do it!

sonic acts 2013: the dark universe
21 Feb 2013

stedelijk|do it!
Sonic Acts 2013: The Dark Universe
Festival Opening
February 21, 2013, 7 – 10 pm

Location: Several locations at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Language: English
Entrance: Entrance fee Stedelijk Museum


The Stedelijk Museum and Sonic Acts Festival proudly present the opening act of Sonic Acts 2013. The Sonic Acts Festival 2013, themed “The Dark Universe,” kicks off with a very special evening at the Stedelijk Museum, during which unknown properties of seeing and hearing are revealed. The evening features a sound installation by C.M. von Hausswolff and many others, entitled freq_out 9, the premiere of a new monumental installment of Matthijs Munnik’s flickering light work Lightscape: Common Structures, and a keynote lecture from Anil Ananthaswamy about the edge of physics and how the most remote places on the planet might help us solve the mystery of the dark universe. You are invited to explore the dark universe with us, at the Stedelijk!


7 pm -  Keynote lecture Anil Ananthaswamy
 (Teijin Auditorium, also streamed in Schiphol Lounge)
7 - 10 pm - ”freq_out 9”, sonic installation
(SMBC Hall)

8 - 10 pm - ”Citadels: Common Structures”, installation
 (Teijin Auditorium)

9 pm -  Artist talks and interviews
 (Schiphol Lounge, 100 seats)


The theme of “The Dark Universe” derives from recent developments in science suggesting that the world in which we live is even more unfamiliar and weirder than we had imagined. Because our senses only enable us to perceive a fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, we have developed an array of instruments to extend our capabilities and detect radiation across the entire spectrum, from gamma to radio waves. Using the Planck Space Observatory, we are now able to study cosmic background radiation at a very high resolution, looking back to the birth of the universe. And on July 4, 2012, the Large Hadron Collider detected the “missing” Higgs boson, a fundamental part of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Still, what these immensely advanced instruments are able to record is probably only a tiny part of reality. Astronomical observations from previous decades can only be explained by postulating the existence of large quantities of matter and energy that we are unable to see, hear, or measure. Quantum mechanics has nurtured the realization that classic Newtonian ideas of time and space do not correctly represent reality. Now we know that reality is in all likelihood much weirder: only 4 percent of the universe is made of ordinary matter; the other 96 percent is completely dark to us.

With “The Dark Universe,” Sonic Acts celebrates the deeply rooted human desire to occupy ourselves with things we don’t know. The arts and sciences have always been at the core of our exploration of the unknown, the strange, and the unfamiliar. Artists and scientists are accustomed to rethink reality repeatedly and question the things we think we know. For “The Dark Universe,” Sonic Acts brings together scientists, artists, theorists, musicians, and composers to explore the boundaries of our knowledge, investigate how to make the invisible imaginable, learn how to embrace the unknown, and to guide us through the dark universe.

C.M. VON HAUSSWOLFF’S ”freq_out 9”

”freq_out 9” is a sound installation comprised of 12 individual sound works, each utilizing a specific frequency range, made on site, and amplified to act as a single, generative sound-space. The concept for ”freq_out” is by C.M. von Hausswolff. For ”freq_out”, the participants are allotted ranges of frequency within the audible sound spectrum. Participant number one is  allotted 0 – 25 Hz, number two 25 – 65 Hz, and so on. Over a period of four days, the participants’ task is to compose one sound work each. The work cannot contain any sounds beyond the allotted frequency range, but can be of any length and is played back as a loop. The resulting work consists of the 12 smaller works joined together into a whole. Thus, when the works are played back, they are all played at once, through twelve different sounds systems. The sounds have no beginning or end, but exist in a constant flow, acting in a sculptural way. Since the sound frequencies are different, there are no collisions between individual sounds, only interference – audio complements – which arise as sound phenomena in the spaces. This configuration of frequencies has a great deal in common with the instrumental content of a large symphony orchestra, ranging from the double bass to the piccolo flute. The final mix not only reveals the innate properties of the frequencies, but also the possibilities when they are combined. Each participant works individually, without anyone else’s involvement, but all those involved must be able to accept what the others produce. Ego must be finely balanced against group, and in today’s egocentric society this is always a risky business.


