Sonic Geography is a process of reinterpreting place by drawing connections between location, imagination and performance. From traversing and documenting the sonic properties of a landscape to creating abstract soundwalks and maps where significant objects warp the surrounding environment.
The practice of Sonic Geography involves environmental awareness, deep listening skills and mindfulness techniques that can be applied in an artistic medium or as a device to draw information applicable to the understanding of urban spaces and there development.
Sonic Geography has been an active practice for me since 2010 where I began noticing and mapping interesting sonic areas in the town of Bath, UK. The initial inspiration was an eerie and drone like ventilation fan, heavily reverberating around the bathroom of a local bar – this sound resonated with me on a number of levels and the resulting map of the city focuses on locations of similar sonic and emotional resonance; the sound of the night train to Bristol, the white noise produced by Bath’s famous weir, the hum of bicycles traveling at speed through the Two Tunnels cycle path.
These often-overlooked sounds began to take on a specific weight, creating a series of sonic pathways through the city in a form of sound based cartography, the projection is warped by personal emotional and sonic resonance rather than the earth’s curvature.
I began to formalize this process in 2013 when I recorded and composed Inverness to Edinburgh: Sonic Memories and Geographies
“Inverness to Edinburgh – Sonic Memories and Geographies is a series of recordings taken on a 200 mile journey by bike across Scotland, traveling over hills and wild camping. The real and imaginary space of the recordings is explored through presenting the original unaltered field recordings (Geographies) combined with sound compositions based on imagination and memory (Memories).”
I continued to refine and develop my practice as a Sonic Geographer embarking on an ambitious project to map the North American continent through sound.
“North American Sound Diaries is a project that explores the North American continent through a series of sound documentaries, field recordings and electroacoustic compositions taken from my travels around the North American continent. The resulting works look at echoic memory and abstractions from place creating a psychogeographical map based on my experiences and interactions with each place.”
During this process I have had the chance to develop my listening skills through Deep Listening workshops with Pauline Oliveros, engaging with practitioners of acoustic ecology and psychogeography and creating exercises and soundwalks to engage and develop my own listening practice.
Currently I am developing a performance system that allows me to move through and manipulate sound in the form of a sonic map. I began developing the software called Ven_d in early 2015 to perform variations of my Inverness to Edinburgh work in live settings – the map based performance concept proved to be very effective and I have continually developed and performed using Ven_d since these first performances. The current developments I plan are to create physical methods of controlling Ven_d using controllers in the form of maps. The idea is to create a live form of Sonic Cartography where I draw lines and connections creating map based forms, used to move through, trigger and manipulate a location based sound in a performance setting,
My most recent Sonic Geography work is a 2016 audio-visual piece Black Sands compiled from footage and audio recorded in Iceland.