Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Balade Montreal Equinox Soundwalk

April 29, 2014 1 comment

On the evening of March 21, the Soundwalking Interactions group got together for one final soundwalk—Balade Montreal Equinox Soundwalk—following four years of consistent soundwalks and post-walk discussions. The walk began at St. Laurent metro station (corner of St. Laurent and Boul. de Maisonneuve) and headed south towards the Palais de Congres and China Town. The route was not planned in advance and took roughly forty-five minutes to complete. I led the soundwalk, accompanied by three participants, through a series of interior spaces, busy sidewalks and alleyways.

The excursion was one of the most dynamic soundwalks that I have ever participated in. In part, this can be attributed to the location of the walk which transitioned through many borders within the city: namely, the Old Port, downtown and China Town. Liminal (or transitional) zones typically have vibrant sensory ecologies, often resulting in chaotic and competing sensory encounters. Andra McCartney has previously written on this site about the concept of econtonality vis-à-vis sounding environments and listening. This concept is particularly useful when mobilized in relation to urban sounds. As she writes:

The ecotone is a marginal zone, a transitional area where species from adjacent ecosystems interact. Some species in an ecotone are from neither ecosystem but thrive here and do not live elsewhere, because of the rich possibilities contained in such regions, which have characteristics of more than one ecosytem. Beaches and the edges between forests and grassland are both examples of ecotones, or the stratified fresh and salt waters of the confluence where river meets sea.

It is also worth noting that the dynamic intensity of the soundwalk came not only from a range of intermittent loud and softer bursts of sound, but also from temperature changes, gusts of wind, and a mixing of pungent smells dispersed throughout the walk. One of the larger objectives of this project is to better understand how sensory experiences such as touch and smell connect to hearing and various ways of listening during soundwalks. This particular part of Montreal, at this point in the year, seems to provide an ideal site for considering questions at the intersection of listening, walking and sensory experience. Additionally, this is a layered area of the city, with the Autoroute Ville-Marie running just below the sidewalks and with many entryways to Montreal’s Underground City—the more than 30 km network of tunnels, corridors and commercial spaces located below the downtown core of the city. This layering heightened the complexity of the walk given that while traversing along the sidewalks there were sounds coming from above and below.

The post-walk discussion took place in a restaurant in China Town. We opened with a conversation detailing some of the ways in which moving in a group of four while using recording equipment affects other pedestrian encounters. One listener noticed that we seemed to draw attention to ourselves as we moved through the Palais de Congres. Another participant remembered the way we altered people’s conversations as we passed by.

Michael Langiewicz, one of the recordists, recounted his experience of recording a group of skateboarders–which are heavily featured in the audio-visual piece below–and some of the phase issues he encountered while recording them.

Andra talked about how wind is often the most difficult element to deal with when making soundwalking recordings (and/or recording outside).

Another listener mentioned that he was surprised to find quietness in many of the alleyways near the Autoroute.

One of the participants discussed walking by the aftermath of an accident and how he was unable to record anything of note as the area was eerily quiet. Andra mentioned how we walked through an accident scene in Mile End on a previous soundwalk and felt that the experience was characterized by a “weird silence.”

Ben discussed how cinematic the walking experience felt, especially when magnified by recording.

The audio-visual soundscape piece below derives from three distinct soundwalk recordings by Ben Cardilli, Michael Langiewicz and Andrew Willson. Each recordist took a different forty-five minute route after they moved away from the St. Laurent metro station. I cut the recordings into 20 to 60 second fragments and then edited them together using quick cross-fades. Ben’s recording is panned all the way to the left; Andrew’s is to the right; and Michael’s is directly in the middle with the volume level slightly lowered. All three of the recordings play out at the same time throughout the piece.

Categories: Events, Listening, walking

Balade Montreal Equinox Soundwalk 21 Mar 2014

Balade Montreal Equinox Soundwalk 21-03-2014

Rencontre: Métro St. Laurent 17:00 meet outside Metro

Balade commence 17:30 soundwalk begins.

