R Murray Schafer and the Vancouver Soundscape Project

November 10, 2008 at 10:16 pm (Further Research & Contextualisation)

The Vancouver Soundscape Project was released as a double CD and booklet which charted the growth of the City via locational sound recordings, short interviews and artistic interpretations of acoustic environments. The project was realised as a comparative study of the soundscape at two different points in time. The first in 1973 and the second in 1993; locations revisited and keynote sounds reassessed in light of the new sonic environment. The study itself sought not only to ‘expand listeners’ horizon towards Vancouver’s soundscape and raise consciousness about its quality, but it also wants to raise questions such as: how do we listen and behave acoustically in everyday life; how can we acquire a “sense of place” and belonging from our soundscapes; are there ways to design liveable soundscapes in urban environments?’ (http://www.sfu.ca/~truax/vanpromo.html)

Their objectives have a huge cross-over with my project. Within my compositions I wish to draw the audiences’ attention to London’s soundscape as a means of encouraging them reflect upon the emotional and physical effect it has on their experience of the City. I am striving to find a balance in my compositional approach which lies in-between portraying the soundscape ‘as it sounds’ (e.g. leaving sound material in a relatively ‘raw’ state) and presenting a more personalised view of the soundscape which is perhaps more explorative and individual; drawing attention to particular sounds that I feel are important (e.g. The bird/insect in my Window Music piece). In this particular composition I used this method to reset the imbalance between natural and man-made sounds observed during the study. This falls in line with sound artist Hildegard Westerkamp’s view of urban development severing the bond we have with nature.

I wish to raise the listeners’ awareness of the plight of natural sounds within the soundscape, instigating the feeling of tranquillity one often associates with natural phenomena. I also want to my work to be a catalyst for the audience to reflect on their relationship with man-made sounds that they might instinctively block out or deem as unpleasant ‘noise’. For example, on the tube people generally mask the sound present with their iPod, but perhaps if they listened they might even appreciate the wide variety of textures, rich rhythm and wonderfully intense timbres. On the other hand they might conclude that the sounds present are thunderously loud and too intrusive. Either way I want the listen to use their ears to decipher their emotional response to spaces and this is my reasoning for the dominance of sound in my audio-visual compositions.


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