Home > Presentations > From soundscape to sonic place: listening in the environment

From soundscape to sonic place: listening in the environment

David Paquette
Concordia University

This is the audio recording of a presentation at the WFAE international conference Ideologies and Ethics in the Uses and Abuses of Sound, Koli, Finland, June 19, 2010.

In this presentation, I offer a reflection on the traditional notion of the soundscape, and propose to consider place as a research paradigm in acoustic ecology. Place and space have become prominent concepts in contemporary transdisciplinary research as well as fine arts. The work of French philosopher Gilbert Simondon also makes possible a reconsideration of the potential of sounds and sound practices to be considered as traces of the complex processes that create and shape place. I begin by looking at soundscape as a model of representation of the sound environment, and evaluate its ontological and epistemological basis. I then introduce the philosophical and geographical notion of place, and show its relevance to acoustic ecology as a research domain but also as a space of reflection on the role and reception of all sonic forms. Simondon’s concept of the milieu is also introduced, in a way to emphasize his understanding of the multi-dimensional and mediating nature of place, and the use of sound as an informational and structuring agent. Finally, I describe the sonic place and its theoretical and methodological potential, based on a number of recent and current research projects. Listening as a method of inquiry results in a particular ontological framing of the world, in which the researcher is always involved. But listening to a place necessitates a reintroduction of other senses in a way to make possible an understanding of sounds not just as acoustic realities but also as indicators, traces of a larger ecological but also ethical system to which they partake, or from which they result. The sonic place, by enlarging the range of issues and environments that can be explored and critically researched through sound, creates points of contact with other disciplines while providing acoustic ecology with a supplementary approach to deal with the increasing complexity of real and virtual sound worlds.

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