Ocean Plastisphere and Dumping Site / Acoustic Ecology Lab Mexico/Germany Time to Listen


In terms of global distribution patterns, there is considerable inequity in the occurrence of waste, the per capita consumption of raw materials and resources, and the disposal of refuse – based on a network of international relationships and trade. It is well known that plastic waste threatens the existing ecosystems of the oceans and that toxic waste is bought and sold, yet these hazards have not been averted. In many countries, the circular economy is carried on by individuals, including children, who collect, sort and return waste for recycling to earn a living, even as it endangers their health. How do composers tackle this problematic issue, and what languages do they find to express themselves in?

Working with the scientific observation that new ecosystems of bacteria and microbes – so-called plastispheres – are developing on plastics in the oceans, composer Rama Gottfried creates musical theatre with imaginary hybrid creatures that grow in and around human culture, inhabiting moving organic bodies that speak with digital voices. In a kind of micro-lab, in which the musicians of ensemble mosaik anatomise the hybrid creatures and examine them to find patterns, a playful, virtual audiovisual ecosystem is created that mutates and is distorted – filmed and projected onto gauze and spatially elaborated via an eight-channel system.

Anton von Heiseler & Shmuel Hoffman’s experimental documentary film Mountain & Maiden, with a soundtrack by Sarah Nemtsov, a member of the Akademie der Künste, tells the story of the ten-year-old Indian girl Aaspiya. Cheerful in the face of adversity, the protagonist skips school to collect rubbish in a landfill, where she is exposed to a miasma of toxic gases. Sarah Nemtsov exhibits great sensitivity in weaving together the different audio materials – samples of speech, electronic sounds, original recordings and amplified piano music – to create a hybrid musical language capable of expressing the unspeakable nature of the reality depicted in the film without relying on a forced heaviness.

In the Acoustic Ecology Lab·Mexico/Germany, composer Tania Rubio explores an intercultural, interdisciplinary, intergenerational concept from a critical perspective informed by environmental concerns. She brings together artists, scientists and members of the Mayan community in Yaxunah – an erstwhile city on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico that is now an important Mayan ruin – to exchange knowledge, learn from one another and work artistically to find ways forward into the future. One of the key questions they addressed was this: How can sound be used as an axis in the encounter between different cultures and disciplines to reveal new ways of viewing the ecological crisis?

The concert is the first to present some of the musical results of the lab and the research trip to Yucatán. For Ch’íich, composer and flautist Sabine Vogel engaged with the region’s underground water network and examined its significance for the Maya, listening to the Cenote Lol-ha. This pool opens into the water system and, according to Mayan belief, is connected to the underworld below. There she recorded echoes of the environment and the sounds of the surrounding town, together with her own music played on a ceramic flute modelled after ancient Mayan temple flutes.

Tania Rubio’s three-part composition Yok’ol kabo’o developed from a study that involved listening to natural environments and the species that inhabit them. Basing her work on concepts of territory, memory and migration, she approaches sound and the space shared by humans and other-than-human cultures from a bioacoustic, ecocritical perspective. The listeners change locations during the three parts, undergoing their own metamorphoses.

Rama Gottfried: Scenes from the Plastisphere (2018, 20 min) for five performers and video puppetry instrument ensemble mosaik (Karen Lorenz, Christian Vogel: object performance; Simon Strasser: computer, camera, lighting; Ernst Surberg: hand projector; Arne Vierck: sound direction)

Sarah Nemtsov: Mountain & Maiden (2019, 24 min) for keyboard solo (with amplified piano and voice) accompanying a film by Shmuel Hoffman and Anton von Heiseler ensemble mosaik (Ernst Surberg: keyboard, piano; Arne Vierck: sound direction)

Acoustic Ecology Lab Mexico/Germany

Sabine Vogel: Ch’íich (2023, premiere, 20 min) for eight-channel feed and ceramic flutes (Sabine Vogel: flute, Judith Egger: film recordings of Cenote Lol-ha from above; Nash Tavewa: ceramic flutemaker)

Tania Rubio: Yok' ol kabo'o (2023, premiere, 20 min), three-part composition for eight-channel feed, video, clarinet, bicycles and three performers (Fernando Domínguez: clarinet and performance; Sabine Vogel: flute and performance; Judith Egger: video and performance)

Acoustic Ecology Lab Mexiko/Deutschland is supported by Goethe-Institut, Internationaler Koproduktionsfonds, Crespo Foundation, Archiv Frau und Musik, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán, Enlazartes, and Centro Cultural Comunitario de Yaxunah.

Part of the festival Time to Listen. The Ecological Crisis in Sound and Music

Sunday, 20 Aug 2023

7:30 pm



With Rama Gottfried, Sarah Nemtsov, Tania Rubio, Sabine Vogel

6 pm Introduction / Talk
“Change of Perspective: What Forms of Knowledge and Agency Lie in Sound?”
with Tania Rubio and Giada Dalla Bontà, Moderation: Johanna Keller
In English

€ 13/7 incl. exhibition

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