Soundwalk

World Soundscape Project

soundwalk is a walk with a focus on listening to the environment. The term was first used by members of the World Soundscape Project under the leadership of composer R. Murray Schafer in Vancouver in the 1970s.

Hildegard Westerkamp, from the same group of artists, defines soundwalking as ‘… any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are.’

Another term closely related to soundwalking and used by Schafer includes ‘keynote,’ which are typically unperceived ambient sounds, not because they are inaudible but because they are filtered out cognitively, such as a highway or air-condition hum. Schafer also coined ‘soundmark,’ a sonic landmark or sound which is characteristic of a place; ‘sound signal,’ a foreground sound that carries a message or meaning (e.g. a dog, an alarm clock); ‘sound object,’ the smallest possible recognizable sonic entity (recognizable by its amplitude envelope); and ‘acousmatic,’ a description for sounds whose sources are out of sight or unknown. This also relates to acousmatic music.

Schafer was particularly interested in the implications of the changes in soundscapes in industrial societies in children, and children’s relationship to the world through sound. He was a proponent of ear-cleaning (cleaning one’s ears cognitively), and he saw soundwalking as an important part of this process of re-engaging our aural senses in finding our place in the world.

Soundwalking has been used as artistic medium by visual artists and documentary makers, such as Janet Cardiff. Since 2017, a recurring yearly global festival and community event, Sound Walk September, celebrates soundwalks of all kinds.

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One Comment to “Soundwalk”

  1. Thank you for your post about Soundwalk. It is a topic that I am particularly interested in. I would like to add to the your mention of this topic with findings of my research, which is available at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/soundeagle-in-art-aphorism-and-paramusic/

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