Fourth Worlds – “Imaginary ethnography in music and sound experiment”
Discussion and concerts
26 June 2018
19h00 to 22h00
Concorde, Paris

On the opening evening of the online exhibition “FOURTH WORLDS – L’ETHNOGRAPHIE IMAGINAIRE DANS L’EXPERIMENTATION MUSICALE ET SONORE,” Jeu de Paume is hosting the artists Tomoko Sauvage and Andrew Pekler for two unique concerts, together with Stefanie Kiwi Menrath, the curator of the exhibition, who will present the various projects hosted by the virtual space.

Although cultural mixing has been a reality for all societies since time immemorial, the practice that consists in delimiting cultures as geographically grounded, separate entities is also a very ancient one. In ethnography, field recordings are part of this practice which consists in locating and differentiating musical cultures in order to connect their sounds to places and to a precise cultural cartography. For several decades now, artists have opposed this static vision of culture and this notion of the territoriality of music and sounds, using the critical strategies offered by the imaginary and fiction. The questions that they raise through their works are the following: what is the role of the imagination inherent in the documentary techniques of ethnography? To what extent do modern technologies used for field recordings perpetuate a Eurocentric perspective on culture? Is sound fiction capable of overturning cultural essentialism and encouraging a critical, contestatory form of memory?

In 1980 the trumpeter and composer Jon Hassel offered the beginning of an answer to this question with his album “Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics” (rereleased in 2014). As he explained, “I wanted the mental and geographical landscapes to be more indeterminate – not Indonesia, not Africa, not this or that [...] something that could have existed if things were in an imaginary culture, growing up in an imaginary place with this imaginary music.” Hassel’s notion of “Fourth World” generates an imaginary space that is open to musical and cultural exchange. Looking beyond the utopia of totally peaceful cultural mixing, or the dystopia of the clash of civilisations, he suggests that we transcend the concept of a purely additive cultural contact. This fourth world invokes the immateriality of music: it does not have to be a literal extension of the representation of a world divided into three blocs (at the time, the Western Bloc, Eastern Bloc and Third World); on the contrary, it must explore and experiment with different spatio-tempral and aural references.

Taking these elements as its starting point, the exhibition “Fourth Worlds” brings together a selection of musicians, sound artists and theoreticians who are calling into question the discourse on “alterity” by means of speculative narrative and fiction. Myths of hypothetical origins, false musical archives, phantom atlases, critical memories, diasporas reunited in a virtual nation, islands that are “pacific” in every sense of the word, fictive travel notebooks, archaeologies of the future and the reconstruction of soon-to-be-extinct worlds – the works in this exhibition represent a musical and artistic riposte to the ethnographic mania for pinning cultures to fixed spots.


Discussion and concerts Tuesday 26 June from 7 to 10 pm.
Admission free, first come first served.
Information: infoauditorium@jeudepaume.org