podcasting workshop

Welcome to Guy’s Podcasting Workshop
KABK September 2021

This audio-makers workshop is for beginners in the audio field and those with a bit of experience as well. In four sessions, students will learn about different formats, how to plan a podcast, storytelling strategies, how to best record and edit sound, how to use music and sound effects, and how to translate a visual story to audio.

Session 1: What’s a Podcast? Where’s a Podcast?

Before the intro session, students will share their favorite podcasts, and make a list of 3 ideas for a 5 minute audio podcast.

First Half: introduce different forms of arts podcasts, with examples, I NEED BETTER EXAMPLES! and then introduce storytelling. What is storytelling? Who do you know who tells a good story? Why does it work? When do you tell what? What do you leave out? How do you get a message to the audience?


On Capturing Stories: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-capturing-stories-host-jordan-craig/id1368680261?mt=2 commerical focused, On Capturing Stories, host Jordan Craig.

Foam Stories – miniseries on migration (based on photo exhibition) https://open.spotify.com/show/2O3kq8KO17ouwkCsNKG5CO

Street Shots Photography Podcast: https://player.fm/series/2362637 – Antonio M. Rosario and Ward Rosin

https://open.spotify.com/episode/5Og989NZcxesqXubK9akDc about art collectors and fine art photography

Ansel Adams exhibition curators talk (boring?) https://portlandartmuseum.org/podcast/ansel-adams-in-our-time/

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkLnBvZGJlYW4uY29tL3N1bm55MTYvZmVlZC54bWw/episode/c3VubnkxNi5wb2RiZWFuLmNvbS85ODdmYmFkYi02MmE0LTMwYjAtOTMyNi01YjNkZWIwMjk0ZjA?hl=nl&ved=2ahUKEwj6nv_Pxb_yAhXdgP0HHYPLArwQjrkEegQIAhAF&ep=6 black-eyed polaroids long conversational chat format = 1:20 Sunny 16 Podcast

Second Half: practicalities: what equipment will you need?
(see equipment notes below)

And give an introduction to Audacity, plus link to YouTube tutorial

What are your ideas? Go around room and share 3 craziest ideas for podcasts, and discuss how these could work.

Assignment for tomorrow: students choose a theme, and write a 3-minute spoken-word story about it. Question for Don: should theme be visual? Or related to photography? Or random?

Session 2: Storytelling & starting to record

Before this session, students choose a theme, and write a 3-minute spoken-word story about it.

First Half:

We’ll start by going around the room, and each student will present their 3-minute story. We’ll share tips and critiques, and try to find traditional and non-traditional ways to tell each story. The world of podcasting is so vast, and there are so many audiences – we’ll think about who might be listening, and how to keep their interest. We’ll also address how to ‘show’ visual materials via headphones; how to present physical art or conceptual art via an audio channel.

Second Half:

we’ll discuss nuts and bolts: the basics of recording.

  • The impact of good (and bad) acoustics
  • Which microphones are there? And in which situation do you use which microphone?
  • Common (technical) mistakes that ruin your recordings, esp too much background noise
  • Remote recording (via Zoom, for example)
  • Software suggestions (including podbean and audacity)
  • How to get started if you have zero technical knowledge (hint: use your phone)

Assignment for tomorrow:

Tonight, students record voices: themselves, experts, neighbors, family, friends, anyone you can find. Then they make a 3-minute set of highlights from these raw recordings. The quality can be rough – the important part is to find the voices of the story. No music, no sound effects, no filters: just the original voices saying interesting things.

Session 3: Finding your voice(s)

Before this session, students record voices and edit a 3-minute set of highlights from these raw recordings. (No music, no sound effects, just voiceovers telling a story)Intro: where can students find sound effects and music?

