Amanda Belantara

In this session we will consider how sound shapes expectations of place and human behavior.  We will also talk about the selection and description of sound recordings. How does description impact the experience and interpretation of sounds for others?  How can we explore these ideas through sonic ethnography?

Saturday, July 28 – 10:00a - 5:00p

Sound ethnographic methods

The second day of the intensive will delve deeper into the methods of sound study and documentation and will explore ethical questions related to sound recording, research and composition. Participants will be introduced to sound editing and will learn additional sound recording and critical listening techniques.

AM: Zach Poff

In this session participants will establish techniques for capturing compelling sounds in the field, using microphones and unconventional sensors like contact mics and electromagnetic pickups. It is intended for beginners as well as experienced recordists who want to expand their sonic palette.

The session will begin with a hands-on discussion of microphones and recorders, then introduce “expanded” recording techniques using D.I.Y transducers to reveal hidden sounds, sonify non-acoustic phenomena, and challenge the assumption of the human listening subject recording “in the field”.

Participants will listen to examples of sound art, music, and installation works where expanded recordings provoke conversations about subject-hood and “post-human” listening, taking into consideration how the work is presented (via sound installations, soundwalks, broadcasting, live-streaming, etc).

These techniques are quite accessible for those with more curiosity than money. Poff will share his resources to help participants build transducers for your own work. NOTE: This session is hands-on. Please bring a recorder, microphone, and headphones. If you don’t have them, let us know during registration and we will do our best to accommodate.

PM: Jen Heuson & Kevin T. Allen

A stone tape is a material object that has “recorded” the energy of a past event. Widely popularized by British author Nigel Kneale in his 1972 teleplay The Stone Tape, beliefs in the recording ability of objects and environments span the practices of heritage preservation, paranormal investigation, sound and media theory, and spiritual pilgrimage. But if materials do, in fact, record the past, how do contemporary encounters act as instances of playback? And, more importantly, how do makers shape these encounters through the tools and techniques they use? This class will take up stone tape theory as both a research method and a production practice by exploring how media makers can create works that engage moods and atmospheres in new ways.

Sunday, July 29 – 10:00a - 5:00p

Sharing sound ethnographic work

The final day will emphasize strategies for wider audience engagement, exploring how to share and compose sound ethnographic work for public contexts. Participants will be introduced to sound walking and mapping, expanded field recording techniques and how to craft artistic and scholarly works focused on recorded sound.

AM: Critique and Feedback of Work Samples

PM: Amanda Gutierrez

This workshop and artist talk focuses on the interpretation of the spatial memory and recording of experiences of the ethnographer, artist, and art collectives who consider the walk and sound as an important tool in the social analysis of the everyday life. This workshop will raise the questions of what constitutes the politics of recording in Acoustic Ecology. Through soundwalks, cartography drawings, the practical side of the workshop, centers on the observation and collection of acoustic and visual territories in public spaces, highlighting the experience of the identity of the walker spectrum and their affects associated with the urban design.

Each day will follow this general schedule:


Warm up with introductory questions + listening exercises


Presentation by guest speaker + discussion


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker + discussion


Hands-on practicum with lead instructor


Wrap up with closing questions



Benjamin Tausig’s research focuses on music, sound, and political protest in Bangkok, Thailand. With a particular emphasis on urban space, Tausig has given attention to the ways that genre and performance are adapted in contexts of political upheaval. He has published on the musical activity of the Thai military’s psychological operations unit, and on the lives and art of protest musicians, among other topics. Tausig’s interdisciplinary interests combine ethnomusicology, sound studies, and human geography. His dissertation, “Bangkok Is Ringing,” is a critical study of the music and broadcast environment of Thailand’s Red Shirt movement in 2010-11, during which time he conducted fieldwork in Bangkok and elsewhere. The dissertation tracks the fragmentation of the Red Shirt movement through its musical and sonic spatial ordering. Tausig’s work has appeared in the journals Culture, Theory, & Critique (in a special issue devoted to music and neoliberalism), Twentieth-Century Music, and Positions: Asia Critique. He has taught classes on urban soundscapes, the art of listening, and the elements of music at both the New School and NYU, where he received his Ph.D.  

