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Loyola/Montreal West Soundwalks

By David Madden

I recently led three improvised soundwalks through Concordia’s Loyola campus and the surrounding residential area.  The first walk was with a group of undergraduate sound students on January 21st, a very cold and windy day.  The other two walks were conducted on February 17th, a beautiful spring-like day with over seventy undergraduate students in a History of Communication and Media course.  Weather is an important factor in determining the various paths to take while on a soundwalk, whether improvised or planned in advance.  On the colder day, much of the route consisted of moving through many of the campus’s interior spaces, such as the library, Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex and the CJ building, which houses the Department of Communication Studies.  In contrast, the warm weather on the 17th offered the perfect opportunity to explore the lively sounds of Montreal West:  light traffic, residents shoveling snow, intermittent bird calls, and elementary school students playing in the snow.

In the discussions that followed, many listeners described the various ways footsteps play into soundwalks.  One female listener found them “hypnotizing,” making it difficult to focus on other sounds; another found a communal and rhythmic element to the sounds of our shoes, keeping us “in-sync” throughout the walk; while another listener felt they added a nice “hum” while walking through the snow.  Certain students listened to the Loyola campus historically, trying to imagine how the soundscape might have sounded twenty years earlier and comparing the acoustics of the older buildings with the newer ones.  This comparative thread largely revolved around the lower levels of reverb and echo present in the newer buildings.

At Soundwalking Interactions, we are very interested in hearing about your soundwalking experiences.  Does this urban walk through a university campus and its surrounding area sound like anything you have encountered while on a soundwalk?  How do you feel about the sounds of the city, or the buildings that you walk through everyday?  Have you had any interesting sounding experiences while taking public transportation?  Please contact us via email or simply “leave a comment.”

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