Let’s ignore copyright restrictions for this class

Normally not allowed, but for this class, you can rip music from spotify or youtube

If you don’t know how to do that, or don’t want to break copyright rules, then here are some links:

  • Free sound-effects library
  • Free music library

Each student will present their rough 3-minute work in progress. We’ll talk about how to turn these voices (or sometimes it’s just one voice) into a podcast, where to find music, sound effects, how to record background sounds, how to balance the different ingredients, how to fill in missing links, or get that one crucial interview/viewpoint/sentence/word. Cutting and cleaning up your audio is also discussed. What if it’s too long? How to tidy it up, make it shorter, and even how to use silence, pauses, and unexpected sounds.

  • More tips on editing audio
  • Using different types of audio
  • Cutting, selecting and moving clips
  • More about microphones
  • And more about background noise
  • Choosing music and sound effects

Add music and sound effects to your podcast, cannot exceed 5 minutes total

Session 4: Assembly/Montage/Editing

Before this session, students assemble their texts as 5 minute podcast including music, sound effects, and any other ingredients they want to use.

What now? We have a rough cut of each podcast, but it needs to be cleaner, smoother, simpler; or it needs to be more mysterious or more surprising. Is the podcast the artwork, or is it a documentary? Is it both? Is it a teaser or an explanation? Does it flow? We’ll ask these questions and explore some of the following techniques:

  • Fade in / out, levels
  • Noise reduction
  • Importing and exporting audio
  • Tips for bedding music underneath your podcast
  • audio logo (sign-in/sign-out)

final assignment:
the students will edit their work down to a 5 minute podcast


Editing Software

you can use any software you want for this class, as long as you know how it works already. (I’m a storyteller, not a techie, so this is not my expertise). And if you’re a beginner, and don’t have any audio software, then please download Audacity, which I will explain during the workshops.

if you have audio experience already, then there are lots of choices for you: Reaper and Ableton are preferred by journalists; musicians use Steinberg Cubase, Reaper, or many others. Beginners like Audacity or GarageBand. Podbean is fun on your telephone, and easy to use.


A phone is simplest microphone to use, and you’re welcome to use one to record audio.

Using your laptop is not recommended: the built-in mic is usually horrible.

An external mic is a good idea, but you don’t have to buy one for this class. If you have one already, then bring it. Here are some sample microphones that work well, at different prices:

  1. 1.Rode Podcasting mic
  2. Blue Yeti
  3. 4.


Voice-over: recording in the studio

Tape: sound on location

Atmos: sound design term for atmosphere. Also called ‘auditory backdrop’: the sound you hear in the background.

Point noise: specific noises that are not necessarily part of the atmosphere, but that happen in that place. Think of a barking dog.

Bedding: embedded music that is much quieter than your text, but acts as a background, creating emotions or movement

Spot fx: Point sounds that you record on the spot, to illustrate the action(s) of  character. For example, bumping into a trash can.

DAW Software (Digital Audio Workstations)

Silent Walk @KABK @MAPS

Silent Listening Walk

The Hague is a very unusual urban landscape. I’ve always been intrigued by its discretion. So much is hidden from the public – there is a secretive aspect to this city of politics and walls and diplomats and nobility and discrete wealth. Let’s take a walk together through the centrum, and listen to the city, as if it were a musical composition – it’s a great way to discover more than meets the eye. This ‘silent walk’ is also a ‘slow walk’, and lasts one hour.

share this page:

This is a silent walking tour created for KABK students.

walking underneath the Korte Voorhout, on level -2 of the parking garage last year
    We will walk through the city quietly, listening to the sounds around us, for about one hour.

    Turn off your phone, and focus on your senses. Of course the visual, because the architecture is varied and interesting. But also the sound, and the smells…sometimes just close your eyes, and stand still, and LISTEN to the city. 

    Most places in the center of Den Haag share certain sounds: auto and delivery traffic, lots of bicycles, pedestrians, the sounds of trams and their bells. Then there are sounds that are periodic, such as the bells and the carillon which ring on the hour and quarter hour. And there are weather sounds, such as the wind and the rain, and the rustle of trees and leaves. And there are the new covid sounds, like the air-conditioning systems which now run day and night at maximum speed.

