Performing Soundwalks for Journées sonores, canal de Lachine
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.
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