The Wiki definition of soundscape is: “A soundscape is the acoustic environment as perceived by humans, in context.” Even if I am not a sound recordist or sound designer, I have always been fascinated by the ways places sound.
Growing up in the middle of a big city, I then moved Country (and continent), not once, but twice. I changed about 14 homes/apartments in about 15 years. That’s a lot of moving. Each time, I had to adjust to a new place, new people, new everything.
One of the things that I noticed is that the way places sound is not just completely different, but a real discovery each time. We are used to choose our eyes as first reference to the outside world. Only if we close them we can concentrate on what we hear.
One example. The centre of Rome (where I lived in my youth) sounds completely different from the centre of Auckland (NZ). And both cities have cars, people, shops, roads and cafès but… in Rome there are church bells, cobblestone avenues, floks of swallows, noisy restaurant terraces. Auckland has seagulls, the tourist harbour sounds, the ticking of the rain against the windows, the quiet mornings. Just to name some differences. Even the homes where I lived all sounded different.
I believe there is something very peculiar about how each different place sounds. And that, even if you’re not working in sound design, we may learn much by paying attention to our sound environment. We enjoy at looking at a beautiful landscape, so why not try to enjoy listening to its sounds? We may be surprised.
Understanding the soundscape was at the centre of an important research that, from 1960, became the fundation of sound ecology studies. The study involved recording sounds of different towns and regions all around the world. It was a massive effort and it led to the building of an enourmous database.
The World Soundscape Project (WSP) is an international research project founded by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer in the late 1960s at Simon Fraser University. The project initiated the modern study of acoustic ecology. Its ultimate goal is “to find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape where the relationship between the human community and its sonic environment is in harmony.” The practical manifestations of this goal include education about the soundscape and noise pollution, in addition to the recording and cataloguing of international soundscapes with a focus on preservation of soundmarks and dying sounds and sound environments. Publications which emerged from the project include The Book of Noise (1968) and The Tuning of the World (1977), both by Schafer, as well as the Handbook for Acoustic Ecology (1978) by Barry Truax. The project has thus far resulted in two major tours, in Canada and Europe, the results of which comprise the World Soundscape Library. (Wikipedia)
A few months ago, an Italian newspaper (LaRepubblica) announced that they were going to publish reader’s recordings of sounds that were part of their daily lives: they called it “The Sounds of Your Lives“. It was an interesting experiment, as the recordings were made in factories, in natural surroundings, into the cities’ traffic or inside private homes. There were few or no intellegible words, but it was very evocative and peculiar. The recordings are available here on Soundcloud.
I’d love to hear what your soundscape sounds like. If you send me a couple of minutes of recording with a description, I’ll publish it here and on my social platforms. You don’t need fancy equipment. If you don’t have a professional recorder, your smartphone will be fine. (If you are outdoors, please just be careful with wind noise getting in the way of your sounds).
Follow AudioMusicSound and send me your sounds! 🙂