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Sounds Delicious: A historical anthropology of listening and sound in Danish and French cooking

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Sounds Delicious (Sounds Delicious: A historical anthropology of listening and sound in Danish and French cooking)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The Sounds Delicious Project studies sound, listening and sonic practices in Danish and French cooking (19th-21st Centuries). The project examines how thinking through sound can help craft new sensibilities to and alternative narratives of food production and environmental relations. The project began with the observation that sound is an important part of what connects people to food and what gives food vitality. On any given day, kitchens vibrate, cooks listen, cooking makes sound. Rhythms of a chopping knife intermingle with sizzling garlic, humming appliances, fragments of conversation, the page turn of a stained cookbook. Cooking is an epistemic site created through multiple knowledge practices. Yet the kitchen has a history of being silenced or considered as noisy. This project explored what turning an ear to food preparation reveals about the kinds of orientations and knowledges that make up food, and the dynamic relationships between humans, nonhumans, and materials.

The project’s main aim was to create a new interdisciplinary dialogue between Sound Studies and Food Studies, one that enriched the study of the senses in everyday cooking and food-making processes, as well as the study of the gustatory. The project’s objectives helped outline a sonic perspective to study food, what this entails, and what new research paths can be generated. The project’s scientific research objectives include:
-Objective 1 identified various sounding and listening practices in different past and present food making situations. This contributes to histories of embodied practices and techniques.
-Objective 2 investigated the framings of various sonic research practices. This includes documenting and analysing the positionalities that such practices bring to food research. This objective relates to epistemologies of observation. It contributes to multisensory anthropology methods and to media studies.
-Objective 3 sketched complex choreographies and sensory constellations between actors and environment that compose the project’s food cases. This contributes to studies of food production and environmental humanities.

These research objectives were accomplished through doing archival, multisensory anthropological, and practice-based research on different culinary topics and case studies.
My approach of “listening in” to food production practices started in the kitchen, and then moved across kitchen boundaries into other areas of food production, such as: urban honey production, milk and cheese production, and salmon fishing. Gustatory topics today are connected to environmental change, sustainability, gender discrimination, and animal, soil, and plant studies. My analyses focused on how the different modes of embodied sonic research that made up my sonic perspective of food contributed to the cultivation of sensibilities that reconnect humans with food. Hearing different agencies and sensing the complex relationships of food production are important for addressing current food problems today.
"Kitchens are often about humans, and the choice of sites reflected the importance of bringing experiences and perspectives not only of humans, but of nonhumans into this story. Fieldwork and historical research was organised around three main food-making sites:

Site 1: The Kitchen. Here I worked on collecting and documenting different bodily techniques and sensory listening modes happening in kitchen work through initial fieldwork done in Danish and Swedish kitchens. I also worked on the history of the French professional brigade system. The first scholarly article publication ""The Food,” a chapter in the Bloomsbury Handbook of the Anthropology of Sound (2020), reflects on these experiences. I co-convened the expert workshop ""On Rhythming. Sensory acts and performative modes of sonic thinking"" with Carla Maier (19-20 February 2019). This led to the development of the project’s novel concept “Rhythming"", which held together the historiographical, anthropological and arts-based experimental work effectuated throughout the entire project. This concept was further developed with C. Maier in a Master Course ""How we rhythm worlds"" and in a co-written article ""On Rhythming,"" currently submitted for peer-review.

Site 2: Making Honey in Cities.
The second research pole turned to a different kind of food production situation: that of making honey, of the lives of pollinators and processes of pollination. This addressed what sound can say about relationships between nonhumans and humans, and how nonhumans sense and are affected by sound. I did this through long-term fieldwork with BYBI, an urban honey project in Copenhagen, participating in two honey making seasons across city parks, rooftops and gardens. Through my field recordings of queen bees ‘singing’ (or piping), I co-created a multisensory public exhibition called the ""Magical Urban Honey Factory"" for Culture Night in Copenhagen (October 2019) that created awareness of interspecies cohabitation.

Site 3: Raw Milk and Wild Fish (pastures and streams)
This project pole did fieldwork in the Norwegian fjord landscape of Hellesylt with a group of small goat and cow milk farms situated along wild salmon streams, some of whom were continuing traditional practices of raw milk cheese-making. Being in a stunning pastoral food landscape that was quite hostile to food production opened up a different pathway of inquiry and called for another kind of attunement to my subject of research. Here questions of importation, preservation and transportation were as important as the caring for salmon streams: humans and nature were absolutely intertwined. My sonic perspective changed to deal with broader ideas of sound environments and auditory cultures. A bridge of study emerged between French 19th century scientific and technological developments for greater food production and the ways in which French 19th c. acoustical technologies played a role in this. This research experience is one chapter of the project monograph."
Becoming attuned to an environment through sound reveals fluid, multi-layered, and material connections between different sites and actors and makes a case for writing alternative food narratives. I wanted to point out the entanglements between humans, nonhumans and environments that I noticed through my sensorial research. But I found that first I had to deal with a long history of cuts and separations between food production sites, between the hunted, the cook and the eater in European history. Such a separation is directly reflected in the ways that people living in cities today are disconnected from food sources. Thus, I use my sonic perspective of food to compose a critique of artificial separations happening through the architecture of food infrastructures.The Sounds Delicious project contributed to humanities studies of food. It also engaged in making the project’s research accessible and comprehensible for social studies of food and for a general public who were central to this project.
The entry into the Magic Urban Honey Factory Exhibition, October 11, 2019
Janna R. Wieland listens to dough, while Carla J. Maier and Anton Sevald dance with microphones (Pho
A Listener at the Magic Urban Honey Factory exhibition, October 11 2019, Copenhagen.
Goats in Hellesylt, Norway, August 2019