By now it is a well-established practice to listen to the sounds of the real world recontextualized as recordings and to encounter them under various guises as or within music. It was over thirty years ago that Schafer (Murray) first coined the term ‘acoustic ecology’ and set out his guidelines for a new kind of listening, with the whole world as a universal ongoing musical composition. Schaeffer (Pierre) approached sonically similar territory from a quite different perspective, but in the same way also found it vital to set down his own prescription for establishing a new way to listen, extended this to form a new musical grammar.
If we step forward to today, we find that the ideas of ‘reduced listening’ and the ‘soundscape’ are as potent as ever. They are certainly more mainstream – a consistent presence in the gallery, improvisation venue and concert hall – but beyond this their influence can be felt in everyday life to an increasing degree. We all construct our own personal sonic map that is made up of an increasingly complex amalgam of the different environments we encounter during our daily routine. Today, perhaps more than every before, we are aware of both what we hear and of when and how we are listening, and even (sometimes) of the multitude of different agents and environments that seek to intervene in our listening and shape or direct the process.
Given this context, the process of field recording begins to resemble a form of digital cartography. Location, categorization and mapping are all much easier and increasingly more central to such activities. The Landscapes/Soundscapes project, with the starting point of the initial micro-residency, aims to explore these themes as they operate within two different physical environments: the Koumaria Estate and the Onassis Cultural Centre. What are the sound marks and shaping agents in each place? How do these elements transform themselves and their new environment when they area transferred from one place to the other? What new elements would we understanding about both places if we walked around the Onassis Cultural Centre when it was resounding on all levels and in all corners to the soundscape of Koumaria? What insights would emerge if the process were to be reversed?
The Landscape/Soundscape project proposes just such an investigation, built around multiple techniques in field recording (both innovative passive methods and new inquisitive practices) partnered by simultaneous visual investigations which both partner the sounds and add a further dimension to how we perceive and make sense of each environment. Culminating in a site-specific installation, the project should address many of the questions that arise when listening in and to each space. Through the cartography that emerges, the new Onassis Cultural Centre will better find its sense of place within the sonic environment around it, and its own sonic identity in terms of the sound within it.