Noise Intercepted – 1st Challenge, The Pulse

I am taking in a project organised by Labspace Studio called Noise Intercepted, a global art project about noise.

Noise Intercepted is a series of ten experience-activated noise challenges that prompt participants to listen, observe and interact with their urban soundscape in new and unlikely ways. The project brings together over 200 collaborators from 28 countries around the globe — artists, sound ecologists, designers, writers, mothers, fathers, educators, filmmakers, administrators, technicians, scientists, students, programmers, health practitioners, and the list goes on.

As part of the project participants are given a weekly task.  The first week’s task is complete.  Entitled “The Pulse” the challenge was;

If your city had a defining sound, a defining pulse, a defining heartbeat, what would it sound like? look like? or feel like? …where would you go to find it? You have 1 week to venture outside and find the pulse of your city.

In response to this I submitted the following work;

The work is an idealized soundscape of rush hour at a busy city intersection. Unfortunately this is an illusion, but we can always dream. The original recordings are from a number of busy locations around the city of Berlin, with the main part from a busy intersection, Kotbusser Tor.

In the past I have studied the sound of a number of cities in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Berlin, Germany. The conclusion I arrived at is that all cities sound the same, more or less. Of course there can be individual features in a city, eg clocks or the transport system. But when I talk about the sound or pulse of a city I mean the everyday sound that people encounter, this is less than unique. Ever since the industrial revolution the din in cities has changed to a “lo-fi” drone, on top of what sits a cacophony composed of cars, trains, construction, and demolition, spitting out its omnipresent song. This is where the power of our own ears has helped us. We are able to filter out a great deal of this disturbance so we can function and communicate amongst this onslaught. This is possibly also why we have let the sound of our cities deteriorate so much, to the point where it can cause physical and emotional, and mental damage. People are now starting to wake up and realise we need to protect our soundscape and treat our most sensitive organ to more pleasant surroundings.

Through using a recorder we can hear the full force of this sonic barrage, minus the filtering carried out by our ears. Using computer processing and filtering I have created an idealised, but not perfect impression of how I wish Berlin could sound. When compared with the original recordings, this work is lighter and more spacious. There is a sense of less physical pressure on the body, leaving more space to think, reflect and breathe.

In 2011 the European Regional Office of the World Health Organisation published a document entitled ‘Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise’. It suggests that there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population. The publication provides an evidence base for the future development of suitable guidelines on noise by WHO. It supports the recommendations as set out in the ‘Night Noise Guidelines for Europe’ publication and supports this view based on a review of evidence based assessments of the impact of noise on health. (The Traffic Noise & Air Quality Unit, 2012)

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