AKA XX | Datascapes

Pali Meursault - 2017


Datascapes is a sound research project focusing on the soundscape of data centres. They form an environment that exists everywhere and yet remains most of the time invisible and inaccessible. They are the emerged part of the massive iceberg of our relation with information and communication technology, of which the everyday presence, condensed within interactions with smartphone and computer screens, is mostly a matter of vision. For most users, the network infrastructure is a grey area, an unthought place on top of which our imaginations of a dematerialised world are comfortably set. Of course, the already clichéd image of long corridors of blinking servers would come to most minds, but it bears little material reality and remains a high-tech exoticism, a distant sign of an already workaday future that for most of us is seldom established as an actual place.

Thus the idea of recording the sound environment of data centres would be a poetic way of offering a material and sensitive experience of that hidden yet omnipresent aspect of everyday life: making it audible, tangible. From the perspective of sound art, it is also about focusing on a specific sonic reality: while the industrial soundscape has profoundly influenced 20th century music, from the Futurist avant-garde to electronic music, what will be of the electrical hums and air-cooling drones of the digital age? Instead of predicating the aural uniformity and indistinctness of the contemporary technological landscape, the project intends to make nuances and diversity audible, and bets on the singular acoustic experience that could be extracted from these architectures of never-ending vibrations.

Accesses are negotiated with data centres of diverse means and dimensions across several countries. In each place, a careful sound survey will be made using different sound recording techniques. The work necessitate a few hours of presence each time, allowing to create a site-specific setup and record from multiple microphone sources – while conforming to specific access policies and restrictions.

The Datascapes project is conceived with label Artkillart, its outcome will be the publication of a record gathering the soundscapes from different places.


Pali Meursault was born in 1977, he lives and works in Paris. His sound art research develops at the crosspoint of electroacoustic composition, field-recording, radioart and sound design. With an approach that inherits of musique concrète and confronts the soundscape, he aims to reveal the musical qualities of the noises of the world. For over fifteen years, he has been taking his microphones in the Amazon (Mamori Art Lab, 2007); on glaciers (Without the Wolves, 2011); in urban (Midi-Minuit, 2010) or industrial (Promenade, 2006) environments… Recently, his works have leaned towards the capture of sounds of human activities and workplaces. Offset, published in 2013 by Doubtful Sounds, was exploring the mechanics of a printing facility. In 2015-2016, the exploration went further with Mécanes, a piece commissioned by INA/GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales), composed from recordings made in a letter-pressing workshop. Works by pali meursault have featured on many radio stations (France Culture, France Musique, the Radio Campus network, Radia network…), in festivals and venues in France and Europe (Sonikas and Observatori in Espagne, Radiophonic and FieldFest in Belgium, Parisonic/Hear&Now, Échos, #Cable, Futura, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in France…), and have been published on various labels (Universinternational, Doubtful Sounds, Kaon in France, Entr’acte in the UK, And/Oar in the USA…).