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Fritz Schlüter

Dissertation Project

‘Ambience’ as an Object of Design Practice and Knowledge in the Arts. Towards a History and an Aesthetics of ‘Ambient Sound’

Terms like ‘ambience’, ‘room tone’ or ‘atmosphere’ are essential parts of a professional jargon in radio and film,  suggesting that sonic ambiences are readily available and easy to manage—virtually at the push of a button. In today’s media practice, the application of ambient sounds has become a matter of course. However historically, ‘ambience’ was considered to be a technical problem (background noise) as well as a ‘new’ phenomenon, an unacquainted aesthetic ‘object’. Up until now, ‘ambiences’ or ‘atmospheres’ are marked by a certain fuzziness – both in a phenomenological and in a conceptual sense. In the course of the PhD project, this will be addressed with particular regards to their handling in practice: In order to obtain, process, and diffuse sonic ‘ambiences’, a whole set of technical, creative, artistic skills is needed—involving a knowledge which can largely be characterised as implicit, incorporated. However, for the practitioners themselves, explication or verbalisation isn’t mandatory at all, (experiential) knowledge can be effectively acquired and passed on in and through practice. Therefore, the project aims to describe some of the routines, strategies and (bodily) techniques involved in sound and media production and education. This professional practice will then be compared to a series of historical and contemporary artistic approaches in order to differentiate how they work with ambient sound, with what kinds of knowledge and intentions. Central to the project is the question, what ambience, as a particular sonic form, ‘does, how it operates, what changes it effectuates’ (Christoph Cox). 


Fritz Schlüter studied European Ethnology (M.A.) and Library and Information Science (M.A.) at Humboldt University Berlin. From 2005–2007 he participated in the scientific-artistic research project ‘Sensing the Street’ conducted by Prof. Dr. Rolf Lindner—a cooperation between the Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University Berlin and the Institute for Art in Context, Berlin University of the Arts. He accompanied Prof. Dr. Rolf Lindner as a tutor for the project ‘Listening’ at Metropolitan Culture, HafenCity University Hamburg. In 2012, he graduated with a master thesis on the soundscape as a field for cultural-anthropological investigation. He writes about and participated in several research and exhibition projects on sensory ethnography and sound culture. From 2014-2017, he was responsible for the sound department as research assistant at European Media Studies, University of Potsdam and University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (cooperative course of study), teaching projects between theory, aesthetics and practice in the media. Subsequently, he worked for Prof. Dr. Heiko Christians, Institute for Arts and Media, University of Potsdam, and for Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Martin Heinze, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane (MHB). 


‘Audio Paper “Background Noise. Eine auditive Ethnographie des Stadtteils Wedding, Berlin”’, in: K. Bauer, A. Graf (eds.): Raumbilder – Raumklänge. Zur Aushandlung von Räumen in audiovisuellen Medien. Münster 2019, p. 85–97. 

‘Soundwalks. Ein methodologischer Kommentar’, in Kuckuck(2) 2017, p. 18–20. 

‘A soundscape remodelled. Nauener Platz in Berlin-Wedding’, in: P. Cusack (ed.): Berlin Sonic Places. A Brief Guide. Hofheim am Taunus 2017, p. 82–84. 

‘“Sound Culture”, “Acoustemology” oder “Klanganthropologie”? Sound Studies und sinnliche Ethnographie’, in: L. M. Arantes, E. Rieger (eds.): Ethnographien der Sinne. Wahrnehmung und Methode in empirisch-kulturwissenschaftlichen Forschungen. Bielefeld 2014, p. 57–74.

‘Berlin 2012 – Zehn Field Recordings’, in: G. Paul, R. Schock (Hg.): Der Sound des Jahrhunderts. Ein akustisches Portrait des 20. und beginnenden 21. Jahrhunderts. Bonn, Berlin 2013. 

‘Mapping the drone. Sonic agents in urban soundscapes’, in: P. Gibas, K. Pauknerová, M. Stella (eds.): Non-humans in Social Science. Animals, Spaces, Things. Cerveny Kostelec, p. 117–136. 

‘Sensing the Street. Eine sinnliche Ethnographie der Großstadt’, with M. E. Hiebsch and J. Willkomm in: S. Geschke (ed.): Straße als kultureller Aktionsraum. Interdisziplinäre Betrachtungen des Straßenraumes an der Schnittstelle zwischen Theorie und Praxis. Wiesbaden 2009, p. 31–57.