Dance Dramaturgy: Returning to the Memory of the Event/ Retour sur la mémoire d’un événement

February 18, 2014 Leave a comment

(Version française ci-dessous/ French version below)

How does one remember the experience of a soundwalk installation? How does the memory of a past work affect current creative processes? In the next few weeks, I will be contacting and dialoguing with participants of a performance-installation presented at York University for the Dance Dramaturgy conference (June 2011). I will engage with those participants in conversations about the memory of their experience, and for my next blog entry, I will respond to their accounts of those past events.

The Dance Dramaturgy performance-installation was a choreography structured by a soundwalk and by dancers improvising in a responsive environment. The performers’ movements activated edited sound excerpts from the walk in different sections of the installation and traces of those spatial explorations also appeared as colored projections onto a screen, creatively reinterpreting the dancers’ embodied memory of the soundwalk.


Comment se remémore-t-on une participation à une installation de marche sonore? Est-ce que la mémoire d’un travail précédent affecte le processus créatif ? Au cours des prochaines semaines, j’entrerai en contact et dialoguerai avec les participants d’une performance-installation présentée à l’Université York et créée dans le cadre de la conférence Dance Dramaturgy  (juin 2011). Je m’engagerai avec ces participants dans des conversations sur le souvenir de leur expérience et lors de ma prochaine publication sur ce blog, je réagirai à leurs récits de ces évènements.

La performance-installation de Dance Dramaturgy proposait une chorégraphie structurée par une marche sonore et par l’improvisation de danseuses dans un environnement interactif. Les mouvements des danseuses activaient des extraits sonores modifiés de la marche dans différentes sections de l’installation et les traces de ces explorations spatiales apparaissaient comme projections colorées sur un écran, réinterprétant de manière créative le souvenir incarné des danseuses de leur marche sonore.


York University, Dance Dramaturgy

Same/même installation, Concordia University, workshop/atelier Canal Lachine:–-an-interactive-installation/

Urban Soundwalks at Biennale des bewegten Bildes, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

January 7, 2014 2 comments

Une version française de ce texte se trouve ici

In late October 2013, Andra McCartney was invited to Frankfurt, Germany for the B3 Film Festival to lead soundwalks, a composition workshop and to give a lecture about soundwalks and expanded narration. She was invited by Prof. Sabine Breitsameter, one of the curators of the festival and professor for sound & media culture at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.

Eröffnung Bernhard Kracke

I (Philipp Boss, 20 years old, student of Prof. Breitsameter) assisted Andra with the planning and performance of the soundwalks and the workshop. We met a few days before the festival and I showed Andra my choice of possible soundwalk routes through the picturesque historic city centre of Frankfurt, where the festival took place.

Roemer - Panorama

The festival centre was near to the old market place “Roemer”, which is surrounded by old, half-timbered buildings with many enclosures and atriums. These “isolated” places formed a nice acoustic contrast with the busy streets and the riverside, which were also located nearby the festival centre. The place formed altogether an interesting environment for soundwalking experiences and I was very excited about the following days.

Festival Centre

The first festival day started for us with a children ́s soundwalk in the morning.
Andra introduced the 9-10 year old children to the topic of soundwalking and then we led the group of 18 children over the market place, over the busy street and to the riverside. The children were really attracted by my field recorder & headphones, so I gave some of them my headphones to hear the environmental sounds through the microphones. The reactions were really interesting. One child said: “I didn ́t know that one makes so much noise just by walking!” Others were surprised by the general loudness and amount of different sounds of the city soundscape through the microphone. They could not imagine how our brain filters “unimportant” sounds and that some of the sounds were only hearable for us when they were amplified through the field recorder. Back in the festival centre, Andra started a discussion by asking the children what they heard and which sounds were pleasant or unpleasant for them. Most of them categorized traffic noise and car signals as unpleasant sounds and water sounds, birds and the blowing wind as pleasant. The sound of church bells caused multiple opinions. Some of them find them to be pleasant and some of them found these sounds disturbing, repetitive or boring. It was also very interesting to hear how the children developed their own soundscape when they came into the quiet conference room, playing clapping games and vocalizing.