    But some spaces also have their own sounds, such as the lapping of water from small canals, or the sound of fountains, the openness of a few large spaces, and the discretion of many small courtyards. 

    What do these sounds say about power? …about segregation between public and private? …about walls, about government, about finance?

    after the walk, we will draw/sketch/remember our experiences. All senses and feelings. Then we will compare sensorial cartographies, and try to create a group map.

  2. MAP of some places we will visit
some highlighted spaces/buildings

3. PLACES OF INTEREST THAT WE WILL VISIT (maybe not in this order)

Kabinet van de Koning 
This is the elegant mansion that houses the King’s Chambers/royal offices. Behind it is a hidden courtyard which you can usually walk into. We will try to go there if we can. Otherwise go there during the week, in the late morning when the light is nicest. The King receives ministers and announces governmental decisions here. The building was begun as a private house in 1635, and is known as the Huis van Pauw. The facade was redesigned in 1724 by the architect Daniel Marot.

The vijfer, or pond, has been this way for many centuries. It’s the largest open space in The Hague, except for the Malieveld, I guess. The sunsets are exceptional from here, and you often see photographers setting up their cameras for that perfect pic on summer nights.

The Houses of Parliament form a wall to one side of the vijfer, resembling a medieval castle, though many of the buildings are more recent. I find it strange that all the buildings are turned inwards, to their courtyard. The Mauritshuis is a private mansion with a colonial burden, which now is public and houses one of the world’s impressive art collections. Normally it’s crowded, but during the covid crisis, it’s been a treat to see the art without all the tourists. 

The pointless Island without a Name (but with a history!)
This island has no name, but has been used by protesters over the years for various causes. There is no way to get there, and nothing to do if you did. Often it looks very overgrown and messy. It’s in plain sight, but kind of doesn’t exist. Why is it there at all?

Lange Voorhout
This allée was inspired by Berlin’s famous Unter die Linden park. I find that the trees are elegant all year round, even when they’re bare in winter. But there is also a lot of traffic. There used to be a cute little tramline which came along here, as far as the Hotel des Indes. Too bad it’s gone now. During the Vietnam War, this was the place for anti-american protests. Unlike Paris or Berlin, the allée doesn’t really go anywhere, and there are no visual focal-points. So it’s oddly static. The best time to walk here is early on a Sunday morning, when it’s really peaceful.

Parking Garage
Like most medieval Dutch cities, The Hague has made a big effort to keep cars off the streets, and this is part of it, one of several new underground parking garages. But there is a counter argument that these enormous spaces also encourage driving, because they make it so easy to park near shops and restaurants. On weekdays the garage is full of expensive Mercedes, BWMs, and Lexus’, driven in by the bankers and lawyers and politicians who work in this area. On weekends, the brands are more democratic, with visitors to the shops and theater.

former US Embassy
This building was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1955. It’s a famous example of the ‘brutalism’ style of architecture. Originally the structure was open to the public, and Dutch people could come here to watch American movies and eat hamburgers. But gradually it became fortified against terrorist threats and protected against demonstrators. I have a studio on the third floor, along with a group of other artists. The bottom floors of the building are managed by Museum West. If you have a museum card, you can visit their exhibitions for free. (otherwise it’s 10 euros). There’s a student discount.

Ministry of Finances (fountain)
Thousands of people walk by this subtle fountain every day, and no one notices it. You have to get really close to appreciate it. It’s a shame that the bikes are in the way.

Ministry of Finance (courtyard)
The courtyard is also called the Platanenhof, after the trees. The building has a winter garden (which you can’t visit unfortunately) with a soaring atrium. The public garden has planters shaped like ovals, each with grass and a light and a tree.

