Geophonic Listening Approach

HD video, stereo audio, 23:42 min.
Goodbye Cruel World, It's Over
Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf
Exhibition View, Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf (2019)

Geophonic listening is based on audio recordings by means of modified seismic sensors - so-called geophones - which are buried in the ground for the duration of the recording. Unlike human cochlear hearing, geophonic listening does not involve the vibration of a clearly delineated membrane such as the eardrum. By anchoring the sensors in the ground, the outer shell of the respective sensor connects with the ground, whereby existing vibrations are transmitted directly. Via an inert mass inside the sensors, the movements and vibrations of the ground are converted into electrical signals and transmitted via a cable to a recording device positioned above ground.

Field recording setup (detail: process with geophone attached to soil surface)
Field recording setup (detail: process with buried geophone)

A subterranean point in a landscape, a specific layer of earth, the earth as a whole become an acoustic membrane through which the sensors are mechanically excited. Geophonic listening in this sense is not merely listening to the earth, but listening-as-earth, an acoustic scaling in geological, biological and social dimensions. The approach provides an exemplary introduction to geophonic listening, leading through various field recordings made in soils of the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, in Brandenburg, Germany, in 2019. Using geophonic audio recordings, different biotopes such as copper beech forests, field margins and bogs within this near-natural cultural landscape, in their respective seasonal stages, can be sonically experienced and compared.

Video display (screenshot)
Exhibition view, Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf (2019)