The Archival Threshold – Andrea Zarza

Andrea Zarza is an independent researcher and Curator of World and Traditional Music at the British Library. She is interested in how history is written and the role sound can have in this. In 2012 she wrote an instruction manual called ‘Sonic Time Capsule’, which is a conceptual framework for a hypothetical workshop in which a sonic time capsule is created although its contents are performed rather than buried. The idea with the manual was to stimulate thinking about how sound preservation might take place within a present time:



She also created a sound piece commissioned by the Reina Sofía Museum where she explored the narrative role indexical traces of sound can play. Listen to the piece via this link.

She participated in David Toop’s Archive Breathing series at Central Saint Martins with a performance where people made a paper record of the event and donated it to an ‘archive’ by crossing a line on the floor which represented ´the archival threshold´. This was a whimsical way of making explicit the moment in which a document becomes historical:



For her, working with sound is mainly about listening and she mentions “Sonic Meditations” by Pauline Oliveros (1977) and “A Sound Education: 100 Exercises in Listening and Soundmaking” by R Murray Schafer (1992) as two key references.

She is currently writing her Masters thesis at University College London on copyright for sound recordings with a focus on the 2014 exceptions on the Copyright Act for libraries, archives and museums.

Within the Sound Matters framework, she believes that all the outlined elements are connected and necessary to promote a culture of listening. She imagines the creation of a technical tool that will help her find the sounds she wants to find more easily, using very personal and subjective, nonverbal descriptions.

Do you identify with Andrea’s practices and issues? What are your own experiences, issues and needs when working with sound in this framework?

Use the ‘reply’ button on the top to leave a comment. Many thanks!

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One thought on “The Archival Threshold – Andrea Zarza

  1. Tom Rice

    This comment/question is for Andrea Zarza. I wonder what she imagines ‘a technical tool that will help her find the sounds she wants to find more easily, using very personal and subjective, nonverbal descriptions’ might look like. How can it work for a large number of different people and be robust in that sense whilst maintaining its subjective relevance for each of them. What in particular might the nonverbal element consist of?

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