05. 07. 2009
soundwalk / arc-et-senans

saline royale / arc-et-senans (F)


« A soundwalk is the empirical method proposed by R. Murray Schafer for identifying the soundscapeof a specific location. In a soundwalk you are supposed to move through a limited geographical area, with your ears as open as possible, registering all the environmental sounds that you hear. Perception happens according to Schafer in three categories: keynote sound, figure sound and soundmarks. Keynote is the basic environ¬mental sound that is steady, predictable and always there. It is the basis of the sound. Figure sounds are in the front of the perceptive focus. They are surprising, sudden or annoying. Soundmarks are the sounds with which you consciously identify a place. It can be the special sound of a clocktower, a tourist attraction or a special type of acoustics.» (wikipedia)

For me a soundwalk is:
. first of all a method/exercise in practicing attentive listening
. second a means of learning about the soundscape we are living in
. third a way of becoming aware of the interaction of space and sound « Spaces are speaking »… in other words how the interaction between a sound event and the architectural situation in which it happens works.

I meet with a group of people in a defined area / space and I give them some hints as to how they could achieve another type of listening / thinking by building up some references for themselves, starting with the closest sounds : « Make yourself aware of the sounds you produce by when walking… Can you hear them in this environment ? »… etc. This introduction can be longer or shorter with more or less examples depending on the group. Then everybody does his / her own soundwalk. After about 45 minutes we meet again and I act as a moderator, leading a discussion and asking questions, and out of this it can happen that we go together to places and architectural situations with specific acoustics to demonstrate or discuss certain aural phenomena in greater detail. So there is absolutely nothing special or mysterious about a Soundwalk. Everybody can do it. The only reason why it makes sense to do it in a group (maximum 15 people) is that the communication afterwards helps everybody to develop a language and a deeper understanding of what we have (just) heard or are hearing, based on real experience.

Sam Auinger