The Sound of Lisbon

Prof. Dr. Paulo Ferreira-Lopes

Prof. Hartmut Jahn

Today, trans-medial arts face many challenges, with time-based media playing an important role in the development of new means of expression. But these possibilities can only be fully grasped if artists from different cultural areas can exchange and confront their experiences with each other.

How do you transport a sound?

The project “The Sound of Lisbon” is an important step in this direction, a way of questioning our own territories and cultures – from Mainz to Lisbon, from Gutenberg to Pessoa, from the Rhine to the Tagus. A project-based learning environment promotes a broader acquisition of skills in a globalised world. In this sense, the cooperation between the Multimedia/Art Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Lisbon University and the Media Design Department at Mainz University of Applied Sciences is particularly important, where students work together in international teams and apply explorative research methods – an appropriate way of demonstrating civic engagement in a world connected to the media.

Working together in Lisbon and Porto was an amazing challenge and a very fruitful experience over the last four years. The variety of topics and the different ways of dealing with materials, situations, technology and concepts led the teams to refine their ideas and finally to realize their projects. One focus was to apply the topic of sound representation to real acoustic environments. The idea was based on a simple concept: How can the perception of a sound from an acoustic environment – e.g. the beach, the Casa de Fado, the Ponte 25 de Abril – be transported to an exhibition site? The workflow to realize this simple concept is much more complicated and requires a thorough understanding of everything from psychoacoustics to real-time audio signal processing.

With the commitment of the students and a “teamwork” based atmosphere, it was possible to produce many materials in Lisbon. We found ourselves in different acoustic situations: From free field recordings with fishermen on the beach to highly controlled spatial constellations in closed rooms to the – not yet publicly accessible – old cistern of Lisbon.

Short films, Installations, Photographs

The results are short films, installations and photographs. Among other things, they show how the protagonists have changed through the influence and transformation of the city itself: How a violin maker with his quiet workshop in the centre forms the absolute antithesis to city life in the streets, why street musicians make street music there, how the Ilhas’ neighbourhoods in Porto are threatened, the influence of the city’s growth on the young music scene. We see a lesson with FADO star Ricardo Ribeiro and, following in the footsteps of Fadista Ana and Adriano, the model Sharam Diniz in Performance, we watch fishermen processing their catch – and we become aware of how nature reclaims everything that was once taken from it in neglected places like the old shipyards and palaces.

The next step was to process this material – decoding/encoding to 3D formats – in Mainz. Finally, the last step was the software implementation, design and construction of a 3D audio system. The construction of this system in the exhibition in the LUX Pavilion had as its main goal to preserve the scaled acoustic environments of Lisbon, to transform them to Mainz – with the support also of the students from Lisbon – and to present the experience of the different sound and image worlds on a 360º sound system

Project Assistance: Philip Grzemba, Geraldine Rodriguez Maldonado, Bastian Bley
Production team LUX: Dipl. Des. Marcel Fleischmann
Production team img: Dipl.-Des. Manfred Liedtke, Dipl.-Des. Uwe Zentgraf, Norman Eschenfelder (B.A)

With support from funds of the German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD in cooperation with the universities
Universidade Católica Portuguesa Porto, Prof. Dr. Carlos Cairos
Faculdade de Belas Artes Universidad Lisboa, Profs. Dr Antonio Sousa Dias, Dr Patricia Gouveia