Here’s one possible version of this walk:


[GuyLivingston is a pianist and podcaster, specializing in the history of the avant-garde]

Guy talks about…”silence and place”

useful notes for students in design/architecture at KABK

I have a recording studio in the former US Embassy (no, not shown in the photo – my studio is much much smaller)

The word silence encompasses a multitude of concepts, and varies widely across disciplines and cultures. Silence can be subject, verb, and object. It can be societal, religious, mindful, meditative, diplomatic, political, aggressive, or punitive. Silence is employed in conversation, rhetoric, music, art, religion, and politics. Since the Western words for silence are so overloaded, many works on sound refer as well to Japanese and Chinese terminology, which offer an alternative viewpoint. Fascinatingly, the terms most often used – ‘ma’ and ‘liú bái’ – are both inextricably linked in their original languages to painting techniques (the white space between the ink strokes) as well as to visual design in general (architecture, gardens, ceramics).

  • Questions we could ask about silence:
    • is there a performative stillness
    • are there colors?
    • are there signs?
    • are there symbols?
    • how do you show the absence of something?
    • can we SEE silence?
    • or do we HEAR silence?
    • are there markers or frames?
    • are there gestures or bodily poses?
    • how noisy/quiet is the silence?

societal silence

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.”

(Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner)

To a large degree, silence in society is perceived as a goal to be attained. Against the noise of modern life and its hectic pace, the inner silence must be sought. Yoga, mindfulness, Zen meditation, walking, are all means to this end. Silence has become a commodity, a luxury, and a quest. (Biguenet, 2020; Chayka, 2021) This journey has been documented in countless books, most entertainingly, Silence in the Age of Noise (Kagge, 2018). Erling Kagge spent weeks trekking alone through the snow to reach the South Pole. This is a saga of Zen-infused adventure in which he reflects on snow, walking, solitude, and silence. 

“Alongside so much tragedy and despair, mass quarantine has represented a final fulfillment of the pursuit of nothingness, particularly for the privileged classes who could adapt to it in such relative comfort.”(Chayka, 2021)The disastrous isolations imposed by the corona crisis in 2020 created a sudden awareness of silence, especially silence in nature, but also silence in art and music, at least for those who stopped working. 

three podcasts on silence that I produced

The Silence In Betweenfor Irish Radio, 1-hour show about music and silence, featuring violinist Monica Germino, and Space Satellite engineer Luis Rolo. (2019)
Zindering5-episodes about the Zindering Festival of Music and Silence (Mechelen, Belgium) (2022)
Under/City/Soundexperimental 5-part podcast on silence, covid, isolation, and surviving the first lockdown in The Hague. (2020)

some books to read, in no particular order

“Sound Houses”: Music, Architecture, and the Postmodern Sonic, by Nicholas Till
read it online at: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199841547.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199841547-e-48#oxfordhb-9780199841547-e-48-div2-29
This book examines different kinds of analogies, mutual influences, integrations, and collaborations of the audio and the visual in different art forms. The contributions, written by key theoreticians and practitioners, represent state-of-the-art case studies in contemporary art, integrating music, sound, and image with key figure of modern thinking constitute a foundation for the discussion. It thus emphasizes avant-garde and experimental tendencies, while analyzing them in historical, theoretical, and critical frameworks. 

Novak, Marcus. “Computation and composition.” In Architecture as a translation 
of music, edited by Elizabeth Martin, 66-69. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994.

book: Shots in the Dark: Japan, Zen, and the West
by Shoji Yamada; University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2005/trans 2009); translated by Earl Hartman
About Ryoanji, the author writes that it was only in the postwar context that the garden came to be associated with zen, and that this could be an accidental, or deliberate anachronism, tying into the Western interest in modernist art/architecture and search for abstract meaning. The original name of the garden may have been “tiger cubs crossing the river”

Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture 
Author: Barry Blesser MIT press

Music, sound and space
edited by Georgina Born
Abstract: Music, Sound, and Space is the first collection to integrate research from musicology and sound studies on music and sound as they mediate everyday life. Music and sound exert an inescapable influence on the contemporary world, from the ubiquity of MP3 players to the controversial use of sound as an instrument of torture. In this book, leading scholars explore the spatialisation of music and sound, their capacity to engender modes of public and private, their constitution of subjectivity and the politics of sound and space. Chapters discuss music and sound within specific settings, including sound installation art, popular music recordings, offices and hospitals, and music therapy. With international examples, from the Islamic soundscape of the Kenyan coast, to religious music in Europe, to First Nation musical sociability in Canada, this book offers a new global perspective on how music, sound and space transform the nature of public and private experience.

experimentation in sound art with silence

While Cage was experimenting with silence on-stage, Max Neuhaus was trying out similar silences on the streets of New York and in art galleries. I’ll come back to his radical “LISTEN!” walks later.

