the Sound Map of Tallinn is ready

Thanks to Carsten and Andreas for their excellent and speedy design work. Our hard earned research looks beautiful in printed form. The map was printed in 2000 copies and distributed widely in Tallinn during Tuned City Tallinn.

sound map of tallinn

folded view


sound map of tallinn

street map view


sound map of tallinn

sound mark descriptions


sound map of tallinn

sketches by Andreas Töpfer


sound map visualization workshop

This workshop was held April 30-May 1st at MoKS -center for art and social practice in beautiful south Estonia. Following the first phase of the project, which was to collect data on sonic landmarks, common sounds and unique sonic effects, that can be heard throughout the city. This was done in cooperation with anthropology students from Tallinn University, taking part in the “Soundscapes, perception and design” course offered by Carlo Cubero this past spring.

Following this research phase we are entering the period where we need to visualize the data, that is, translate it into a visual form in order to graphically lay out the information for the printed form. Carsten Stabenow and Andreas Töpfer will be designing and editing the final design of the map, but in order to do so we needed to brainstorm what a printed sound map could look like and edit some of the data collected and shape it into a usable form.

soundmap visualization

Carsten showing some collected examples

soundmap visualization

Andreas talks about his visualization methods

soundmap visualization

working through the collected data

soundmap visualization

Over 80 points were added to the map

soundmap visualization

Some sketches for sound walk routes

sea plane hangar of Tallinn

the hangar before the renovation

The sea plane hangar of Tallinn was the focus of the Tuned City pre-events of May 2010, the theme of which was “Sonic Landmarks”. Besides being a historic and landmark piece of architecture it is also a fantastic acoustic space.

See the “anatomy of an acoustic space” post by John Grzinich regarding the research and performances conducted there this spring.

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.