A bike whirring, the soft steps of a couple as they stroll, the wind through the branches of a tree. The sounds drift away, like little silver pearls, they roll on the water of the canals: the night is playing Amsterdam as if the city were an instrument… the melody are soundscapes
We each have a voice, and its tone, its melody is our own mirrored against a surface of sounds, it forms a recognizable element of our identity. Places, too, have their own identity and they have their own voice, their own sound, their own soundscape. Just as we can understand a person by listening to them, we can understand a place by listening to its sounds. Far from being a mere physical element, soundscapes belong to the system of relations between man and environment. The life of our society produces a series of sounds that affect the environment and, conversely, soundscapes also affect us.
Sound has an undeniable ability to excite, to induce aesthetic situations. A piece of music, a familiar voice, a certain sound like the rustling of the sea or the blowing wind of a storm, clearly shows the potential of sound to affect, to possess our mind. When we listen to music we experience within ourselves how a tune has consequences in our souls, it is able to evoke happiness, nostalgia, pain, the will to dance or to sleep, through the simple, invisible vibration of the air. Soundscapes have the same power, the same strength.
The complexity of the information transmitted by soundscapes turn them into a full space of activity, of movement. The sounds of nature tell us about the phenomena that are happening around us, those produced by men inform us of their presence and their corresponding activities, in the countryside, in the city, or at home. The sounds produced by any activity fill the space and allow man to integrate into it. Within this flow of the sounds of everyday events, to which we often barely pay conscious attention, some elements are differentiated by a special quality that man has selected after a long and complex process of purification through evolutionary development and adaptation to the environment, reaching a full “fan” of signifiers: natural sounds that are universally associated with feelings of calm and beauty — water (sea, waterfalls, rain …), wind, birds — or other sounds linked to different activities or cultures — the sound of bells, port sirens, hunting horns — all come to acquire a symbolic value that goes beyond physical properties, indicating tranquility, beauty, safety, wellness. All this information and emotion is often lost, at least at a conscious level, due to a lack of sensitivity and education for listening, which affects our understanding of both ourselves and the place which we are travelling or living. It is curious that we pay more attention to a road sign than to soundscapes, like the world was deaf and mute, as if the world itself existed only for sight.
Walk, sit, listen to, and travel through the vibration of the world that takes the shape of sounds and music in your mind. Notice how sounds move, how your clapping or your voice react when you release them into the air, linking the sound to the people and your mood. Look for the correspondences between the people around and the soundscapes: listen to the voice of the places.
In our life and travels, places are more than just a stage or a background, they have an active role in shaping our days, and they are made of a complex relation and interaction of human and natural elements. They are made of colors, smells, geometry, people, cultures, and, not least, soundscapes.
In the following gallery we showcase the work of different artists who have been inspired by sounds.