Sunday, December 2, 2012

sound, place and global reach

i was pointed to a video by a radio aporee contributor a few days ago:
Piccolo Teatro Sonoro: A sonic statement by Binaural/Nodar

it emphasizes on the formula "local not global", and "tries to defend the  problematization of the possibilities for a regionalist [...] approach",  against "globalized tendencies, such as world sound maps". since there are not so many world sound maps around, i somehow took it personal (well, not so seriously...) and wrote these lines (not only) as  a response.
first, i perfectly follow the ideas and concepts of locality and region,  i think nodar does great work here, from what i know from friends who have been there, from collegues and (global...) media. however, to simply put it in opposition to practises related to mapping, archiving and sharing of sound recordings, misses the point a bit. at least i think so, and i can only talk for myself here of course, maybe also from conversations  with friends, collegues and contributors. so this is rather a private view on a project i love, skip here if you expect theory.

the whole aporee soundmap thing began as a reaction to the lack and  loss of sense of place, the personal experience of decreasing sensitivity for things "in between", the absence of resonance in my relationship to the surrounding world.

so, the first sound map draft was the result of bad mood... (and of course  some interests, skills, backgrounds from way older works between art,  science, media etc.). sound as such was central and essential, since  it has always been a path or access to space and place.

it wasn't planned as a global or even public project, i shared it with friends, we experimented with phones calls, found material, location/field recordings, also the possibility of narratives in between media and real surroundings.  well, friends told their friends about it, and when the first recording from Asia arrived, it became "world-wide". there's still no login needed for participation, it doesn't have these fancy "social" features of actual "crowd-sourced" commercial platforms of any sort, which only work for turnover and nothing else, no matter how useful and convenient they are, and, btw, establish new models of labour and exploitation which i find at least questionable. the radio aporee platform is a one man show, "hand-made", self-financed, and has never received any funding. didn't apply though...

focus shifted soon towards sounds from places and situations, field recordings and such, as "raw" as possible. editing, composition, mixing etc. obviously weakend the experience of presence, intensity and the listening experience, while looking at a geographic map. (i admit, web sites and interfaces suck over time, google maps too. i don't like it but there's no alternative so far on that scale and detail). 

that's what it's also about: long time "exposition" of places, deep listening,  connectivity, evocation of Proustian moments of complex perception... that's one side, on the other there are people who probably have spent 1000s of  hours at real places listening, recording, later preparing and uploading  the material for documentation and sharing with others. sure there are a quite lot of sounds captured en passant, in touristic mode when travelling around with small pocket recorders. and these are often great, real situations, ephemeral ambiences, moments at places. many others are phonography, field recordings in the best sense, a form of art, just perfect. i've listened to almost all of them, and 10000+ listeners do so every month since years.

the nodar video suggests that the soundmap "engulfs" individual approaches and discredits (or enforces the recogniton of) the recordist/contributor as a indefatigable sound tourist. i think that's wrong, not sure where this idea comes from, surely not from listening to the actual recordings. i understand that some feel uncomfortable with the amount of contributions, in all their different qualities, the flattening perspective of the map maybe, and insist on distinction, for whatever reason. zoom in, go to the details, listen to the indivdual sounds, that  may change your perspective.

my observations are different anyway. there are countless examples of deep and intense examination of spaces and places by sound. some are visiting the ever same place for  years now, documenting subtle changes in their local surrounding, others do extended  research, individually, in groups or educational contexts, of neighbourhoods, areas,  regions and subjects of interest, and so on. they use the site for their own projects and visibility. not to mention the friendships, encounters, beers and coffee had, the permanent exchange, collaborations and even the living some are able to generate out of it. that's quite the opposite of "global" or globalisation. BUT: it has a global reach, that makes it  possible and interesting, we're exchanging ears and sharing experiences from otherwise  mostly unreachable places. for me it re-enabled and activated a formerly lost or inaccessible space. that's in the very sense of the initial idea of the aporee soundmap. glad about it. stay tuned.


  1. Dear Udo,

    Like you, I do not understand how a “world map” for sounds contributes to globalization. Rather, these few existing maps seem to raise awareness of local soundscapes around the world. By doing so this awareness can help in taking action to preserve unique features of the culture and soundscape of any place, for all species of life to exist in ecological balance.

    Due to problem with the stream from Vimeo I was able to watch the video and listen without constant interruptions. This may have effected my interpretation of the text on "localism" and "globalizing tendencies" of world sound maps. Also, a restriction with Google's e-Blogger, the full text of my response to your comment cannot be included here. Please have a read of my full response on the World Listening yahoo group and/or the phonography yahoo group.

    All the best,

  2. Hi Udo.
    Glad about it, you can be. It's a fantastic tool made with sane philosophical spirit.

    I could add my 50 cents to the issue by explaning why at the moment i have quit mapping sounds.

    I started using Aporee maps with no particuliar purpose then it began fitting into personal *projects*. One of them is a series of intentional recordings of my close environment. The implicit idea of this project is exactly looking for *global* questionning about the connections between humans and their acoustic environments from *local* observation of the acoustic everyday life.

    Little by little, i started to feel literaly surrounded: the audio spots i had fixed on the map were more and more converging on my house! Logical. And ironic. But it reminded me of the politics of mapping, related to possession, control and surveillance. I felt quite worried about that.

    That's my personal reflection (added to some lassitude face to the fashion of sound maps) for staying away from maps at the moment ;)