sound mapping, what is it?

As humans we are in fact mapping space using sound all the time. This comes from an effect known as ‘stereo’ or in human perceptual terms a ‘binaural’ form of listening. We often go about our daily lives trying to keep up with the fast pace of the city and rarely give time to look at what creates all the “noise” going on around us. Many of us actively tune out the noise of the city with mental filters by focusing on only getting from point A to B. Talking on mobile phones or sending text messages also help distract our attention. Wearing headphones and listening to an MP3 player blocks out the sounds around us altogether.

So what happens when we shift our attention away from ourselves and focus on the everyday sounds around us? The process is easier than you think. Mostly it is about stopping, listening and reflecting. When we reflect on what we hear we also exercise our cognitive ability to listen and focus on the sounds around us. Rather than discover something new this exercising more often raises awareness of what we already know, that is how to navigate using the spatial perception from direct and reflected signals of sound waves.

Thats a major part of what this project is about, not only engaging in research about the sonic environment of the city but simple trying to raise awareness about sound and listening. The “mapping” of this awareness can be anything from a list of descriptive words, a short text, a sketch, some kind of “evidence” reflecting on the experience of listening.

In September I gave a workshop in Berlin to explore the process of “sound mapping”. The results were inspiring. You can read more about it on this ‘exploring perspectives in listening‘ post.

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