Sound in Action

February 20, 2019

Sometimes it seems as if academia and the real world are miles apart. Actual problems caused by gentrification, for instance, are all too often discussed, but seldomly solved by university scholars. Now, one group of ambitious international students at the University of Amsterdam has taken their A (grade) game to the streets and clubs.


With both academic and activist undertones, Sound in Action seeks to spark an inclusive discussion on the social and cultural power of sound. Our own Dr. Music interviewed initiator António Maria Cartaxo to learn more about their aim, next week's event at De School, and the future use of musical activism.



Hi António, thank you for taking the time to discuss with us your upcoming event. First, can you briefly tell us about Sound in Action?


First of all, thanks for your interest! We wanted to give some sort of continuation to the WOinActie protest week, which took place a couple of months ago. During that week, lectures were given on the street as a response to the ongoing budget cuts in higher education. The humanities are particularly vulnerable to the increasing "financialisation" of education' due to the nature of the knowledge that is produced. In short, its outcome isn’t necessarily a product that can be fed into a capitalist market. Therefore we decided to show the ways in which the Humanities are crucial for the well-being of society.


Together with my peers Ed, Ieva, Abigail and Edda, all active in musicology at the University of Amsterdam, we decided to organise discussion and performance events that would bring academics and non-academics together outside of the university space. The performance element is particularly relevant for us as, for cultural musicologists, it addresses issues regarding what constitutes knowledge and how different types of knowledge can be approached. Sound in Action was thus born!


The last event was held at De School, not the least of places in Amsterdam of course. Why did you go for this venue?

Indeed, and we were very excited about this event! De School has built local and international reputation within the clubbing scene, which made it a particularly interesting case for Sound in Action’s goal to bridge academia with the everyday. From the first moment on, De School was enthusiastic and this brought us positive energy to believe in what we are doing.

 [ footage of Sound in Action launch event at OT301 last January, performance by Mavi Veloso ] 



And could you tell us a little more about that event itself?

The approach that we proposed in this event is to use a music scene to reflect upon broader social issues, and give it a humanities twist. In brief, De School operates within a five-year contract of the city hall as part of “urban regeneration” policy. However, De School has also been acting as an important voice for tolerance within the clubbing scene. It thus stands at a particularly interesting intersection of frictions between different urban populations. In this matter, our guest DJ from Lisbon, marum, shared first hand experience on the case of his collective mina; a queer/sexual liberation movement struggling to organise events due to gentrification. That is, higher rents result in less creative space.


The Sound in Action twist I mentioned was to bring voices to the panel which wouldn’t perhaps be first choice to discuss social issues. For instance, philosopher of art Agnieszka Wolodzko from Leiden University, and sound artist/architect Taufan ter Weel. They were joined by Jaap Draaisma, co-founder of Urban Resort. In the end, marum performed a blasting set!


This all sounds quite promising! What can we expect of Sound in Action in the future?

We have another event planned for the 28th of March, this time focusing on the ways in which sound and music provide a sense of residency for displaced communities. Moreover, in what ways can we move from the notion of ownership of space to the sharing of space and what is the role of music in this?


The nature of the event asks for an intimate setting and we will thus move from the club to an artist studio, Yara Said’s Studio Yalla in Amsterdam. Music, discussion, and storytelling are on the program. We are working on a conclusive last event, although we are juggling with practicalities at the moment so we don’t have more info yet. Stay tuned!



[[ :: UPDATE :: ]]


What can we expect of the next event?


The second event in our series, Narratives of Displacement, explores the relationship between sonic space and migration. What constitutes a displacement, and how does one situate themselves in its narrative, often superimposed or assumed? Can music provide not only a voice, but also a sort of residency? How can we share a musical “home”, instead of “owning” space?


These and other questions will be a part of the intimate evening of film screening, conversations, and music. We have invited some fantastic speakers: poet, musician and connector Godfrey Lado; artist, DJ and label promoter Kujo; musician and researcher Lucy Little; cultural musicologist Dr. Barbara Titus; artist and Salwa Foundation initiator Yara Said. All of them have various experiences with music and displacement, so we are looking at a very exciting and multilayered discussion, as well as some beautiful music.   


[ Check out Sound in Action's event at Studio Yallah next week Thursday (28/03) below: ]

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