“The most influential musicians of today are called Spotify, SoundCloud, Universal, Ableton, Apple and so on. Monopolising the digital tools for music making, distributing and consuming, these platforms uproot, circulate and categorise music to their benefit. SoundCloud holds the reputation of being a rather independent platform and one of the most important homes for subcultural genres. However, no streaming portal can serve as a neutral stage. My approach is to utilise SoundCloud’s characteristics as artistic elements – to subvert their original purpose, to dissect them, and to enable a perspective which makes the digital framework come alive.”

SoundCloud Gazing: website-specific music at /rosa, Berlin

photos by Merve Cowling and sakrowski

Music streaming platforms have drastically re-shaped our listening behaviour over the last 15 years. SoundCloud Gazing: website-specific music presents three pieces specifically made for SoundCloud to explore how its functions subconsciously influence the way we experience music.

When playing music on SoundCloud, it is a common habit to look at the volume envelope (Hüllkurve) and anticipate the music’s further development. Its loudness and therefore climaxes, fade-outs, pauses and build-ups are visualised by 273.5 orange-turning bars. Conversely, I composed the sound to give the envelope a specific shape. Assigning each bar the length of 1s, Track has an overall duration of 4’33 min and half a second. With frequencies beyond the auditory threshold and sounds too short for the website to detect, Track enters into a dialogue with the expectations of listening.

The minimum length of a functional sound file on SoundCloud is around 60ms. Playlist aligns 500 such short sounds consecutively. Due to these liminal durations, buffering times vary dependent on the internet connection, the server, device and application. As a result, rhythm and tempo of Playlist differ drastically under different playback conditions. Each of the 500 tracks has been given an image, which by automatically changing from one to another turn into a slow frame-rate film. The images are screenshots of SoundCloud as well as from a camera falling from the sky. The sounds are slightly manipulated video streaming glitches.


short excerpt played on a phone and on a tablet from the SoundCloud app:

Stream consists of around 20 profiles which follow each other, share similar hashtags and like each other’s tracks, thereby forming an opaque and open ended network. The user browses through their over 100 tracks like an open form composition. Once a track is played, the auto-play function furthermore leads the listener from track to track and profile to profile by itself. Thus, Stream intervenes in the interactivity/interpassivity of the everyday experience of clicking through music online.

Stream’s 5+ hours of music were made possible thanks to the contributions by: 

Lukas Moritz Wegscheider, Jorge Boehringer, Oliver Weber, Keru Not Ever, Corporation, Hunjoo Jung, Andy Cowling, Merve Cowling, Bienoise, DeRayling, Demetrio Cecchitelli

and visual contributions by:
Merve Cowling, Hamed Mundi, Lain Iwakura