A Clear night, a sky full of stars overcome a vast landscape of canyon and red rocks. A dramatic picture to showcase one more concept of soundscapes
For Christian God created the whole world with his words, so with sounds... Credit Carl Jones

Soundscapes. Travelling through the voice of the world

The sound has an undeniable ability to excite, to induce aesthetic situations. A music, a familiar voice, a certain sound like the rustling of the sea or the blowing of a storm, clearly show the potential of the sound to affect, to possess our mind. It is like listening music, we all felt on our self how a tune have consequence in our souls, it is able to evoke happiness, nostalgia, pain, will to dance or to sleep through the simple invisible vibration of the air.

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.

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Gabi

I am Gabi, an itinerant traditional music player and storyteller, founder and content writer of OTW.

20 comments

  • Great way to start this post with the sounds of Amsterdam.. I live here and one of my favorite sounds of the city is in the Rijksmuseum tunnel – biking through there are always musicians playing there because it is acoustically incredible. Nice thoughts to take more time to take it easy and appreciate what is around you!

    • I am glad you liked it. I lived in Amsterdam for one year. Nice memories and amazing sounds, especially during winter when the canals freez and sounds seems to be thiker.

  • I love the way you write … your words are beautiful. Sound is so powerful and can bring out different emotions. I love the sound of the waves – makes me feel really calm. Love the pics in the gallery, especially Milford Sound … so serene and tranquil. Great post!

    • Thanks for your kind words. I lived long by the Atlantic Ocean.,. It is said that life comes from the water. Tears and sweat are water and salt, the amniotic fluid presents the same proportions of minerals as the Ocean water, It looks we still have waves inside us. Myabe that is why the sound of the waves give us a feeling of calm, as the voice of a mother singing a lullaby would do.

  • As I was reading this, I was running through memories of past trips and the sounds I connect to those experiences. The monkey screeches in the Ubud forests, rain drops falling on the temples in Singapore, the ocean crashing along one of the 12 Apostles in Australia. Your post transported me to Amsterdam and whilst I’ve never been, I felt like I was there experiencing what you described.

    • Sounds are like keys unlocking the doors of the memory, words can evoke such sounds and break the time to trasport us far away, and make our souls travelling. You were in Amsterdam, suddenly I was getting wet in Singapore, listening to the rain playing its melody. Thanks for your beautiful comment

  • This is one of the best things I read today!! I could listen to the sounds, see the colours and feel all the aspects of nature the way you described in each word. Love the concept of soundscapes.. Places are more than just landscapes. The pictures are simply stunning! This post is enough to awaken creativity in any writer! Thanks for sharing. I’ve saved it to my favourites. 🙂

  • Your approach to experiencing a city through its sounds is wonderful. The unique notes and melodies associated with every bit of sound charm the mind in ways more than one, beyond bucket-lists and destinations. Looking forward to reading more posts in this genre. Cheers!!

    • No newer when we go, but deeper… It is curious how we focus a lot on sight when, to get a complete understanding of a place, we need all of our senses. Thank you for the nice words, we are still at the beginning and a comment as your is as wind filling a sail, and gives us the will to do better and go farther.

  • Wow, a very interesting piece, it’s quite amazing how describing something can really conjure a sense of what it was like. I love how certain sounds can really bring you back to a memory – the sound of the little river from our last trip to Puglia will forever remind me of that fantastic holiday! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Shannon, thank you for reading! Definitely sounds are an important part of our memory and our identity, and words are a way to break the borders of the reality and go, or come back, to places far away from us.

  • What a great and thoughtful post. I often forget what an integral part sound plays in my travels and memories but its so true.

  • That is so true! Sound has an amazing ability to affect us in so many ways – both good and bad. Memories are connected to sound, and hearing the sound can take you back in an instant. I love the idea of trying to visualize sound, and to create art that way. Great post!

    • Thanks a lot Sandy. This article is an invitation to pay more attention to sounds, and add them into our travel experience. I am glad you liked it and got the message we would deliver to the readers.

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