Perceptual Geography is a project by Dutch artist and musician Thomas Ankersmit and is based on the research conducted by American composer Maryanne Amacher (Kane, Pennsylvania, USA, 1938 — Rhinebeck, New York, USA, 2009) and the search to make sonic phenomena three-dimensional via the distribution of space. The project title, taken from a well-known article published by Amacher in 1979, alludes to the physical and spatial dimension the composer evoked at her concerts conceived as landscapes and geographies, whereby different sounds unfolded around the architecture as if they were characters in a narrative, coming into contact, crossing, overlapping.
Ankersmit and Amacher first met at Bard College art school, in the north of New York, in 2000, and crossed paths on numerous occasions after that in Berlin. In the words of the former, Amacher “sculpted music” in her concert spaces, making her a pivotal frame of reference in aural architecture, in a field centred around how spatial perception is shaped more through listening, rather than through designing architectures with a set acoustic role. The “concert-installation” formula, as Ankersmit defines it, enabled Amacher to thoroughly explore not just the sounds themselves — which were, by and large, simple and rudimentary – but the forms of sound experience in different places and conditions.
Across her career, Amacher developed a rigorous and meticulous body of work that stood at the crossroads between science, music and the arts, leading her to far-ranging frameworks like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ars Electronica in Austria, and the renowned New York festival Woodstock. Ankersmit, on the other hand, takes up this legacy from his own interest in acoustic and psychoacoustic phenomena, such as vibrations and the aforementioned otoacoustic emissions, thereby exploring the possibilities of listening more profoundly.
Thomas Ankersmit (Leiden, Netherlands, 1979) is a musician and sound artist who lives between Berlin and Amsterdam. His work, with its intricate attention to detail, draws forth an intense physical and spatial experience through the use of otoacoustic emissions and infrasound. He usually works with the Serge synthesiser, developed by Serge Tcherepnin, who also designed instruments for Maryanne Amacher, and regularly collaborates with other musicians, for instance American composers Phill Niblock and Kevin Drumm, and Italian composer Valerio Tricoli.