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Sophia Edlund

Listening across a herding call: A practice-as-research Provocation How do we come to resist or not resist specific sounds in the call and response of the vocal ‘in-between’ (Thomaidis and Macpherson 2015)? My voice-based practice-as-research explores this query by focusing on the production and reception of performative voicings designed to ‘enchant’ listeners. One of these voicings is an ancient Scandinavian herding call, Kulning, whose high-pitched melody, luring songs and signals aim to call, lead and herd cattle, as well as to repel predatory animals. This voicing engages cows, sheep, goats, wolves and bears (and fellow herders) as listeners. The Kulning sound developed in ‘accordance with the reactions of the animals’ (Campbell 1951) through mimicry that suggests a mutual ‘attunement’ (Despret 2004) between humans and cattle. Specific ‘effective’ sounds were passed down in the oral tradition, and although the structure of this voicing is designed for efficiency, aesthetic and performative components are also revealed in preserved ornamentations ‘more elaborate than the functions required’ (Johnson 1984). As farming systems using Kulning are phasing out in favour of factory farming, contemporary folksingers have transferred Kulning onstage, thus extending the “call to attract” from human-to-animal, to human. When listening across the ‘in-between’ of Kulning as it shifts from everyday life herding practice to artistic onstage performance, and significantly, when the species and cultural context of its listener changes, what can we learn about how and why certain sounds come to be considered ir/resistible? This PaR provocation is based on my ethnographic fieldwork on Kulning and on theorisations of listening as expressed by Adriana Cavarero’s ‘echo and resonance’ (2005), Steven Connor’s ‘vocalic body’ (2000), Jane Bennett’s ethics of ‘enchantment’ (2001), and Vinciane Despret’s ‘agencement’ (2013). My presentation will involve field recordings and newly composed sounds inviting to engage in the various calls and responses of listening across Kulning.

TaPRA Gallery Presentation: My artwork emerges from my fieldwork on the Scandinavian herding call tradition, Kulning. Translated from Swedish, ‘Kulning’ is a fusion between ‘kuh’ (cow) and ‘lock’ (call). I invite you to listen across the borderlands operating in Kulning: between human/non-human, practicality/artistry, vocally attracting/repelling. The edited audio recordings of herding callers and musicians in Sweden overlap different calls (luring, repelling, onstage performance) directed at different auditors (cattle, predators, humans). Participants are invited to consider: ‘If you listen to this sound as if it is a fascinating sound, where does it take you? How do you come to resist/not resist these sounds?’. My installation is accompanied by my fieldwork portfolio.

Sophia Edlund is a first year MPhil/PhD student at the University of Exeter (Drama Department) and her provocation and installation are part of her voice-based PaR PhD Project ‘Voicing Thelxis: Practices of Vocal Ir/resistibility’. Thelxis is a Greek term found in archaic poetry to describe states of enchantment and in the context of voicing, conditions of auditory fascination. Sophia works at the intersection of voice, sound, and music, and holds an MA in Text and Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and an MSc in Performance Science from the Royal College of Music.