Sonic Walden

For those seeking their personal Waldens in sound and solitude

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mapping Out Walden

Left: Recent Walden
Right: Thoreau's Map of Walden Pond

Thursday is the day that we present at the NMC Online Conference on Educational Gaming.

We continue to work toward creating a Walden experience - where interactivity, nostalgia, and modernity challenge one's sonic perception. The bits and pieces are out there, but it's our mission to complete the puzzle for the ultimate sonic experience.

Before you record, you should consider what elements you'll need for your server of sonic soup. One way to do so is to organize your thoughts and sounds through mapping. Here's some background - (1) musical sound maps (a theoretical understanding) and/or (2) site specific sound maps (a practical application) - see below projects for ideas:

Berlin Soundscape (Organization Guide - See "Sounds")
University Soundscape
Puget Soundscape (click on map to hear sounds)
f7 Sound ( Check out the section on field recording.

Our Walden project has at least 5 production elements: (1) recording of sounds by project artists, (2) construction of a sound playlist (available via universal server), (3) sound input into server (participants' recordings), (4) manipulation of elements on map routes, and selection/creation of alternate routes, and (5) individual and team scenarios. Completion date is late Summer 2006, with testing in the Fall semester (with SIUC as the sonic hub). The idea is to build a sound archive and partnerhip with several universities....with the concept of Walden being a very open one. See Walden Around The World for a variety of persectives on the concept of Walden outside its physical location.

Sound and Geographic Visualization (J.B. Krygier)
Sound Mapping (For Children, but good starter)
Kids, Noise, and Orchestrating the Soundscape (Gary Ferrington)


Computer Rain (Faster)

Computer Rain again - this time with increased tempo at same speed. The sonic elements in a digital Walden can be manipulated. It's all about mixing and manipulation to achieve the perfect sonic Walden.

Rhythm of the Keyboard 2

Here comes the computer rain. Typing on a computer keyboard creates sounds reminscent of rain for some listeners who hear urbanization and technology in the rural and natural. This sound clip is but one element in our postmodern Walden world - where the nostaglic converges into real time, and car key alarms imitate bird chirps ...and so it goes...and Thoreau's greatest hits randomly play off Ipods.

Winter Walk 1843

I visited the Boston area over Thanksgiving, and had the opportunity to record sound around Walden Pond. About 45 minutes from Boston, Concord had a beautiful dusting of snow on the day after Thanksgiving. No snow in Boston. The crunching of the snow underfoot against a layer of leaves was an extraordinary sonic recording experience. What else would motivate one to tour Walden in late November? Thoreau's Chapters on Sound and Solitude provided the initial spark for my interest in this area. But his Winter Walk (1843) was as relevant on this particular day as it was 162 years ago. I will post my sound recordings (and photos) soon - for now, enjoy a reading of Thoreau's Winter Walk (link on the blog title). Happy Holidays.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Rhythm of the Keyboard

David Harvey (2001) calls attention toward the disappearance of clearly defined urban and rural geographies – physical and social.

Part of Sonic Walden's aim has been to understand how we remember and experience sound. I would like to take a moment to share some findings from my sound survey - 64 participants were asked to select a listening site, and then they described the site and any memories, moods, and thoughts that surfaced during this process. They maintained a journal for 10 days. About half of the students were Internationals and the other half Americans. Surprisingly, the results were about the same. When they were asked to select a listening site for this study, men chose listening spaces with machine sounds and women chose sites that were more people-oriented (perhaps out of convenience, yet the campus is located in a natural setting). Further, participants described natural settings, when directly asked to identify their favorite listening place(s). I have included a couple of journal entries that begin to illustrate how the computer is converging into our natural soundscapes - sounds glide (rather than collide) into one another within the sonic theater of our mind.

"While I was in the computer lab today, I was transported into the woods. As I sat typing, I became aware of the hum that the computers made. This sound remarkably resembled the sound of crickets singing their nightly songs in a rural area. I began to think about fishing at my Grandfather's farm and the sound of wilderness that surrounds the area."

"I heard the sound of my computer, vehicles passing by on this very quiet night. The sound of the vehicles on this empty road reminds me of the place where I came from. There, many street sellers displayed their merchandise with coconut oil lamps. This sound makes me feel peaceful and calm. "

Stay tuned for the next entry - Rhythm of the Keyboard, Part 2 (computer rain).

Gaming in Walden

Join us for an on-line educational gaming conference hosted by the New Media Consortium on December 7 - 8th. I will present with Jonathan Pluskota our latest info regarding our Sonic Walden project on December 8 (1-1:45 pm CT).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Porch 2 - Sonic Utopia?

Welcome to the Front Porch - a listening space within a small community in southern Illinois and framed by the Shawnee National Forest. This rural soundscape is a mix of neighborhood and natural environmental sounds...that means a dash of leaves, wind, dogs, chimes, crickets, cars, whispers, walking, create a unique perspective of Walden. Change around the elements and you get a totally different interpretation. That's the idea! Walden is a personal space. Simply record a variety of sounds and mix and match until you create a sonicgraph of your listening space. Then swap sounds with a friend - and then with other friends - and record in a variety of settings during road trips to morning hikes - and weave your sounds into a sonic utopia. You'll be surprised how certain sounds trigger memories.