As a window to a virtual world, this work by artist Matthijs Munnik visualizes an abstract universe composed only of light and sound, exploring the borders of our sensory hardware. While the eye tries to make sense of the sensory overload, a dazzling display of highly detailed patterns and color combinations is formed in the retina and fed to the brain; the curious phenomena you see are created by the eye itself, induced by the flickering lights. The effect is impossible to capture on video or in text; it can only be experienced in real life.
”Citadels: Common Structures” is commissioned by Sonic Acts and supported by Mondriaan Fund.


We don’t understand 96 per cent of the universe. This “dark universe” is made up of dark matter and dark energy. But how do we know this? How do we go about deciphering the nature of dark matter and dark energy? Over the course of three years, Anil Ananthaswamy travelled to some of Earth’s remotest regions to look at experiments that are trying to solve the mystery of the dark universe. In this talk, he shares his experiences of how the experiments being conducted in places like Lake Baikal in Siberia, a deep underground mine in Minnesota, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Karoo in South Africa, and even Antarctica are making use of the natural quiet of these regions to listen to the faint signals that tell us more about the dark universe.

More information about the participants of ”freq_out 9”:

Mike Harding (UK) is a curator, producer, lecturer, and music publisher. He runs the Touch label together with Jon Wozencroft.

Jacob Kirkegaard’s (DK) installations, compositions, and performances deal with acoustic spaces and phenomena that usually remain imperceptible. Kirkegaard uses unorthodox recording devices to capture and contextualize hitherto unheard sounds from within a variety of environments.

PerMagnus Lindborg (SE) is a composer, performer, and researcher. He has degrees in composition and music computing from Oslo (Music Academy) and Paris (Ircam).

BJ Nilsen (SE) is a sound and recording artist. Nilsen primarily focuses on natural sounds and their effect on humans, field recordings, and the perception of time and space as experienced through sound, often electronically treated.

Petteri Nisunen (FI) and Tommi Grönlund (FI) have been working together since 1994. Grönlund and Nisunen, both of whom studied architecture, produce records and create mixed-media installations that explore sound and space in a relatively low-tech, simple manner.

Finnbogi Petursson (IS) is one of Iceland’s most prominent artists. He is known for works that fuse sound, light, sculpture, architecture, and drawings. Sound, a crucial element in his works, is typically incorporated into spare sculptural installations.

Franz Pomassl (AT) is an electronic sound and recording artist and DJ residing in Vienna, Austria. He is co-founder of the experimental techno label Laton. In his performances, Pomassl uses a broad range of homemade analogue electronic equipment.

Christine Ödlund (SE) studied photography at university, and then graduated from the art academy in Stockholm as a video artist. She also studied at the Institute for Electro-Acoustic Music in Stockholm. She creates hybrid forms of animation, photography, and electronic music.

Kent Tankred (SE) studied painting in the early 1970s before attending the Institute for Electro-Acoustic Music in Stockholm. Tankred is interested in musical encounters with other art forms, which has resulted in fusions where his music has also been presented as installations at exhibitions.

JG Thirlwell (AU) is a composer, producer, and performer. After working with Nurse With Wound, Thirlwell started making his own records in 1980. He was inspired by the post-punk explosion of creativity in the UK, as well as by the writings of John Cage and systems music.

Maia Urstad (NO) works at the intersection of audio and visual art. Her work involves integrating sound into specific locations. Her recent practice includes indoor and outdoor sound installations and performances, using CD players and cassette-radios to transmit the sound and as sculptural objects, commenting on the temporary nature of technology.

Jana Winderen (NO) is a sound artist with a background in mathematics and chemistry, and has also worked as a curator and producer since 1993.

C.M. von Hausswolff (SE) is a composer and a conceptual artist. As a composer, he uses the tape recorder as his main instrument. As a conceptual artist, he works with performance art, light- and sound installations and photography. He is the creator of freq_out.

More information about Matthijs Munnik:

Matthijs Munnik’s (NL) performances and installations play with visitors’ perceptions. He researches all kinds of color combinations, patterns, and rhythms to create spectacular visual effects.

More information about Anil Ananthaswamy:

Anil Ananthaswamy (IN) is a science journalist and author. A consultant for New Scientist, he has also written for Discover and is a columnist for PBS Nova’s The Nature of Reality blog. He is the author of ”The Edge of Physics”, a book that explains how some of Earth’s remotest locations are crucial to our studies of the universe. ”The Edge of Physics” was voted the best physics book of 2010 by Physics World (UK).