sound mapping: exploring perspectives in listening

sound mapping: exploring perspectives in listening

time: 5 hours per day (over 2-3 days)

size: 4-8 people

materials: large working table, quiet space with stereo sound system

description: This workshop is about the perception of sound and using observation to direct attention for understanding how sound affects the way we think about time and space. Space can be understood in many ways, but for our purposes we will focus on the “mapping” of space through experiences that range from cartography (map reading and making) to more personal impressions (drawings, notes, sketches). The workshop is based on making a series of listening, analysis and soundwalk exercises to highlight sensory awareness. The experiences of both public and mediated space form a base for use as material for creating different types of “maps”. The maps made help reflect both objective and subjective approaches and can be created using a range of means from drawing or photo collage to cartography and gps tracking. Through these exercises we will look at different ways of expressing the connections between sound, space and our presence that zooms from small details to the big picture, from the personal to the shared.

Participants from a diverse range of disciplines are encouraged to join (Art, Architecture, Music, Performance, Design, the Social Sciences etc.). No previous experience in working with sound is necessary. Please bring a pen, pencil and notebook. Digital recorders and/or cameras are optional accessories. Wear comfortable clothing.

Berlin workshop 9.2010

For 2 afternoons we worked in the Berlin district of Neuköln, exploring the urban cityscape, with its parks, street life and public interiors becoming a stage for active listening. Special thanks to the participants for dedicating their time and energy to this experimental field and to Mr Alebeek for coordination. The first day was spent analyzing several locations through a series of listening and observation exercises. We then paired up and made a blindfold soundwalk through the area.

berlin soundwalk
going “blind” with a trusted guide

Numerous sketches and notes were generated during the exercises. What quickly becomes clear is the style and methods of expressing what one hears is as diverse and unique as the participants themselves. No clear pattern emerged other than the understanding that visual representations of sonic events and environments is not easy.

Jesse maps his memory of the blindfold soundwalk
my map of isolated sounds and typology fields relating to each other

The question of representation comes up again and again. It is humbling to take an intense listening experience and translate it into 2 dimension piece of paper. One even wonders what might be the point of such an exercise. In many ways, attempts to make visual documents may only be an excuse for opening your ears and taking in more than your average experience. The maps below are of a small area that we observed at the end of the final day. The bustling sunday afternoon activity was more than enough for our senses. Google’s satellite view hardly does justice to the space and our combined efforts only toughed the surface of the complexity of the soundscape, yet through the process several nice detailed “soundmarks” were revealed.

each map is a fragment but combing several together creates a more complete picture (Julia, Michaela, John)
the view of the area from outer space

…and a simple recording with 30 second takes from each corner of the bridge


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