Meredith Monk, Joelle Léandre, and Pauline Oliveros offered music which reached out via community involvement, deliberately un-silencing non-dominant voices, and also leading new explorations of musical silence via improvisation. 

Matt Rogalsky has concatenated silence from BBC radio broadcasts, using software to remove all but the silences, and then creating a new artwork by playing the silences sequentially: “All the sounds I collect, which fall below a very low threshold, become quite noisy on their own, when they are placed together end-to-end without gaps between.” (Hodkinson: Presenting Absence pp. 188-189) 

Douglas Webb’s installation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York offered the audience a chance to experience a quiet – inspired by anechoic chambers. Note how the posed photo resembles a fashion shoot. This is silence as luxury:

architecture as container for silence

The urban-, architectural-, or built- environment plays a key role in our experience of silence, both musical and non-musical. 

“In Egyptian temples we encounter the silence that surrounded the pharaohs […] The silence of architecture is a responsive, remembering silence. A powerful architectural experience silences all external noise; it focuses our attention on our very existence, and as with all art, it makes us aware of our fundamental solitude.” (Juhani Pallasmaa: The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture of the Senses. London 2005, p. 52)

The silence of a church, the silence of cloisters, the silence of a garden, the silence of an inner courtyard or a quiet room: these are places to experience silence and shelters from the noise of contemporary life. As early as 1882, Nietzsche (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft) foresaw the need for calm spaces to seek refuge from the noises of the city.

Hush City is a smartphone app that helps the public worldwide document (photography, describe, and record) urban places and rate their silence quotient. Led by Antonella Radicchi, this open source project has allowed “citizen scientists” to register hundreds of spaces worldwide. I wish the information they provided were more detailed. It’s far too vague for my interests. But I see a lot of potential. 

In Belgium there have been many recent responses to the need for silent places. Although architectural engineer and artist Jolien Naeyaert (A+ Magazine, December 2019, p 67) laments that the language of silence seems to be disappearing from architecture, she has hope that new typologies are being created to respond to modern societal needs, for example by Studio Thys Vermeulen, specializing in the re-purposing of unused churches. 

The design team of Peymen Jellema, whose motto is “architectuur as gebaar naar verstilling”, has been studying the possibility of “le lieu-refuge” or “luwteplekken” since 2012.[1] Their research did “not reveal what silence is, but went in search of what permits stillness in public space.” (Peymen Jellema, De Luwteplek: 2017 p. 6) They have created an analysis tool (image right) for measuring both quantitative and qualitative experiences of silence. (“Architecture in Belgium,” 2019, p. 5)

signs of silence

this is just the beginning – there are a lot of icons and symbols which tell us to be quiet, to shut up, to silence ourselves or our music or our words…fortunately, there are also more subtle visual ways of encouraging quiet or creating a restful environment…to be discussed!

Short Film about Silence and the former US Embassy in The Hague

Some quotations

Silence is unidimensional acoustically (defined only by its length) but multidimensional perceptually (describable as tense, relaxed, too short, arresting or disturbing)

—Margulis, 2007, p246

L’armature intellectuelle du
poème se dissimule et tient – a lieu – dans l’espace qui
isole les strophes et
parmi le blanc du papier : significatif silence qu’il
n’est pas moins beau de composer, que les

—Mallarmé Livre 

“What silence requires is that I go on talking” 

— p 109, Silence, John Cage

“the words help make the silences”

— p 109, Silence, John Cage

Silence requires one decision: sound or no sound. Sound requires a great many more decisions. These shape the sound and give it its quality, feeling and its content. Thus silence, in its comprehensive, monolithic presence always stands as one against an infinite number of sounds or sound forms. 

