First Thoughts on Digital Soundmap Project

So far I’ve had a very similar experience recording sounds these last few days as I had while taking classes with other acoustic projects. In a journalism class I took during my junior year I was often required to record sounds around campus, whether they were specific to an interview or simply the natural and man-made sounds of Champaign-Urbana. Both then and now I find that sounds tend to vary quite a bit depending on where you are around town. Typically, I work roughly between Grainger Library and First Street, never heading above Springfield or passing below Gregory. I find that if I’m recording in Champaign, I can get all the sounds I need in this general area. Some places I’ve found to be a little more natural and peaceful, while moving closer to Green Street I find myself coming closer to a lot more invasive noises. After doing the readings, I found that I could apply some of the tactics that the authors discussed. One I found particularly interesting was that of the soundwalk in the article by Hildegard Westerkamp. As I’ve been moving about campus between classes or heading to the library, I’ve ditched the music and the headphones and just listened to the world around me. According to Westerkamp, soundwalking “reveals the environment to the listener and opens inner space for noticing” (Westerkamp 1). After reading her article I imagined that there is a lot of background noise that probably goes unnoticed when I’m moving around campus from one place to another, but it wasn’t until I actually made an effort to focus less on the visual aspects of my journey and more on what was audible that I understood what she meant by “inner space for noticing.” As I began to record sound I had another takeaway from an article that I hadn’t really thought about going into the project. “Moving the microphone while recording profoundly affects the listener’s relationship to the recording” (Quite American) was the line that stuck with me as I began my work. If I found myself moving around with the recording turned on, perhaps walking down the sidewalk or in and out of buildings, I noticed another dimension added to the sound bite. By moving around the sound levels fluctuated and the noises were continually replaced by one another. These two facets of my experience thus far have been the most interesting and engaging parts of the project. While I expected to enjoy going about and capturing sounds that might pass me by under normal circumstances, I didn’t expect to discover how engaging these listening activities could be. Since I’ve done similar projects to this, there isn’t much I’ve learned in the last few days about C-U sonically. However, I am discovering the breadth of different locations to go for recordings around campus. Since my recording thus far might not match up to the theme or group tries to illustrate, I might not use all of these recordings I’ve recently gathered. But in any case, it’s been a lot of fun going deeper into a multimedia project beyond just a handful of sound bites with an interview subject.


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