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Performing Soundwalks for Journées sonores, canal de Lachine

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Journées sonores, canal de Lachine is a project that focuses on listening to an urban environment over time. The term journée in French implies both a journey and a session or outing, a time set apart to explore something – it is possible to speak of journées d'étude, study sessions, or une journée, a day's journey. The term Journées sonores, then, focuses attention on the act of listening to surrounding sounds – those that often remain unnoticed in a busy urban environment. Since 1999, a group of communications researchers in Montréal has been doing soundwalks in the vicinity of the Lachine canal, a former industrial waterway that was closed to boating traffic in the 1960s, and was later developed as a linear park with bicycle and walking paths. In 2001, the canal was re-opened to pleasure boating traffic. The area hosts over a million recreational visitors each year. Factories around the canal are being demolished or gutted and replaced with condominium developments boasting water views. Traces of the transition from industrial to residential use are evident through ubiquitous construction noise. The area is also an important transit line, with the constant drone of autoroutes and the sporadic metal shrieks of trains bordering the park. Each of the researchers did soundwalks in a defined area on a regular basis over the four-year period. Soundwalking is an artistic practice, a type of soundscape research and composition, associated with the field of acoustic ecology. Soundscape composition, a term credited to Canadian researcher and composer R. Murray Schafer, is based on the idea of a soundscape or environment of sound. Recording equipment makes any sound in the world into potential musical material: it can be isolated from its context and treated as a sound object, as in musique concrète, or the interplay of recognisable sounds within a specific environmental context can be the focus of attention. Schafer's statement points out the importance of context in soundscape composition. This focus on the relationship between listener and sound environment was later formalised through the use of the term acoustic ecology, which is taken to mean the study of relationships between living organisms and their sonic environment.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Performing Nature
    The essays in this volume explore the borderland between ecology and the arts. Informed by psychoanalysis and cultural materialism, contributors to the first part, 'Spectacle: Landscape and Subjectivity', look at ways in which particular social and scientific experiments, theatre and film productions and photography either reinforce or contest our ideas about nature and human-human or human-animal relations and identities. The second part, 'World: Hermeneutic Language and Social Ecology', investigates political protest, social practice art, acoustic ecology, dance theatre, family therapy and ritual in terms of social philosophy. Contributors to the third part, 'Environment: Immersiveness and Interactivity', explore architecture and sculpture, site-specific and mediatised dance and paratheatre through radical theories of urban and virtual space and time, or else phenomenological philosophy. The final part, 'Void: Death, Life and the Sublime', indicates the possibilities in dance, architecture and animal behaviour of a shift to an existential ontology in which nature has 'the capacity to perform itself'.
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