—Jürg Frey, 1998 “The Architecture of Silence”

Sounds make the silence possible by their ceasing and give it a glimmer of content. As the space of silence stretches itself out, the sounds weaken in our memory.

—Jürg Frey, 1998 “The Architecture of Silence”

“You know you open the score for the first time and it’s really complete silence. But this is the only way also to train your ear, to imagine what you’re gonna hear without having the actual sound.  Again Giulini was saying that music is an art form that doesn’t live unless you bring it to life. If I show this to most people, it doesn’t mean anything. So it needs to actually be brought to life. But conductors, we have to bring it to life in our mind, to hear it in the silence. So that when you actually hear it for real, you can have a meeting of the imagination and the reality. “ 

—conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin of Montreal, now of the Metropolitan Opera, in a PBS documentary

some of my favorite cartoons about silence:

[1] Early in their research, they identified sixteen “luwteplekken” which had high values of stillness for Gent residents. Involving actors on the state and local level, community groups, and students; as well as healthcare agencies run by religious orders (who own many of the properties), they created protection for these sites on the basis of their societal value.

Aletta Becker & Guy Livingston

Location Lange Houtstraat 8, Den Haag centrum (around the corner from the Mauritshuis, see map below)

Program: Lost for piano and spoken word (in English and Dutch). Script by Aletta Becker.

Saturday June 19th at 7pm

Het verhaal van de Rattenvanger van Hamelen speelt zich af in het schemergebied tussen mythe en geschiedenis. Bekend in tenminste 42 landen en 30 talen, zijn de personages terug te vinden in de beeldende kunst, literatuur, klassieke muziek, animaties en musicals. De Rattenvanger wordt afgeschilderd als de duivel en als de Dood; als dichter, zanger en zelfs als ’Solar Hero’. In alle verhalen komen kinderen voor, maar dat geldt niet voor de ratten…
Guy Livingston en Aletta Becker volgen in dit muzikale essay in dialoog met elkaar en het verhaal de ontwikkeling, interpretaties en consequenties van die verschillende versies.
Zijn de kinderen van Hamelen omgekomen of verdwenen?
Met dit onderzoek naar de kracht en de valkuilen van het vertellen van verhalen, blijven in ‘Lost’  beide opties mogelijk.

The story of the Pied Piper resides in the indeterminate area between myth and history. It is known in at least 42 countries and 30 languages and its characters appear in the visual arts, in literature, classical music, plays, cartoons and musicals. The piper has been depicted as the Devil and as Death, as a poet, a singer or even as a Solar Hero; in all stories there have been children, but there haven’t always been rats… In this musical essay, Guy Livingston and Aletta Becker dialogue their way into the lineage of the story, exploring the interpretations and ramifications of its many renditions. 
Did the children of Hamelin perish or disappear?
While investigating the power and the pitfalls of storytelling, ‘Lost’ leaves both options open. 

Aletta Becker schrijft teksten voor theater en maakt fictie en non-fictie audio voor podcasts, on-site installaties en musea. Ze studeerde theaterwetenschappen aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam en montage en regie aan de Nederlandse film en Televisie Academie. Op Schrijversvakschool Groningen geeft ze les in het schrijven van theaterteksten.

Aletta Becker writes plays, scenarios and poetry, and produces fiction and non-fiction audio for performances, podcasts, on-site installations and museums. She holds a MA in theatre science from the University of Amsterdam and graduated in directing and editing at the Dutch National Film School. She teaches writing for performance at Schrijversvakschool Groningen.