Track 1 – Kids

In the afternoon, Andra gave a lecture about soundwalks and expanded narration.
You can have a look on her milestones from this lecture in the blog entry from October, 29th. After the lecture, the composition workshop took place. Andra did a short soundwalk with the participants as an introduction, while I prepared the workshop room. The participants were a group of 15 students from film and sound production background. When they came back from the walk, Andra started discussing with them about the experiences they had had and about the general method of soundwalking.
The aim of the workshop was to compose a small soundpiece/soundscape from the sounds in the festival environment. I gave out field recorders to the workshop participants and then they had one hour to collect some sounds in the festival area. I also took part in this activity and focussed on the sounds of a huge building lot near the festival centre.

The sounds of metal, heavy construction workers and machines fascinated me and I started to record from various positions and distances.

Track 2 – Building Lot

After this short recording session, the participants presented some unprocessed sounds that grabbed their attention. I presented this recording from the inside of an empty trash bin next to the building lot.

Track 3 – Trash Bin Unprocessed

Then we started to process our sounds with our own laptops & DAWs. Andra showed us an example of a noisy, high-pitched shrieking street car sound, that she transformed into a really nice harmonic sound, just by pitching and layering that same sound. I also pitched my trash bin sample down and tried to make a deep drone as a basis for my final soundpiece.

Track 4 – Trash Bin Processed

We composed and arranged our soundpieces in one hour. After that we presented and discussed our final pieces. I ended up in composing something really abstract. I wanted to point out interesting frequencies in the recordings of the building lot, which had a really broad frequency spectrum. I tried to create an “essence” of the building lot sounds and wanted to show how much different frequencies are heard in every single sound.

Track 4 – Final Piece

In the next two days we led three more soundwalks around the festival environment. The participants were students, professors, pensioners, and people from the workshop. Most of them came from a film or sound background or were just interested in media art. In the post-walk discussions nearly everyone was positively surprised about soundwalking. Many participants found the soundwalks relaxing and meditative, but there were also people who found it stressful due to the traffic sounds and the building lot. An interesting statement came from a woman who lives in the city center. She said she had never heard her city like this before. Before the soundwalk experience she tried to avoid concentrating on her hearing when she was walking through the city, but on the soundwalk her ears suddenly started to open up and she discovered a complete new soundscape of the city she has been living in for years. It seemed to me that the soundwalk was a really spiritual, mind opening experience for her.

Urban Soundwalk

Another woman asked Andra why the soundwalk has to be a walk, because she can concentrate more on the soundscape when she is standing on one point and only listens. Andra answered that it is absolutely okay to stop during soundwalks and just intensively hear for a moment, but soundwalking is also about exploring different sound environments and pointing out the differences between them, many of the participants were for example fascinated by the room and loudness differences between the market place or the building lot and the isolated atriums and enclosures.

Altogether, the work with Andra McCartney was very inspiring for me, and I am very thankful that I got the opportunity to take part and even contribute to her soundwalk and research work. These three days really influenced my urban hearing and brought me further in my studies and artistic work.

Marches sonores à la Biennale des bewegten Bildes, Francfort-sur-le-Main, Allemagne

January 7, 2014 1 comment

An English version of this entry can be found here

En octobre dernier, Andra McCartney s’est rendue à Francfort à l’occasion du Festival du Film B3, durant lequel elle a organisé des marches sonores, un atelier de composition, ainsi qu’une présentation sur la marche sonore. Dr. McCartney avait été invitée par Sabine Breitsameter, curatrice pour le festival et professeure en culture sonore et médiatique à l’Université Darmstadt des Sciences Appliquées.

