City in a Soundwalk proposes an augmented experience of the urban soundscape. Begin with the physical practice of the soundwalk. Add personal narrative, a forum for sharing opinion and debate, visual imagery, historical context, socioeconomic background, cultural details, sound recordings, environmental data, maps and more. What emerges is a community gathering place and multi-media accumulation point for sensory immersion in the New York City environment.
So What is a Soundwalk? The soundwalk is a practice of focused listening in which one moves through an environment with complete attention to sound. Any environment, at any time of day or night, can provide space for soundwalking. Sometimes the walks are guided by a written or verbal instruction (a “score”) and sometimes not. The participants may walk blindfolded, or stand still, or move in response to the soundfield. Sometimes the walker activates the soundscape – “playing along” with the sounds – using the voice, musical instruments or objects encountered along the way. On occasion the walks are recorded and other times they are simply free form ambles through sound filled places. The walks are usually followed by an informal conversation about the experience.
There exists a 30-year plus history of soundwalking, particularly among composers who work, either through electronic or acoustic means, with the sounds of natural and built environments. Under the guidance of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, a small group of musicians and activists set forth on the World Soundscape Project (WSP) in the early 1970s in an attempt to document and raise awareness of the world’s acoustic environments. Myriad related projects, recordings and publications arose from this process. Today, the work of the WSP, with it’s legacy of soundwalking, critical documentation and awareness raising, continues to inspire and inform composers, researchers, ecologists and activists across the globe.
About the Artist: City in a Soundwalk was an idea hatched by composer Michelle Nagai at the end of 2005 after participating in a 24-hour migration of dance and sound through the streets of New York City, organized by the choreographer Jennifer Monson.