Monica Germino & Guy Livingston

Location TBA (Centrum Den Haag)

Program: The Silence in Between, featuring two premières, text by archy, and a sneak preview film about the whisperviolin

Date pending

Amsterdam-based, American/Dutch violinist Monica Germino is on the cutting edge of new music. Hailed by The Sunday Times (UK) as a ‘striking presence’ whose ‘virtuosity was exhilarating,’ she has collaborated with such composers as Louis Andriessen, John Cage, Heiner Goebbels, Michael Gordon, David Lang, György Ligeti, and Julia Wolfe. Together with sound designer Frank van der Weij, she has revealed new possibilities for the solo violin and presented multimedia programs worldwide. Her performances often feature singing and playing simultaneously. She co-founded the international ensemble ELECTRA and now serves as its artistic advisor. 

website: www.monicagermino.com

Past and Future Silences

Guy Livingston, piano, Ned McGowan, flute; Nafiss Nia, poetry; met Madelief Lammers, vocals; Magdalena Spinka, vocals; Maya Willemse, piano

Spoken Word, Music, Poetry, Electronics, at the Maarten Luther Kerk, Amsterdam Zuid

with special guest artists from the HKU

Date: Friday, June 18th @ 7pm

Program: music of George Crumb, Anton Webern, Ned McGowan, Vanessa Lann, and Guy Livingston, plus “silence” music by performers and composers from the HKU Musician 3.0 program!

Ik wil terug naar het verloren moment
naar de vergeten lach
naar de tuin en de vijgenboom.

Nafiss Nia, uit esfahan mijn hoopstee

Ned McGowan is a flutist and contemporary classical music composer, born in the United States, living in the Netherlands. Known for rhythmical vitality and technical virtuosity, his music has won awards and been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw and other halls and festivals around the world by many orchestras, ensembles and soloists. As a flutist he plays classical, contemporary and improvisation concerts internationally and he has a special love for the contrabass flute. Ned is a professor of composition, ensembles and Advanced Rhythm and Pulse at the Utrecht Conservatory and lecturer of Artistic Research at both the Codarts University of the Arts Rotterdam and the Fontys School of Performing Arts Tilburg. In September 2016, Ned started an artistic research PhD about speed, frame and time in music at the Leiden University and the DocARTES program in Ghent.

Nafiss Nia is dichter, (scenario)schrijver, Filmmaker, cultureel ondernemer en public speaker. 
Nafiss is tevens directeur/Hoofdprogrammeur van Stichting Granate in Amsterdam en programmeert in die hoedanigheid festivals als Granate FestivalDuizendenéén Film&Poëzie, Televisieprogramma 1001 Gezichten en het project Poëzie op de stoep

Gedichten en andere werk van Nafiss zijn opgenomen in meer dan veertig verzamelbundels, bloemlezingen en (literaire) tijdschriften. oa ‘Blauw goud’ samengesteld door Patrick Riubroeks en Thomas Mölmann en ‘Ik weet niet welke weg je neemt’, samengesteld door Arie Boomsma en in Tirade, Meander, Liegende konijn, Balustrade, NRC next, Trouw, Volkskrant, Groene Amsterdammer en Deus ex Machina. Ze draagt regelmatig haar gedichten voor op literaire podia.

MINI-FESTIVAL: Almost Silence

Guy Livingston curated a mini-festival of music and silence in The Hague in June 2021.

Guy Livingston

Featured artists were flutist Ned McGowan, poet Nafiss Nia, writer and radio-maker Aletta Becker, violinist Monica Germino, and pianist Saskia Lankhoorn. Concerts took place in The Hague and Amsterdam. See the menu above for details. Each event featured musical or poetic themes of loss, disappearance, absence, calm, and quiet.

June 13

“Almost Silence”, a piano concert by Guy Livingston in a secret courtyard of The Hague.

June 18

Poetry of Nafiss Nia, with flutist Ned McGowan and pianist Guy Livingston. PLUS “Future Silence” with artists from HKU.

June 19

Lost“, a reflection in words and music on the Pied Piper of Hamelin with theater-maker Aletta Becker and pianist Guy Livingston.


Music and Silence“, a piano recital by Saskia Lankhoorn.


The Silence in Between” with Monica Germino and her whisperviolin; and Guy Livingston on clavichord (postponed).

These performances are made possible by a grant from the Fonds for Performing Arts (FPK).