Eröffnung Bernhard Kracke

J’ai (Philip Boss, 20 ans, étudiant de Prof. Breitsameter) assisté Dr. McCartney dans la préparation et la tenue des marches sonores et de l’atelier. Nous nous sommes d’abord rencontrés quelques jours avant le festival et j’ai proposé quelques routes potentielles traversant le centre historique de Francfort, où se tenait le Festival.

Le cœur du Festival était situé près du vieux marché « Roemer », entouré par de vieux édifices à colombage comprenant de nombreux recoins et atriums. Ces lieux « isolés » créaient un agréable contraste avec la rue passant et le bord de la rivière, aussi à proximité du site du Festival. Ce lieu formait un tout sonore particulièrement intéressant pour une marche sonore, ce qui me rendait très fébrile à l’approche des marches planifiées avec Dr. McCartney.

La première journée du festival a débuté avec une marche sonore matinale avec un groupe d’enfants d’environ 9 à 10 ans. Andra a d’abord introduit les enfants à la pratique de la marche sonore, puis nous avons dirigé le groupe à travers les rues bruyantes et les berges de la rivière. Les enfants étant particulièrement intrigués par mon enregistreur audio et mes écouteurs, j’en ai profité pour leur faire écouter tour à tour les sons tels que captés par mon microphone. Leurs réactions furent très intéressantes. Un enfant déclara : « je ne savais pas qu’on faisait autant de bruit en marchant! » D’autres étaient surpris du niveau sonore ambiant et du grand nombre de sons urbains captés par le microphone. Ils arrivaient difficilement à concevoir la façon dont notre cerveau filtre les bruits ambiants, ceux-ci devenant audibles seulement lorsqu’amplifiés par l’enregistreur. De retour à la place du festival, Andra a démarré la discussion en demandant aux enfants de nommer les sons qu’ils avaient entendus, et de décrire si ces sons étaient plaisants ou non. La plupart des enfants ont qualifié les bruits des voitures et de la circulation de déplaisants, contrairement aux sons de l’eau, des oiseaux et du vent. Les sons des cloches des églises ont provoqué des réaction multiples. Alors que certains les ont appréciés, d’autres les ont trouvé inintéressants, ennuyants ou même dérangeants. Il fut trèa intéressant de noter comment les enfants ont créé leur propre environnement sonore à leur arrivée dans la salle de conférence, en tapant des mains et en faisant des jeux de vocalisation.

Piste 1 : Les enfants

En après-midi, Andra a donné une présentation sur la marche sonore et la narration. Vous retrouverez les principaux points de cette présentations dans le texte du 29 octobre 2013 dernier. Après la présentation, Andra a fait une courte marche sonore avec les membres de l’audience, pendant que je préparais la salle pour l’atelier de création. Le groupe était constitué d’environ 15 étudiants en production sonore et cinéma. À leur retour, Andra s’est d’abord attardée à la marche en les questionnant sur leur expérience et en discutant de la technique de la marche sonore.

L’objectif de l’atelier était de composer une courte pièce sonore basée sur les sons du festival. J’ai distribué aux participants des  enregistreurs audio, puis ils sont partis à la collecte de son pendant environ une heure. J’ai moi aussi pris par à la séance d’enregistrement, en me concentrant sur les sons émanant d’un grand édifice situé près du centre du festival.  Les différents sons métalliques émis par les travaux de construction et les nombreuses machines  m’ont particulièrement intrigué; je les ai donc captés à partir de plusieurs perspectives et à des distances variées.

Piste 2 : L’édifice en en construction

Après cette courte session d’enregistrement, les participants ont tour à tour présenté quelques extraits qui avaient capté leur attention. J’ai présenté l’enregistrement ci-dessous, capté à l’intérieur d’un contenant à déchets vide situé tout près de l’édifice en construction.

