Sound Walks on the Fjord

Today we took a walk to the end of the fjord and practiced listening with fellow artist-in-residence Michael McDermott. Michael is a sound artist and he explained some features of deep listening to us as we walked. He described different kinds of listening he works with: inclusive and exclusive listening, and not focusing on the naming or coding of sound. Exclusive listening pays attention to the whole sonic realm, while inclusive is listening to one specific sound. Further to this is listening for sound but trying not to name it or to bring it into language but rather allow it to remain as sonorous and as vibration and texture. These modes of listening and Deep Listening in general come from the work of Pauline Oliveros, who Michael has studied with.

Listen here for some samples from the ocean, birds and that stream we saw on our walk with Michael:

Michael also has an ongoing sonic project called ECHOZOO where he re-creates the sounds of extinct species.

WalkingLab has been researching and writing extensively on sound walks – for our forthcoming book with Routledge and a paper for Body & Society.

Walking and sound have increasingly been combined in order to explore the sonic ecologies of place. Soundwalks can take on many different forms and are known by many different names including soundscapes, sonic walks, and audio walks. One type of soundwalk includes the method of walking in silence, while paying close attention to ambient sounds.

Other types of soundwalks combine other methods with listening, such as recording devices, mapping practices, or reflective journaling to capture the experience and understanding of sound to a place. Researchers like Maggie O’Neill have combined walking interviews with ambient soundwalks in order to examine the ways in which borders and placed are shaped. On her research blog: Walking Borders. O’Neill discusses how the intersection of sounds from birds, the wind, and the ocean when combined with walking interviews reveal a more complex, embodied, and intimate understanding of a particular environment.

In addition to mobile listening and field recording practices, researchers and contemporary artists combine walking and sound to create what is commonly referred to as an audio or sonic walk. On an audio walk, participants listen to audio tracks, downloaded to their phones or other electronic devices, while being guided via the voice(s) on the audio track. Audio walks create a type of immersive environment and invoke a heightened sensory experience.