Skip to content

Soundscape: QUIET!ude

In my Canvas post for module 3, I focused on the articles related to community; in this blog post, I will focus on sound.

Schafer’s “A Sound Education” resonated (pun intended) for me. I have come to realize that I am hypersensitive to sound. I have never liked loud music. I shy aways from concerts with amplified music (and large, noisy crowds).  The introduction noted: 

Everywhere in the world today the soundscape is changing. Sounds are multiplying even faster than people as we surround ourselves with more and more mechanical gadgetry. This has produced a noisier environment, and there is growing evidence that modern civilization may be deafening itself with noise.  But aside from the physiological dangers of noise pollution, how is our hearing psychologically affected by these changes? Is there a way of filtering out unwanted sound and still allowing the desired messages through? Or does sensory overload finally beat us into a state of dopey submission or frazzled desperation?

(Schafer, 8-9)

I think sensory overload beats us into submission daily. We need more quietude.

The Amacher article “Psychoacoustic Phenomena” intrigued me, less for what it meant for music composition, more for what it meant for how we as individuals interact with sound:

How certain sounds are to be perceived in a sonic world becomes as important as the sounds themselves. What perceptual modes they trigger—where and how they will exist for the listener—are as important in shaping an aural architecture as the acoustic information: frequencies, tone colors, and rhythms. For example, Ways of hearing—how we locate, sense and feel sonic events—become the specific factors which characterize experience in inunersive sonic architectures; how we particularize acoustic information to construct distinct transformative experiences.

(Amacher, 10)

This has such rich meaning for constructing intentional soundscapes.

McLuhan’s musings in “Visual and Acoustic Space” confounded me. His thesis about acoustic space (ancient time as its locus, natural space of the non-literate) and visual space (an artifact of contemporary times, created by the eye separated from the other sense) didn’t age well;  it seems quaint in a colonialist sort of way.  I think it more accurate to say that the visual and acoustic space(s) shift according to time, space, and place, not shift from one to the other. Knowing how each is constructed and perceived is crucial to creating intentional soundscapes.

At first glance, the articles by Hilmes and Fanon seem disconnected from those noted above. Yet,  I believe they expand conversation about the challenges and opportunities creating intentional soundscapes in art work–and connect the topic of the aural back to the topic of community/ community making.

The course readings are pushing me to re-examine artistic practice, and the skills mediums that I regularly use. I will be rethinking the role of sound in my own work—and no longer leave the soundscape of my installations totally to chance.  If I dig deep, I can almost recall the articles related to audio production that I read in past-life journalism graduate studies. Perhaps the lessons from those studies should be resurrected; it might add another dimension to my artmaking.

This creative work is a small step toward that. One series on which I am beginning work is entitled Post-blank World. In short, we need to prepare for the post-(fill in the blank) world, whether one defines it as post-SARS-CoV2, post-Trump, post-democratic, post-global, or something else, our society is at one of those paradigm-shifting points in history. The direction of the shift, the values on which it will be based, and who benefits, are all yet-to-be-seen. 

For me the anxiety prompted by the COVID pandemic was balanced in part by the quietude that enveloped my neighborhood as we worked from home. When the noise pollution returned in the summer of 2021, I was saddened. This brief A/V piece reflects on two points in time–the soon-to-be past and the recent future.

Soundscape: QUIET!ude