Lecture @ NYU February 20th, 2021

Silence revisited: framing and re-framing John Cage’s 4’33” on YouTube

Just as John Cage was influenced by diverse and non-musical sources from Zen to Thoreau so did his creation of the silence piece (4’33”) have effects far beyond the world of classical music. Amateurs, pranksters, death-metal bands, architects, and students have embraced it, each finding their own meaning. Hundreds of these versions are available on YouTube, and have been a rich source in my recent research.

As part of my artistic practice, I have been attempting to unpack the ‘black box’ of Cage’s composition. In addition to performing the piece many times myself, I’ve analyzed many YouTube versions of Cage’s conceptual piece. Here are some of my favorites:

Thus I am exploring the markers for silence encoded within this subgenre: YouTube covers of 4’33”. The covers are recorded by professionals, amateurs, rock bands, rappers, individuals, groups, orchestras, and also non-human actors (cats, machines, ‘nature’). Each video contains overt or unconscious markers that represent boundaries for silence, and sometimes develop a visual or embodied importance which may seem unexpected in the context of silence’s ‘absence’. Spontaneous, controlled, or ritualized audience response can enforce, perpetrate or undermine the silence, but most interestingly, it can also frame it.

This confinement situations of the pandemic are extremely relevant to the videos of Cage’s silence piece. The aloneness of watching an online video, the restrictions imposed by the composer, the enforced silence/solitude, all speak to the isolation with which we are all struggling now. Plus they present situations of framing and re-framing which are rich in possibility.

For the purposes of this talk, I will define silence as a perceived absence in musical performance which nonetheless communicates additional information. My research draws on a re-examination of the frame (parergon) (Derrida); and also references Cage, LaBelle, Schafer, Voegelin, Gann, and Jankélévitch.

a classical performance by William Marx
John Cage talking about silence and music and noise
a funny parody – how to play it
David Tudor, who premiered the piece in 1952. This is a performance he gave later in Japan
“death metal” version

Dead Territory plays my favorite cover
Nola the cat
another cat, and a fridge
  • Questions we could ask about silence:
    • is there a performative stillness
    • are there colors?
    • are there signs?
    • are there symbols?
    • how do you show the absence of something?
    • can we SEE silence?
    • or do we HEAR silence?
    • are there markers or frames?
    • are there gestures or bodily poses?
    • how noisy/quiet is the silence?
  • about John Cage’s silence piece (four minutes and thirty three seconds)
    • 4’33”  is also called ‘tacet’, meaning ‘make no sound’
    • For four minutes and thirty-three seconds, the pianist makes no sounds at all
    • Cage was trying to remove the composer’s ego from the process of composing
      • was he successful?
      • what about the performer’s ego?
    • what influenced the piece?
      • Rauschenberg white paintings, 
      • Marcel Duchamp, 
      • Dadaism, 
      • Zen
      • Japanese gardens
  • what’s the possible meaning of the piece?
    • No such thing as silence
    • Sounds are all around us
    • We should listen to them, appreciate them
    • Cage said: open your mind
    • new ways of experiencing music/sound/silence
    • elimination of the fourth wall
    • can we know what the piece’s meaning is?
    • does it change per performance?
  • Suggested reading list on silence
    • John Cage: Silence (this is the bible of John Cage fans – full of insight and anecdotes)
    • Kyle Gann: No Such Thing as Silence (Gann was head music critic for the Village Voice)
    • Salomé Voegelin: Silence and Noise (a modern take on sound art)
    • Douglas Kahn: Noise Water Meat (a controversial rebuttal of many preconceived ideas)
    • Film: Die große Stille (a mystical documentary about a french monastery)
    • Movie: The Sound of Noise (Swedish alternative detective movie, hilarious, cult)
  • Suggested listening list
    • Arvo Pärt
    • Meredith Monk
    • Hildegaard Westerkamp
    • Pauline Oliveros
    • medieval music of the école de Notre Dame: especially Leonin and Pérotin

Powerpoint slides from the zoom seminar