April 8 2022
Soundwalk with Samuel Thulin
Led by Samuel Thulin, our soundwalk began on a calm wet day outside of Lionel-Groulx metro. At the intersection of three different neighbourhoods (Little Burgundy, Pointe-St. Charles, and St. Henri) this soundwalk led us through each of the areas unique characteristics. We first began by convening, and Sam provided us with a brief yet succinct history of the area, which informed the soundwalk we were about to engage on. Sam had lived in this area for quite a number of years and has witnessed its recent gentrification. Sam explained the different modes of listening to us based on Andra MacCartney's guidance. His first soundwalk was with her in this same area.
In a small group of no more then 10 people, the walk was intimate. Having just rained the night before, one could hear that the streets were a little less busy then usual as much of the sound of the traffic was dampened. We began our walk by heading towards Atwater market through the streets of Little Burgundy. The change from being next to the busy Atwater street then being in the market was noticeable, as the noise of the traffic died away more subtle sounds came to the foreground. A church bell rang in the distance and birds of all kinds were returning to the city after a cold winter.
We moved alongside the market towards the canal. The noise of the city had become a distant ambience and the playful chirping of the birds caught our focus. Moving along the canal was a peaceful experience in such a busy time of the year. The whole walk was done in silence in order to appreciate this tranquility. We continued walking, passing under a bridge with the sounds of cars passing over head. We then passed back over the canal and into the city.
Our minds felt cleansed as we reentered the city. We felt reattuned and more focused as we all agreed in discussion after the soundwalk ended. We made our way back through the city streets towards our meeting location at Lionel-Groulx metro. Here, refreshed and reawakened, we engaged on a 20-minute long conversation about what we had heard, experienced, and learned about the neighbourhood.
After our discussion we made our way back to Concordia's downtown campus for a panel discussion. The moderator for this discussion was Amanda Gutierrez, and our panel included discussions from Jacek Smolicki, Viv Corringham, and Elena Biserna. The diversity and thoughtfulness of these panelists led to deep philosophical questions and discussions.
Jacek Smolicki discussed his work on Unsounding: Rethinking Soundwalking and Field Recording Practices from the perspective of media arts, environmental humanities, and philosophy of technology. He presented the concept of transversal listening, whereby one is listening not only as an act of being present in the moment, but rather building awareness on the past and future. His soundwalk practice considers the present as a result of multiple forces acting in the past which shape the present, and reverberate into the future. Transversal listening can be a technique for finding connections and associations between these temporal layers, a form of careful navigation through their echoes.
This practice centers not only on being in the moment, but building awareness of spatio-temporal layers. Smolicki went on to discuss his work in the Walking Festival of Sound, a transdisciplinary event which explores the role of walking with and listening to our everyday sounds. The 2022 Walking Festival of Sound will seek to expand on the spatio-temporal by hosting and connecting events between Seoul and Vancouver.
Next was a wonderful presentation from Viv Corringham, a teacher of Pauline Oliveros' Deep Listening practice. Corringham presented her years of work and the methods she has used to adapt to soundwalking during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping to the belief that listening is the basis of working with sound. She discussed her various projects, from her first soundwalks when she would wander the streets of London and respond to sounds with vocalizations of her own, to the Urban Songpaths project where she would walk the same path 30-40 times to truly embody the route.
Her most recent works include shadow walks, a work made in a place, presented in that place. COVID Variations was an extension of this project-shadow walks done at home, over Zoom. She expanded on this in Full of Noises, a self-guided soundwalk which uses an iPhone to guide the listener. Her work now focuses on dislocated soundwalks, asking us to think about where we really are when we walk, and what are we listening for.
Our last presenter, Elena Biserna, addressed the topic of gender while walking. Spaces can sound different depending on who you are and what you are listening to, and this is something Biserna's work is all too aware of. This is why she promotes soundwalking as a feminist. Walking is a way of establishing a relationship with a space, to experience an embodiment in the world. Soundwalking is a tactic of re-appropriation of urban spaces, it is an emancipatory practice.
Patriarchy is embedded in urban design, creating geographies of fear based in time and space. However, urban spaces should be grounded on an understanding of race, gender, and intersection and should be reclaimed. This led Biserna to her work on The Resounding Flaneuse (2018).
As one can imagine, these discussions on soundwalking around time and space, appropriating and adapting to the urban environments, led these panelists to a lively discussion, which you can see in the recording below.