Piste 3 : Conteneur à déchet, version originale

Puis, nous avons débuté la métamorphose de nos sons à l’aide d’ordinateurs portables et de logiciels de manipulation sonore. Andra nous a fait entendre un extrait sonore dans lequel elle a transformé le cri aigu d’un tramway en une belle harmonie, simplement en modifiant la tonalité du son et en juxtaposant plusieurs copies du même son. J’ai appliqué la même procédure sur mon extrait sonore en tentant de produire un bourdonnement comme point de départ pour ma composition finale

Piste 4 : Conteneur à déchet, modifié

Nous avons travaillé sur nos compositions pendant une heure, pour ensuite les présenter et discuter des différentes procédures employées. Ma pièce est devenue plutôt abstraite. J’ai tenté de mettre l’emphase sur certaines fréquences spécifiques pour chaque son provenant de l’édifice, révélant ainsi « l’essence » de cet environnement sonore .

Piste 5 : Composition finale

Durant les deux jours qui ont suivi, nous avons dirigé trois autres marches sonores sur le site du festival. Les groupes étaient composés d’étudiants, de professeurs, de retraités, ainsi que quelques personnes qui avaient pris part à l’atelier. La plupart provenaient des domaines du son ou du cinéma, ou bien étaient intéressés par l’art sonore. Lors des discussions d’après-marche, presque tous exprimaient une opinion positive par rapport à leur expérience. Alors que plusieurs ont qualifié la marche sonore de relaxante et méditative, d’autres ont malgré tout ressenti un certain stress causé par les bruits de circulation et de construction. Une participante qui habite le centre-ville a affirmé n’avoir jamais entendu sa ville ainsi. Alors que dans le passé elle tentait d’ignorer les sons de la ville pendant qu’elle s’y déplaçait; la marche lui a permis de redécouvrir l’environnement sonore d’un lieu qu’elle croyait connaître depuis des années. Selon moi, cette marche fut pour elle une expérience spirituelle et révélatrice.

Urban Soundwalk

Une autre participante a demandé à Andra pourquoi cette pratique se faisait en marchant, plutôt que d’être stationnaire et directement concentré sur l’expérience d’écoute. Andra a répondu qu’il était tout à fait acceptable d’arrêter à tout instant de la marche pour une écoute plus intensive, mais que la marche sonore est aussi conçue pour découvrir une multiplicité d’environnements sonores et analyser leurs différentes caractéristiques. Par exemple, plusieurs participants ont été fascinés par les contraste sonores entre la place du marché, le chantier de construction ainsi que les atriums et les espaces plus refermés.

Au final, travailler avec Andra McCartney fut une expérience très inspirante, et je suis reconnaissant d’avoir eu l’opportunité de contribuer et participer à ces marches et activités sonores. Ces trois jours ont grandement influencé mon écoute urbaine et ont contribué à ma démarche artistique et académique.

Listening to traffic with guts and antennae

December 1, 2013 1 comment

“Listening to traffic with guts and antennae” is a paper that I presented at the symposium Resonant Bodies: Landscapes of Acoustic Tension, held at the International Cultural Institute in Berlin, Germany in June 2013, and organized by Zeynep Bulut and Brandon LaBelle. It accompanies the piece Spectral Traffic, which can be found on the andrasound channel of youtube.


“Listening to traffic with guts and antennae” est le titre d’une communication donnée dans le cadre du symposium “Resonant Bodies: Landscape of Acoustic Tension” à l’International Cultural Institute de Berlin en juin 2013. Ce symposium était organisé par Zeynep Bulut et Brandon LaBelle. Cette présentation est accompagnée par la pièce Spectral Traffic, qu’on peut retrouver sur ma châine youTube.

Newfoundland Soundwalk

November 30, 2013 2 comments

Une version française de ce texte se trouve ici

In September 2013, Andra McCartney was invited to be keynote presenter at the Expanding Ecomusicologies symposium at the Centre for Music, Media and Place at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland. She led a soundwalk, consisting of two movements: first, a twenty-minute group walk along the campus’ grass, gravel and marshy paths; and second, a thirty-minute walk where listeners were encouraged to move through a market (and surrounding area) in smaller clusters. Both parts of the soundwalk were followed by a discussion.

