“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.

2013 World Listening Day

You are invited to participate in the 2013 World Listening Day. World Listening Day has been happening annually on July 18, since 2010, and the fourth annual World Listening Day happens on Thursday, July 18. The purposes of World Listening Day are:

  • to celebrate the practice of listening as it relates to the world around us, environmental awareness, and acoustic ecology;
  • to raise awareness about issues related to the World Soundscape Project, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, World Listening Project, and individual and group efforts to creatively explore phonography;
  • and to design and implement educational initiatives which explore these concepts and practices.

World Listening Day is co-organized by the World Listening Project (WLP) and the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology (MSAE). July 18 was chosen as the date because it is the birthday of the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Schafer is one of the founders of the Acoustic Ecology movement; the World Soundscape Project, which Schafer founded in 1971, is an important organization which has inspired a lot of activity in this field. The culmination of the World Soundscape Project’s pioneering research into the sound environment is described in his seminal book, The Tuning of the World. Published in 1977, it gained international attention and defined many new terms and concepts in sound and ecology popularly used to this day.

WLP and MSAE invite you to participate in the 2013 World Listening Day, which will happen on Thursday, July 18. Other WLD events will be happening during the week of July 14th-20th. Here are several possibilities. You can—

  • organize a soundwalk or a listening party when people play field recordings.
  • organize a performance event that involves field recordings and other artistic expressions that explore our soundscape and how we can listen to our sonic environment.
  • participate in a private / solitary way, by paying attention to your soundscape.
  • facilitate an educational event that relates to acoustic ecology, field recordings, or a similar topic.
  • Contact organizations that are participating in World Listening Day, to see if you can get involved that way.

The level of participation that happened during the first several World Listening Days was wonderful, and we look forward to the kind of participation we’ll be having this year. If you would like to participate in the 2013 World Listening Day, please email worldlistening@gmail.com, and be sure to include “World Listening Day” in the subject line.  You could also download the 2013 World Listening Day participation form here. Thanks!

Download Korean WLD participation form(한글버전 WLD 지원서), Korean WLD Invitation letter(한글버전 WLD 초대장).