João Castro Pinto (PT) | TEJO soundwalk | RIVERSSSOUNDS
June 2021 resident
Tejo river in Lisboa (Portugal)
“According to Hildegard Westerkamp, a soundwalk is “a listening exercise that helps us become aware of our immediate acoustic environment. It is also about the aesthetic pleasures of listening. Listening to sounds we might otherwise have missed; listening to the rhythm of sounds [...]”
Soundwalking is a sonic practice that consists in developing the skill of listening (and eventually sound making), by focusing into the diversity and richness of the soundscapes. Soundwalking is, therefore, a methodology of consciously engaging with the soundscape, an attempt to direct the aural perception towards the intricate dynamic elements of our sonic environment. In this sense, it is common to employ this methodology as the first stage of a soundscape composition, i.e., the composer sets on a sonic journey through specific locations, directing his perception to the sonorous complexities, by performing an analytic listening and mapping his impressions of the soundscape, with the eventual intention of capturing its sounds at a later stage. In consequence, soundwalking is frequently thought of as practice that doesn’t necessarily imply recording sounds in a first instance, but freely roaming to perceive them, without the cumbersome and extraneous constraints of recording sounds. To me, soundwalking is more about being present in the moment at a determined location, totally committed with the task of listening, in order to unveil the intricacies and potentialities of the soundscape. One can always verbally document, in loco, his impressions through audio recordings, while capturing a sonic sketch of what one is listening, and that could be useful if listened afterwards by people who are interested in knowing more about environmental sounds in context or in how to develop sonic acuity. But this pedagogical aspect, many times allied to acoustic ecology / environmental approaches, is not that enticing to me, particularly, as a composer.
For this Riversssounds residency task I composed a sonic itinerary, with no linear path, and without the usual and common descriptive vocal aspect, i.e., without any reference or listening guidance. To accomplish this task, I composed a short piece, favoring a phonographic approach, without any sound processing (except mild equalization, panning + a touch of reverb), that segregated and mixed several locations, “depicting” interspersed multiple scales of Tejo river’s sonic diversity. The listener’s associations will be, thus, uncontaminated by a descriptive and subjective point of view, being free from my impressions of the acoustic spaces and the events / activities that took place when I registered them. The descriptions of the acoustic spaces can result, to some extent, as a disruption or imposition upon sonic perception, or at least they can represent strong constraints to a “virgin” personal confrontation with the soundscape. By describing and contextualizing the sound elements / events of a recorded soundwalk, as one grasps while listening to Hildegard Westerkamp’s pioneering piece “Kits Beach Soundwalk” (1989), one is in fact, in a certain way, also inhibiting the listener to ascribe his own meaning to what he is, in fact, listening to.
Therefore, and in conclusion, I am not interested in guiding listeners or defining acoustic spaces with this Riversssounds residency task, I am focused in prompting the listeners to find their own clues and sonic associations about the recorded acoustic spaces.”
Please use headphones for the best experience.
RIVERSSSOUNDS is a platform for virtual sonic experiences and an online residency program.
RIVERSSSOUNDS is organized by DZESTRA (Chernivtsi, UA) in partnership with SEMI SILENT / Asociaţia Jumătatea plină (Bucharest, RO) and supported by the EU under the House of Europe programme.