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Camille Turner’s Sonic Walks

Sonic walks site

sonic walks by Camille Turner map and animate stories of Canada’s early Black settlers so they can be experienced while wearing headphones and walking in the spaces where history unfolded.


Walking with

“Walking With is a project that explores walking as a form of artistic inquiry and expression.  Walking with site

Walking generates embodied knowledge through encounters with the dynamics of place. We become more of ourselves with each movement. Likewise, as we leave our trace, our presence shapes where we walk.

Twelve artists were invited to share their insights about how walking informs their practice. The invitation is now extended to you, the listener, to join us as we reflect on the pedagogical potential of walking. How and what do you learn while walking?

Each of the contributing artists has created at least one art work within the region of Tio’tia:ke – Mooniyang – Montréal. As a localized portrait of contemporary walking art practices, Walking With reveals the range of motivations and ruminations that co-exist amongst artists who walk.

All of the artists are also women because, quite simply, their perspectives are compelling. Specifying gender was also a deliberate decision to help infuse the international walking art discourse with a plurality of lived experiences.”

This project description was taken from the website, by producer and curator Pohanna Pyne Feinberg.

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The Wells Reserve soundwalk

The Sounds of Place at Wells Reserve

The Wells Reserve Soundwalk, July 2014

From July 16-19, 2014, I was fortunate to take part in an interdisciplinary workshop held in Maine, US, directed by Bryan Pijanowski of Purdue University, lead investigator of the Global Sustainable Soundscapes Network (Co-PI is Catherine Guastavino – McGill University, Canada). This research project is funded by the US National Science Foundation.

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of a larger network of such research centres. It is open to the public, with many educational walking trails. Within the reserve are grasslands, woodlands, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes and a long undeveloped sandy beach.

The soundwalk took place on the morning of July 17. We met initially at a gazebo near the reserve educational centre. Here, I introduced my soundwalk research and suggested some tips for listening while on the walk. We handed out small notebooks that Prof. Pijanowski had prepared, which included a list of sites where soundscape recordings had been made, keyed to the Wells Reserve map (sites such as a vernal pond, coastal tree, Laudholm beach, and others). Short observations made by the recording crew were also included (“Coastal tree: most diverse site with birds and insects”). Suggestions for soundscape notes were provided for listeners (“Sense of place: sounds that define this place / remind or connect to you, family, community / symbolic sounds”). After the introduction, people split up into smaller groups of one to four people, and began their walks through the site. Later in the day, some people met with me at a session, while others contributed their observations in individual conversations.

My soundwalk took me through a grassland area, rich in insect sounds in the middle of the day, through a cool woodland with distant surf towards the north. As the surf became louder, I passed a pond that attracted shorebirds, and arrived at a construction site, with the sounds of saws and moving of construction materials. Large many-bedroomed houses were being built right up to the boundary of the Wells reserve, and along Laudholm beach beyond drifted the sounds of families playing in the surf.

At this point, I reflected on the educational signs that I had seen along the way, that pointed out important notes about vegetation and wildlife habitat. I thought that perhaps information could also be included on the effects of tourist and recreational development on the estuarine area.

In the session later that day, the importance of recognizing disciplinary listening was mentioned. A bird biologist said that, since we had discussed this in the introductory session, she was more alert to disciplinary tendencies, that normally she would want to focus on types of birds and their interactions. Being aware of this tendency allowed her to consciously open up to other kinds of listening. Both the soundwalk notebook and the opportunity for followup discussion provided clearings where these other kinds of listening could be explored in productive conversation.

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.

Dodge Cove Soundwalk

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

I recently led a sound-walk with the community of Dodge Cove, a fishing hamlet in the North Coast of British Columbia.  It was a calm and overcast Saturday afternoon as we assembled outside the community hall. A sizeable portion of Dodge Cove’s 60-odd residents moved here after long careers out on the coast. Fisherfolk, navigators, and DFO employees – they were drawn in by the calmer waters, bucolic feel and ideal proximity to the staples of a mid-sized town (Prince Rupert). But over the last 5 years,  an increase in industrial activity owing to the containerization of Prince Rupert port has radically redrawn the boundaries of town and country. North Coast winds can send sound-waves bouncing across water  over great distances. Mt. Hays at the rear of the Rupert port makes for a natural amphitheatre – redoubling the clank and boom that enters into Dodge Cove living-rooms.  Here, then, where rich terrestrial and marine life still abounds, nature’s acoustical-mediation can make for a wildly shifting and unpredictable experience.

We started down Dodge Cove Rd., boots scraping the gravel of the only street in town. There were kingfishers, ravens, and mallards out, but the air was unusually still – and notably absent of the sounds that had so concerned people. After about ten minutes, we turned toward CBC Hill – named for the signal-bearing antennae at its peak – and our footsteps were muted in moss and wet bark.  As we ascended the trail, the occasional bird announced itself through the  air.  Nearer to the summit, a low hum began to creep towards us.  We emerged into tall-grass and acoustic space, first contracted by the rainforest, suddenly exploded. We were surrounded by the port – its rumbling fields of infrasound. There were engines, horns, and a dull thud of containers being lifted off ships. I passed my headphones around: Faces were horrified and fascinated by the additional detail the gain was revealing.

