Sound Ecology: a Proposition
Humankind’s ideas about sound have evolved, starting during the era of cave dwellers, who took advantage of the aural environment in caves to enhance the sounds that accompanied cave painting rituals. Caves are reverberant, and the effect of sounds chanted within such environments have vastly different emotional effects from the same sounds chanted in an open field. Today, in the twenty-first century, we are beginning to ‘hear’ buildings that incorporate sound as an interactive aspect of the building façade (DWi-P). We also have buildings that use new technologies for sound isolation and sound projection, and digitally controlled systems that offer built sound environments that exceed the technical possibilities of sound rooms from past eras (EMPAC).
The making of architecture inherently relates to the creation of different sound environments, even if those aural environments are not an explicit part of the building program, and even if the architects and building clients are not aware that they have created an aural environment every time they build a project. The Sound Urbanism/ Sound Ecology course is aimed at making students of architecture, music, and the fine arts sensitive to the affect of built environments, and sound- marks within that environment, on our aural, or sound, ecology. The course will reinforce how architects and artists have control over the sound arena of the environments that they interact with, and will make musicians sensitive to performance environments to allow a better understanding about the aural possibilities of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Architectural design is the creation of an envelope that controls the sound, light, air and other forces of a specific location in space and time. In this seminar, we focus on the control of sound, and the identification of various factors that affect sound in the built environment. Buildings and outdoor spaces designed without sensitivity to the aural environment are also, often, not successful. Often, designers ignore the aural environment. But if sound is controlled, it makes an enormous difference to the experience of the building or landscape. When you go to see a movie, for example, sound is tightly controlled by the team who developed the film score. Rooms can be like film scores - and emphasize their public or private nature, through sound.
Cities and urban plans are intimately related to sound. The creation of cities in the past included the idea of an aural border (the edge of town): it represented the perimeter that a landscape would allow for the propagation of civic communication through the city’s main public buildings, including churches and church bells, fire stations and fire alarms to call out fire locations, factories and whistles to announce the start of the factory work day, as well as other civic institutions that use sound signals for civic communication. City planning includes the design of appropriate sound environments for residential areas, schools, libraries, or public performance venues.
Similarly, Victoria Meyers architect's 'LightScore' performed at the Kitchen space for Performance and Art in New York City, also explored the boundaries between form, space, light and sound.
Shown above, the 'Music Box' designed in 2009 for Michael Schumacher; and, adjacent, Michael Schumacher on piano. The Music Box is an Anamorph, in reference to Michael's work with Victoria, which involved a set of aesthetic propositions around the concept of sound, as a formal element, within the urban environment. The class will design their own concept for a Music Box as a class project, for UC Composer Dr. Mara Helmuth.
For more information about Sound Urbanism, see earlier posts by this blog. In 2014 Victoria will be publishing Shape of Sound, with Black Dog Publishers, London.