Compositional Routes


Compositional Routes of the Magdalen Islands is a soundwalk through the forest with portable radios, drawing inspiration from artists such as Andra McCartney and Hildegard Westerkamp, both of whom engage extensively with soundwalking (McCartney 2014; Westerkamp 2001), Kathy Kennedy, who has blended soundwalking and radio art (especially in her HMMM Project) and other artists working with microFM transmission such as Anna Friz, Amanda Gutiérrez, and Tetsuo Kogawa.[2]

Compositional Routes involves fifteen participants walking along a path through the woods, with eight of them carrying portable radios (which they are free to pass to someone else) tuned to receive sound from two microFM transmitters hooked up to an mp3 player carried by myself. The sound is played through the radios’ loudspeakers so that a collective sonic space is created, shifting with the participants’ movements. The low power of the microFM transmitters means that the signal is prone to interference, and the reception range is only about 20-30 feet; participants occasionally lose the signal to white noise. The sounds transmitted to the radios include field-recordings I made in the islands’ littoral zones, musical compositions I created exclusively from those field-recordings, and silence. The sounds are arranged temporally to synchronize in various ways with the environmental surroundings as participants walk through the forest, juxtaposing the radio soundtrack with trail sounds (such as birdsong, insects, and footsteps), landmarks (such as clearings, meadows, and a water treatment facility), and different kinds of movement (such as walking forward, standing, and wandering around a field). The path takes the form of a loop and provides occasional glimpses of the ocean.


Samuel Thulin – Compositional Routes of the Magdalen Islands (2016). Fatima, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Photo: Nigel Quinn.