As retraced our steps, people appeared more at ease. Still silent, still listening, they paused to pick mushrooms, or graze hands across leaves. After about 20 minutes we were back at the community hall, beers cracked open, and discussing the experience. There had been recent reports of Grizzly Bears in Dodge Cove. John, who brought his shotgun, explained why he began humming aloud at one point: “You just need to let them know that you’re there, that’s all they need.” A few people – Carol, Wendy – noted the audible lack of herons, whose population has starkly diminished population  in recent years.  Others spoke directly about the noise (“it just pounds into you”) but Ellen noted a comfort acquired by listening with others.  “The sound became more cozy” she explained. This brought to mind the question of facilitating true forms of community listening; as in how? What defines collective listening in contradistinction to atomistic collectivities of individual listeners?  We ruminated until about 6pm, at which time the sun  finally announced itself, and begun its dip into the tree-branches. I gathered up the beer-cans, said goodbye, and went down to the boat for my ride home.

An Auditory Experience of the Underground Soundscape

Located below the ground, the underground city is an area of Montreal filled with shopping centers, food courts, and links to various metro stations, buildings, and streets. Like many cities, the underground is filled with both continuous and dynamic sounds, which, when layered over one another, create a unique soundscape. The following excerpt is a combination of several sound recordings made directly from both Montreal’s underground city and the city above ground. My intention with this piece was to create the illusion of an individual walking and experiencing the underground, while still thinking about the world above the ground, then submerging back to the city below.

The composition begins with sounds of ventilation hums, echos, and the rumble of an incoming moving train, all of which remain constant and eventually become unnoticed to the human ear. My decision to include these sounds is primarily because their omnipresence is so significant to the underground soundscape. Imagine the underground without these noises – the overall sound environment would change drastically and appear much more desolate.

The piece then transitions into sounds of people talking, walking, and eventually leads us to one of the main food courts. We hear the sound of a large fountain located within the area of the food courts, which children and families circle around to enjoy and observe the obscurity and presence of the structure. Food courts appear to be the center and main space for individuals to meet, relax, and re-energize, just as an outdoor square or food market would be a main attraction for city-goers above the ground.

The final segment leads us to sounds one may hear in a city above ground, including buskers, cars driving on cobblestone roads, and a distant helicopter in the sky. The purpose of suddenly switching from indoor to outdoor sounds is to reiterate how noises can change instantly with the simple swing of a door. Ending the piece with the re-entrance into the underground is to demonstrate how frequently the underground is used and further how its presence is significant to many.

To listen, visit:

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In Search of the Vacuum Cleaner: February 12 Soundwalk, Montreal.

“Ambience points to where we are right now. . . “Here” is a mesh of entangled presences and absences. . .” [1]

A soundscape is a little like a holding environment.  A holding environment, in psychoanalysis, is a place where regression happens.   Didier Anzieu’s work on the skin-ego tells us how early experiences of touch, being held and enveloped, are psyche-making.[2]  Sound provides an envelope too.  No environment is a dumb container; it speaks, it caresses and seduces, it shocks and reverberates.   A sound can influence direction, down city alleys, along mental threads.  As in Bollas’s Evocative Objects, psychic genera play with the world, and are played by the world, providing “textures of self-experience”[3].  Attention to the sounds of here and now opens a symphony of other times, other places.  Those times and spaces seem to echo here.

So we began by filing out of Concordia’s library building, through downtown Montreal, a construction site, a food court, dropping into a different way of navigating, a sort of psychedelic immersion, into an invisible density, carried by currents of sense, allured, lulled by repetition, boots in slush, tires on moisture, drifts of voice, machine sound, penetrating and piercing.  There is the sense that I can’t find distance here.  I’m engulfed by all this aural intimacy.  Morton writes of the “situation the schizophrenic finds herself in.  She is unable to distinguish between information (foreground) and noise (background)…Everything seems threateningly meaningful, but she can’t pin down what the meaning is.”[4]  To avoid going mad in all of this sonorous stuff, I take refuge in the content of my own head, which turns out to be equally mad—obstinate flows of desire and aversion and attendant judgments. “This sound sucks.  That one is annoying.  That’s nice.  That sounds good.  I want something different.”  In a field of undulating sensation, I can try to get my bearings by ordering the mesh, editing the soundscape, separating gold from dirt, information from noise, pleasant from obnoxious.

At a point, I think: What, exactly, am I looking for here?  Can I listen without searching and sorting?  What can I make of all this stuff?  What is it making of me?

