Curating Sound for Difficult Histories

Held as part of Arts Week 2018 and in collaboration with Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, University of Hertfordshire, BIRMAC (Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture) and Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck. 

Tuesday 15 May 2018, 14: 00-21: 00

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square


This event explores how soundscapes – music, noise, voices, speech and silence – make visible difficult histories, in particular the Holocaust. It connects questions of representation and memory, authenticity and affect, around the theme of curating sound for difficult histories.

Scholars and practitioners discuss what it is to create and edit sound, compose music and produce sonic landscapes for difficult histories. Although sound may appear to be secondary to visual, it can effectively communicate emotion and poignantly drive the film narratives and the narrative of museum exhibitions.

Schedule | 

Session 1 : Music and composition : Prof. Stephen Frosh, with an illustrated talk on Steve Reich’s composition “Different Trains” (1988), chaired by Janet McCabe

Session 2 : Installation art and soundscapes : Esther Shalev, with an illustrated talk on Holocaust, testimony, the human voice and its silences, chaired by Diane Popescu.

Works discussed include :

The Berlin Inquiry

Does your image reflect me?

Inseparable Angels: Imaginary House for Walter Benjamin 

Between Listening and Telling: Last Witnesses, Auschwitz


Session 3 : Sounds and museum installation : Jascha Dormann – Idee und Klang, chaired by Silke Arnold-de Simine.

Sound and exhibition, considering the sounds / voices of survivors and perpetrators (overlapping voices / contested testimony and the sound of bearing witness / question of silence / listening and speaking, linked to ways of remembering and memory cultures). This session considers sound design in the exhibition / museum space.

Session 4 : Holocaust, film and sound editing : Val Kuklowsky, Hollywood sound designer/editor, offers a illustrated lecture on the use of sound in Son of Saul, and chaired by Adele Fletcher (Herts).

Val’s illustrated lecture will be followed by a screening of Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)



Images from Curating Sound for Difficult Histories event


This event was co-organised by Kim Akass (Univeristy of Hertfordshire), Silke Arnold-de Simine (Birkbeck, University of London), Janet McCabe (Birkbeck, University of London) and Diana Popescu (Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism)