To study the ecology of sound, we need to define how we see sound as a formal discipline. Sound programs include civic programs: housing, public spaces including concert halls and theaters, work spaces including factories and subway stations, and other spaces that influence our daily experience of sound. We need to study how environments intimately relate to how we think about place. A great experiment in sensitizing to sound include spending a day blindfolded, relying on aural soundmarks as a guide. This experience isolates our sense of hearing, allowing us to better understand how the aural environment affects how our brains ‘see’ space.
Walking through a meadow with nature sounds; through a crowded urban square with traffic noises; through a train station; or through a carpeted room – the specificity of space - the scale of the room; the materiality of the surroundings, even the temperature of the air - affect our perception of space. Our ears act as sensitive instruments that measure the perimeter and the edges of the spaces that we navigate. More so than we realize, we make calibrated estimates about the shape and the nature of our environment through the sensitive instrumentation of our ears.
We live in an age where space, and the ‘sound arena’ of space is being flattened by digital technologies. Today we have a relationship to digital output devices (cell-phones, laptop computers, and tablets) that have disrupted the civic fabric of sound communications, and replaced it with a new fabric of digital messaging. We will also study the emergent digital paths of discourse, and identify their effects on sound ecology.
Sound Performance in a Fortification
There is a history of sound as an architectural device, with the earliest detailed history from the medieval period, in the writings of Abbot Suger, the architect for the Gothic Cathedral of St. Denis. As Suger developed the concepts for the Gothic style of architecture, he wrote at length about color, color theory, sound, and music, and saw the development of the Gothic Cathedral as the culmination of his era’s technological abilities to develop an effective vessel for sound.
Harry Partch: Chromelodeon
Sound Urbanism / Sound Ecology will include Skyped talks by sound artists, including Stephen Vitiello (whose installation ‘A Bell for Every Minute’ was originally installed at the High-Line in NYC); Sarah van Sonsbeeck, a Dutch artist whose work is marked by a detailed attention to architectural perception, silence, noise, and human interaction; David Mather, founder of the Electronic Signal Project, ESP, and Fellow-in-Residence at MIT, who will present his ‘Urban Codes’ project; and Dr. Mara Helmuth, Professor and Composer in the UC College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), who has agreed to have input into the course.