I once signed myself up for a Vipassana meditation retreat.  This was 10 days without talking or writing, no ‘devices’, no drawing, no discourse allowed, save the nightly dhamma video, and the inner psychic flood that we were expected to contain.   For one hour a day we walked around a loopy path through the forest.   Dozens of women trudged around and around the figure 8, polyrhythms of boots crunching and swishing coats.  It was December and there was some snow.   Rebelliously, (so I liked to think), I would leave the path to forge my own through the forest where I would lie on a felled tree, or stand and listen.   There was an afternoon where I was able to hear the sound of pine needles falling and landing on the icy pond below.  A series of precise clinks. This was spell-binding.  These were tiny resonances I had never before considered.  On another day I wandered so far from the figure 8 I came across a field.  The snort of a horse, (an invisible horse, obscured by a tangle of sumac trees), was the most astounding and exciting event of an otherwise monotonous, routinized series of days.  My mind went crazy.  If a mind could pant, it was panting.

I wanted to be excited, entertained and surprised.  And I wanted to hear something hidden, for the subtleties to reveal themselves to my hungry ears.  Listening here was a search, a seeking.

St. Catherine street, those dreary tire-on-slush sounds, trucks announcing their reversal, conversations sailing by, words melting into tones-of-voice and floating away, a few nice moments in a small back-lot enclave of birds.  Across a street, and then opening out to the CCA sculpture garden, to a sonic vista of the city, the far-away traffic hush.  Here, the thought occurs to me that in a city, we are encircled by this sound, enmeshed in it, and in a sense contained by it.  The perimeter of the city, overpasses and highways, form a sonic envelope of rubber on asphalt/moisture, a hushing, rising and fading shhh.  This dull, sedating rhythm did some mysterious work on me.

As a child I used to follow my mother around the house while she cleaned.  I had a particular attachment to her vacuum cleaner, a source of warmth and noise.  Wherever she might be vacuuming, I would lay my blanket down beside the machine and slip into its envelope.   My mom and that machine and I were intermingled in a noisy aesthetic that connected us for a moment.  Onto the next room she would go, and I would follow.  My mother’s machine not only cleaned the carpets, it held me through its mollifying sound.

We are held, as the psychoanalysts tell us, born helpless, gestating in an environment of objects, entities, capacities.  We find ourselves wide-open, open-eared in this place.  Those of us who born with the ability to hear are submerged from our very beginnings in sound.  Edith LeCourt writes of the ‘sonorous bath’ of the infant, where acoustic exchanges surround and move through the body without respite.[5]  We soak in songs and timbres, tones of voice, rhythms of bodies, sustained silences, Mozart piped into the womb.  And we give ourselves acoustic definition, re-sounding through lips and teeth, vowels and consonants.  Listening can be a kind of absorption, we may feel enclosed in cavernous sound.  And yet this sonorous bath points us precisely to a lack of closure, the opening-out of reception.   Something is resounding within, as we’re sounding-out.  Our sonic envelopes have a way of expressing themselves through us.

Noise music is often couched in terms of sadomasochism, it being harsh and punitive and painful and so forth.  (I recently beheld a modular synth with options to ‘nuke’ and ‘annihilate’).  That is one way to be held, sure.   Noise is also a sonic play pen, where messes are made and relished.  To be surprised or off-put by the outbursts of hotwired machines, to luxuriate in a textured rhythm.  I suspect the vacuum cleaner has woven itself into my creative process, something I listen for, something I want to carve out and revisit, to float in this droning primitive reverie, my sonic blanket, the warm air exhaust from the machine, the grainy hum of nozzle on carpet, to be caught, as Morton write, “in an attunement between me and an object.”[6]  These machines have sensual energy, they are alive with the sound of noise.  My mother’s obsessional activity is my aesthetic wonderland.

How are we held together and cracked open?  By what sonic, machinic, ecological envelopes?   A sound envelope is capable of putting us together and rupturing our boundaries, all at once a pleasure and a trauma.  Sound plays us, we participate in that play, seduced to come close and co-mingle, needled and provoked to contract, or escape.  There is an up-closeness to sound, it is very intimate.

A soundwalk can be an experiment in being irreparably open to everything.  When I dropped into this listening, there was a moment of anxiety, that edge of the trip where one wonders: Where will you take me this time?  Will you move and delight me?  Will I be able to hear you when it’s uncomfortable and with nothing to grasp?  How will I listen?   With what memory and desire?[7]

[1] Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought, (where: press, date) 103.

[2] Didier Anzieu, The Skin-Ego.  (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989).

[3] Christopher Bollas, The Evocative Object World.  (London and NY: Routledge, 2009), 55.

[4] Timothy Morton, Realist Magic: Object, Ontology, Causality.  (New Metaphysics Series, Open Humanities Press, 2013).

[5] Edith Lecourt, “The Musical Envelope” in Psychic Envelopes. Ed. Didier Anzieu. (London: Karnac, 1990).

[6] Morton, Realist Magic: Object, Ontology, Causality.

[7] Wilfred Bion’s edict to analysts: ‘To listen without memory and desire’ preoccupied me during this soundwalk and writing.  Bion, “Notes on Memory and Desire.” (The Psychoanalytic Forum, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1967)

Katherine Kline makes music, studies the unconscious, and is currently a PhD student in Communication Studies at Concordia.

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