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Jen Heuson is a scholar, filmmaker and sound ethnographer interested in the relationships between place, travel and sensory heritage. Her short films have screened at FLEX Fest, Big Muddy and the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival. She has produced sound ethnographies of New York City and South Dakota’s Black Hills and has written articles for Contemporary Music Review and Ethnoscripts. Jen earned her PhD with distinction from the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University in 2015. Jen is currently directing SOUNDING WESTERN, a film and community-engagement project about Lakota aural sovereignty and writing a science-fiction novel about stone tape theory in South Dakota. When she’s not at UnionDocs, Jen teaches film and media ethics at The New School and advocates for differently-abled children in Princeton, New Jersey.


Kevin T. Allen is a filmmaker and sound artist who makes ethnographically imbued “sound-films” in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, the Wild West, and the migrant farm worker community of Immokalee, Florida. Recent research leads him to find culture not exclusively in human forms, but also inherent within physical landscapes and material objects. His work is featured internationally at museums and festivals and is funded through the Jerome Foundation. He is an assistant professor of sound and filmmaking at The New School.

Amanda Belantara is a New York based audiovisual artist and librarian. She is co-founder of the international art collective, Kinokophone and has been awarded artist in residencies at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Akiyoshidai International Art Village, Kareizawa Artist in Residence and Yugaku-Tei Residence in Japan. Her films and audiovisual installations have been exhibited at festivals and in galleries, libraries, museums and conferences around the world. Her most recent collaborations experiment with new ways of presenting archival audio and encouraging public dialog surrounding library and archival practices. She holds an MA in visual anthropology from the University of Manchester and an MSLIS in library and information science from Pratt Institute.
ZLP Bio image - listening to plants (small square)

Zach Poff is a New York area media artist, educator, and maker-of-things. His artwork is rooted in open systems that eschew individual authorship in favor of collaborative or generative models. His algorithmic remixes of popular media uncover hidden subtexts lurking inside familiar forms. Other recent work employs unique sound tools to explore the web of social and ecological relationships that challenge and sustain us. He considers his art-making, teaching, and software development to be contributions toward a culture of sharing & empathy, in direct opposition to commercial media’s cult of the individual. In 2015 he received a commission from Wave Farm Transmission Arts to create Pond Station, a long-term outdoor sculpture that live-streams the underwater sounds of a pond. He currently teaches Sound Art at Cooper Union School of Art in NYC and leads workshops on “expanded” sound recording at universities and arts organizations throughout the US.


Amanda Gutiérrez (b. 1978, Mexico City) explores the experience of home, belonging, and cultural identity by bringing into focus details of everyday practices whose ordinary status makes it particularly hard for us to notice their key role in defining who we are. Trained and graduated initially as a stage designer from The National School of Theater, Gutiérrez uses a range of media such as sound art and performance art to investigate how these conditions of everyday life set the stage for our experiences and in doing so shape our individual and collective identities. Approaching these questions from immigrants’ perspectives continues to be of special interest to Gutiérrez, who completed her MFA in Media and Performance Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently elaborating the academic dimension of her work as a Ph.D. student at the University of Girona, Spain. Accordingly, these techniques also constitute the core of the pedagogical practice Gutiérrez has developed over a decade of teaching in diverse settings ranging from high schools on Chicago’s South Side to a senior center on New York’s Upper West Side, including academic institutions such as the SAIC, Connecticut College, and Columbia University. Gutiérrez has held numerous art residencies at FACT Liverpool in the UK, ZKM in Germany, TAV in Taiwan, Bolit Art Center in Spain, and her work has been exhibited internationally in venues such as The Liverpool Biennale in 2012, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Camera Club of New York, and currently at Harvestworks where she is developing her latest project in relationship of the soundwalk as an ethnographic tool. A recipient of a grant from the National System of Art Creators, in Mexico. Gutiérrez is currently on the board of directors of the Midwest Society of Acoustic Ecology.

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Jul 27, 2018 at 10:00 am
Jul 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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