Acouscenic Listening is a portmanteau of the words ‘acoustic’ and ‘scenic’ (as in picturesque), which is the concept of experiencing constituent sonic events characterising a landscape. In 2010 Softday were working on the sound art Marbh Chrios (Dead Zone) project in Killybegs, Donegal, as part of the Lovely Weather Donegal Residencies: Art & Climate Change. The work we conducted there was based on collated scientific data specific to contested marine ‘dead zones’ (Diaz & Rosenberg, 2008). We represented this data with algorithmically generated music, sonifications and visualizations in a live performance in Mooney’s Boatyard in Killybegs. On one of our numerous field trips to Donegal Bay to undertake soundscape recordings we found ourselves reflecting on our sonic engagement with space and place. We mused on how best to contextualise these concerns. We agreed that perhaps the components of our field recording praxis could be defined as an interest in four relational areas of research; acoustic space and its relationship to the everyday, Deep Listening and its connection to social art practice.
As an exploration of the soundscape of a given area the traditional soundwalk has become an important practice for researchers in acoustic ecology, and sound art practices. While the basic soundwalk can be exploratory, scientific, experiential, etc., the Creative Soundwalk is predominantly undertaken in collaboration with specific communities of interest. Softday define the Creative Soundwalk as a structured immersive excursion whose main purpose is to engage participants to become both active listeners and creative sound makers. A typical workshop begins with an introduction by the artist to quantum listening, psychogeography, soundscape practice and the Creative Soundwalk as methodologies to creatively transform acoustic space through the creation of collaborative and improvisatory sonic art works. Participants are further introduced to R.Murray Schafer’s three main elements of the soundscape: keynote sounds, sound signals and soundmarks, important elements that make the acoustic conditions of any space unique. Participants are also introduced to Qigong and Tai Chi exercises in order to consciously quieten the mind and body and bring a listening attention to the soundscape. Before the Creative Soundwalk commences the aims and processes are contextualized and mediated to all participants.
Aims of a Creative Soundwalk workshop
The artist identifies a route for auditory exploration, and provides a map of the Creative Soundwalk route for each participant. The walk may take anywhere from 1-2 hours in duration. The map contains some key listening points on the route for longer more immersive listening experiences. Participants document their experiences of the soundscapes visited utilising quantum listening methodologies and note taking.
The Creative Soundwalk is always undertaken in silence. Upon completion of the Creative Soundwalk a soundmap of the walk is collectively co-authored. Referring to their notes, each participant registers sound events from the walk. Participants’ annotations are spatially distributed as the experienced space is remembered, using colour coding to signify biophony, geophony and anthrophony sound sources (Krause, 2013).
With the agreement of all participants, the sound map is considered as a graphic score for possible creative and performative outcomes. Preparatory work for the performance of the graphic score involves group qigong/tai chi and improvised sonic meditation exercises, which are led by the artist.
Participants are encouraged to use their own bodies and voices as sounding instruments in order to perform the graphic score. The concept of ‘sounding’ as opposed to ‘singing’ the graphic score is introduced as it allows for a more democratic performance of the work. Agreement is reached whether to record all of the preparations of the live improvisations, if so these recordings are played back to the participants for further commentaries on the aesthetic of the work. Upon completion of the performance participants as co-authors of the creative works are offered copies of the completed sound map/graphic score and all audio recordings of the live improvisations.