Sound Art / Street Life: Tracing the social and political effects of sound installations in London
This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in London (2013-14) to address the social and political effects of installation and place-based sound-works. I begin by reviewing a number of theoretical approaches to the city, using my own and others’ ethnographic accounts of London to problematize some of the affirmative conceptualizations of the city being propagated by non-representational theories and cultural geographers. In so doing, I provide the theoretical and contextual substratum for my ensuing discussion of the sound-works, and offer an initial view on why physical urban public space remains crucial to progressive politics. I then examine the sonic re-arrangement of public space in three site-specific sound installations. Through ethnographic analysis of the social dynamics summoned into being by each sound-work, and the “multiple mediations” that animated such dynamics (Born 2005), I offer interpretations as to whether, and if so how, the sound installations might be enlisted as part of a process oriented towards mobilizing democratic designs.
The Incidental Person: Reviewing the Identity of the Urban Acoustic Planner
At the intersection of the urban and the aural lies a territory that remains largely unplanned and frequently marginalized by more dominant agendas that shape contemporary urban development. This paper explores this territory – as both an experiential and an administrative space – through a two-year public art commission in which I initiated an artist placement for myself within the city council in Dublin Ireland, working in the self-declared position of urban acoustic planner. By stepping away from the centralizing concept of the soundscape and drawing parallels with participatory artworks that lie somewhat outside of the traditional canon of works embodied by contemporary sound studies, this paper seeks to discover the identity of this role at its most open, inclusive, and plural.
Instrumental Operations in the Urban Assemblage
Two major developments in architectural thinking of the past decade: an emerging interest in atmospheric design, on the one hand, and developments in responsive architectures, on the other, have produced a fertile ground for responsive acoustic environments. After a brief discussion of recent projects by the author’s research group in which acoustic environments and their human occupants are considered to be components of a single system, the paper speculates regarding the potential impact of such systems on the contemporary urban environment.
Soundmapping Beyond The Grid: alternative cartographies of sound
Drawing from projects that already map sound in unconventional and creative ways, including my collaborative project with Fionnuala Fagan, Stories Of The City: Sailortown (2012), this article explores forms of soundmapping that expand the online gridded soundmap platform. Not only do these examples map the invisible “in-between-spaces” of personal relationships to sound, but also the unseen spaces of urban architectures. Sound is intangible, ephemeral, and invisible in nature, and therefore possesses profound potentials to map invisible geographies, which might otherwise lay silent. We will only bring voice to these other layers of experience if we embrace cartography as a creative and potentially empowering platform.
Sonic Places: In Conversation with Peter Cusack
Sarah Lappin, Gascia Ouzounian
In this interview, Recomposing the City co-directors Sarah Lappin and Gascia Ouzounian talk with Peter Cusack about his recent work, reflecting in particular on relationships between sound, sound art, planning processes, and urban communities. Cusack, a field recordist and sound artist, has been a leading figure in acoustic ecology and soundscape studies for more than two decades. Cusack created one of the earliest collaborative sound mapping projects, Favourite Sounds (1998-), in which he invited people to record, share, and describe positive aspects of their everyday sound environments. Among other things, Favourite Sounds has been influential in inspiring the recent proliferation of online sound maps, establishing a framework for producing collective ideas of soundscape, and suggesting approaches to urban sound that extend beyond noise pollution.
Sound Art and Public Engagement in the Built Environment: Reflections from an Architecture Center
This article explores the deployment of sound in architectural-curatorial and community engagement contexts through the work of PLACE, a multidisciplinary not-for-profit architecture center in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The author, who worked with PLACE and contributed to the projects discussed here, contextualizes architecture centers and their relationship with sound before examining the specific case of sound and sound art in Northern Ireland and case studies of projects delivered by PLACE. Specifically, the article evaluates two sound installation artworks and three community engagement projects for young audiences. As a means of curating urbanism and architecture, sound-art-as-public-art affords useful strategies to examine, describe or critique the environment as alternatives to traditional architecture exhibition formats. Sound’s temporality and materiality allow sound art works to exist as temporary sculptural interventions in the urban sphere, with attendant implications for public art procurement and urban acoustics. Rich territories of engagement are opened when using sound in a community participatory context.
Editorial: Recomposing the City: New Directions in Urban Sound Art
Gascia Ouzounian, Sarah Lappin
In the first year of Recomposing the City we hosted over a dozen public seminars, concerts, exhibitions, and an International Symposium in Belfast. The papers collected in this volume of the Journal of Sonic Studies (JSS) stem from the Recomposing the City International Symposium in 2014, a lively gathering that was followed with an equally stimulating Postgraduate Student Symposium in 2015. However, the papers published in this present volume represent only a small part of the dialogue that Recomposing the City has facilitated. Thus, in this editorial we will reflect on our group’s larger concerns as well as on the insights of those artists and scholars who have generously contributed to this ongoing dialogue.
Original environmental recordings carried out between 1985 and 2010 in more than one hundred cities all over the world.
Evolved, composed, and mastered at “mobile messor” worldwide in 2011.