As Andra discussed with the group after the second part of the walk, this particular method for soundwalking was developed while preparing for another walk at a market in Hamilton, ON. In the lead-up to the latter, Andra received a letter from one of the market’s vendors addressing how he perceived the practice of soundwalking to be bourgeois, and that the participants would disrupt the regular activities of the market by distracting patrons. Taking the vendor seriously, Andra informed listeners to break into smaller groups once they reached the market. Moving through the Hamilton market in this dispersed way enabled the participants to maintain a certain level of anonymity during the soundwalk, and gave each small group a different experience of soundwalking, which led to animated exchanges about different listening experiences, in the discussion at the end.

During discussions in Newfoundland, many comments centred on the changing group and social dynamics between the two distinct parts of the walk. One participant mentioned that in the larger group he felt that the perceptual field was more limited because the higher density of people seemed to make the space smaller. When the walkers split into smaller groupings, one listener felt overwhelmed by the cacophony of the market and was unable to concentrate in an environment with so many sounds vying for attention.

As is common in post-soundwalk discussions, some participants mentioned the prominent presence and rhythms of footsteps, and how the sounds of footsteps alter depending on the textures of the ground. There was also a lot of laughter and questions coming from the participants. One listener asked whether it might be more suitable to use the term “listening walk,” rather than soundwalk, given that listening is the primary activity of the walk; to what extent we create our own soundscape while soundwalking; and whether intent varies between practitioners. Andra answered that while some scholars and practitioners prefer to use the term “listening walk” (eg. Greg Wagstaff), she prefers soundwalk because the term is more widely known and opens up more possibilities beyond listening, especially in relation to the interaction of the senses and the reality of sound production while walking, with members of the group inevitably producing sound as they walk. Lastly, as Andra points out, intentions vary considerably depending on the practitioner, with some producing sound intentionally in response to the environment.

Towards the end of the discussion, participants mentioned some of the ways that soundwalking functions as a relaxing, almost meditative practice. As Andra points out, social workers and psychologists use walks in therapeutic situations, in part because walking calms people, but also because young people who might be somewhat inhibited in regular therapeutic contexts often open up a little more while walking through familiar neighbourhoods and places. Someone added that this approach is also used with dementia patients as a way to continuously (re)train the senses.

Finally, the post-walk discussion closed out with a question from one of the listeners who asked: “how much of what’s going on in the rest of your life impacts that fifteen minutes of walking and how you listen?” For example, he discusses how he was particularly sensitive to car sounds throughout the walk because he is having car troubles. Andra relates this to what she calls “listening standpoints”—your background (e.g., woman, immigrant, academic), and all of the things that inform experience—and how these various standpoints affect how one listens (even though we might think we are listening with open ears while soundwalking). Andra goes on to suggest that it is good for listeners to be aware of their standpoints and that they can then attempt to try to listen in other ways as well, if possible.

Andra’s last comments revolve around a sonic experience of a visual art object: a sculpture on the campus that has round holes that are just head-size. Another small group of participants saw Andra playing with the sculpture in the distance during the soundwalk and decided to follow suit. Hildegard Westerkamp played with a metal sculpture in the Queen Elizabeth Park soundwalk that she first did in the 1970s. Furthermore, one of the World Soundscape Project’s walks of the Louvre involved going around to different paintings and thinking about them sonically (e.g., looking at a painting and imagining the sound). Imaginative listening is something that happens regularly on soundwalks, on top of or intermixed with the soundscape you are actually hearing while walking and listening.

Some lingering questions that were raised in the listening discussion: how might political listening play into the Newfoundland soundwalk experience? How does privilege operate as a listening standpoint? And, is a quiet soundscape necessarily a privileged environment? What types of situations do you feel comfortable in while remaining silent; where do you feel comfortable soundwalking? How might soundwalking operate in an unstable political setting, as a protest or political gesture?