“Places and traces” by Viv Corringham

Reading Aimilia’s fascinating writings based on Spaces Speak, Are You Listening – a book I found very interesting – I thought I’d write a little bit about the work that I do.

I am particularly interested in people’s sense of place and their relationship with very familiar places.  Much of my work has developed in response to this, especially my ongoing sound project Shadow-walks. This began in 2003 and has occurred in 19 places in USA, Canada, Asia and Europe. It involves three main elements: walking with others, listening to environmental sound, and my own improvised singing.

There are well-known traditional links between walking, singing and the sense of place, such as the Aboriginal song-lines or the Kaluli song paths. Anthropologist Steven Feld studied the Kaluli people of Bosavi, Papua New Guinea and has described their practice of song paths, the poetic song texts that take listeners on a journey through a local area. The philosophy of song paths is that knowing where you are is knowing who you are. Feld’s writings were an important influence in the development of my work.

I became very interested in everyday sounds, inspired by working with composer Pauline Oliveros and learning her method of “Deep Listening”. My fascination with environmental sounds and musical improvisation led me to consider methods of exploring places and interacting with them vocally. My first attempts, in 2002, were called “Vocal Strolls” and became a regular show on London’s Resonance FM radio for a time. Vocal Strolls consisted of wandering through the city while listening to the environment and responding with improvised singing.

Shadow-walks began with the intention of incorporating other people’s experience of place into my work. James Joyce wrote that places remember events and I found this idea very interesting—that everything that happens leaves traces that we might be able to sense. So that if a person walks through certain places repeatedly along the same route, perhaps the ground retains traces of that person’s history and memories. Shadow-walks is an attempt to make a person’s traces, their shadow, audible.

The process of a Shadow-walk is straightforward. I arrive in a new place and ask to be taken on a special walk, one that has been repeated many times and has meaning or significance for that person. While walking together, I record our conversations and environmental sounds. This is followed by a solo walk in which I attempt to sense my previous companion’s traces on the walk and to make them audible through improvised singing in the location. These recordings are then selected and edited to become the final work, the Shadow-walk. Shadow-walks have been shared in various ways: as audio-walks, radio pieces, at listening posts around a town and, most frequently, as sound installations in art galleries. It is very important to me that they are presented in some way in the place where they were made, to the people who shared their special walks with me.

Sounding Out! Blog’s World Listening Month Feature

Sounding Out! has declared July as “World Listening Month“. A podcast focusing on this and “World Listening Day” was recently produced by Monica RyanEric Leonardson, and Tom Haigh at ARU Chicago for the occasion. Twelve artists, scientists, and researchers are interviewed.

► LISTEN HERE

 

* Excerpt from Hildegard Westerkamp’s opening keynote for Crossing Listening Paths, the 2011 conference of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology.

 

2012 World Listening Day

The 2012 World Listening Day happens on Wednesday, July 18th. The purposes of World Listening Day are:

  • to celebrate different ways we can focus on our soundscape (sonic environment);
  • to raise awareness about the acoustic ecology movement, including ideas regarding how noise pollution can be reduced; and
  • to introduce new educational initiatives and community events related to listening and acoustic ecology.

Participation in the 2012 World Listening Day focuses on the aforementioned goals, which could include listening parties, listening to one’s soundscape in private, private or public soundwalks, public forums about acoustic ecology, and more. What would you like to do on the 2012 World Listening Day? Events could happen on Wednesday, July 18th. However, if another day during that week (July 15-21) would work better with your schedule, that would be fine.

World Listening Day happens annually on July 18th—the birthdate of R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer who established the World Soundscape Project. Its research laid the foundations for what became known as Soundscape Studies and Acoustic Ecology.

Dozens of organizations and more than a thousand people from six continents have participated in World Listening Day so far — on the inaugural World Listening Day in 2010, and the second WLD last year. Both were great successes, and we’re hoping to have more people and organizations participate this year.

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