What Makes Up the Environment Around Us?

What makes up the environment around us?

Everyone has a unique memory for each specific place. They could be from the train passing by our homes, dog shouting from neighbours or baby crying from little brother. More or less, we feel a place through sound, so we do to memory it. Comparing with vision, although, sound is more likely to be ignored, it is still typical feature in our surroundings. The human realised it in early 1970s when R . Murray Schafer founded a group named ‘The World Soundscape Project’. Afterward, a new word ‘soundscape’ was created and studied as a subject. Acoustic ecology and sonic sociology were later established as well based on soundscape to discuss and research the interactivity between live beings and sound. Fundamentally, there are more than one element that decides our impression about soundscape, just like the three elements – timbre, value and pitch – in general sound. I am thinking of the possibility of tracking the soundscape of individual in daily life as my project, which will try to find a way to approach and collect everyone`s soundscape through a interactive installation [or mobile app], building them into a unique ‘song’. By making such a kind of song, the purpose of this project, is to build a sound memory palace to storage, remind and share our soundscape, finding a multiple way to feel environment.


‘Soundscape’ is a word that made up of ‘sound’ and ‘scape’, just like its meaning. In early 1970s, a Canadian composer named R. Murray Schafer founded a group ‘The World Soundscape Project’ aimed to describe noise contamination in the very beginning. However, after analysing sound, Schafer and his group found that sometimes the sound from environment could be positive, such as nature sound and culture sound. He started to named this kind of sound with ‘the music of environment’ (1973) and published the book ‘The Vancouver Soundscape’. Two years later, Schafer established a research towards five villages in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and the Soviet Union, and wrote a very important book in soundscape named ‘Five Village’(1977). He stated that soundscape could include more than natural sound and artifactual sound, which is memory. According to Southworth(1969), we usually recognise and feel a city mainly through vision. However, Schafer argued that if we could also feel and memory a place through sound, including memory sound, culture sound and society sound, we would get a more impressive and multiple feeling about environment.

Acoustic Ecology

The development of acoustic ecology is strongly relative with Murray Schafer and The World Soundscape Project. More and more researchers and artists around world have paid attention on it since this group was established in Vancouver. Shortly after, it became an international group. Sonic sociology and radio art caused the public attention on soundscape. Actually, soundscape has greatly developed in different fields.

It seems quite often when we shot life or scene with camera. If we regard photography as landscape, we could call environmental sound as soundscape. Acoustic ecology, based on soundscape, is a subject that explore interactivity between live beings and environment/society. When we feel the sound surrounding us proactively, the sound would connect to us.

In most of sound panels and conference, acoustic ecology has become a transboundary topic, which has applied by sound aesthetics, neuroscience and narrative design. More than just preventing noise contamination, people have started to consider relationship between soundscape and local live beings.

Pioneer of Environment Sound Art

John Cage, one of the pioneer in experimental musician, has raised a lot of concept for experimental music. In his work ‘ 0’0” ’, Cage commented, as cited by Kostelanetz (1988), ‘music  is nothing but the continuation of one’s daily work, whatever it is, providing it’s not selfish, but is the fulfillment of an obligation to other people, done with contact microphones, without any notion of concert or theater or the public, but simply continuing one’s daily work, now coming out through loudspeakers.’ This is to say, there are two key elements in experimental music: a sequence of movement/work; amplified[ come out through loudspeakers ]. Knocking the table, applauding or even shouting can be part of a sequence of movement, if you amplify them with a certain method, it can be music.

Thus we can know that everything could be musical instrument and everyone is potential musician. The variety of music depends on the moment we play it. The point is, therefore, order is simple but imagination is limitless. According to John Cage, Intermedium is even more meaningful than music itself, because intermedium decides timbre.

Some Relative Projects

– soundscape from places

Sander Sneek < Soundscape VR >

Steve Symons < Aura > – detect the stuff that forms around you with sound

What Makes Up the Environment Around Us?


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