"...the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans a 'Dreaming-tracks' or 'Songlines'; to the Aboriginals as the 'Footprints of the Ancestors' or the 'Way of the Law'.
Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path- birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes- and so singing the world into existence."
Bruce Chatwin - The Songlines

The Challenge

Today audio tends to be a neglected medium, but it hasn't always been that way. In the days before writing, before the eye had achieved its current role as the dominant sensory organ, the world was probably perceived as a very different place. History and other narratives were passed down orally; in the night the ears warned of danger when the eyes were useless.

To cope with the constant barrage of noise in our urban environments, we filter out the soundscape by taking measures ranging from wearing headphones or earplugs to noise abatement legislation. As a result , we have begun to disregard most of the sounds we hear because we have forgotten how to use our ears for receiving information about our environment.

In response, I have produced a series of projects that reflect on the lost art of the ear as a tool for wayfinding.

Forest Hills Sound Map

Forest Hills Sound Map is a screen-based map application containing binaural field recordings made at specific points throughout Forest Hills. As you drag the mouse, you hear the characteristic sound of that location and reveal a satellite image map.

(Geo) Phone Tag

After making the Forest Hills Sound Map, I longed to find an easier method of producing sound maps. Preparation for the field recording was time-consuming. The binaural mics had to be mounted just so; the recording device had to have it's levels and other parameters set. The type of recording that is made after a long preparation is different than one that is made with minimal effort, spontaneously. The former type will probably be of higher quality and perhaps more thought-out, but I found myself wondering what the results would be if the obstacles to recording were diminished. By making it easier to record, it would be easier to encourage and organize others to contribute to a field recording project. What if I created a map and let users add their own geotagged recordings to it?

(Geo) Phone Tag is a participatory sound map that uses the ubiquitous telephone as an input device. Focus is more on vocal recordings, because the telephone is not the best field recorder.

Guided By Voices / Sonic Window

Guided by Voices is an immersive audio installation that features a pair of wireless location-tracking headphones called the Sonic Window. Users explore a soundscape that stays in place as they walk through it. The goal is to renew the participant's awareness of their daily soundscape by placing them in an environment that plays with the origins of sounds and the context in which they are perceived.

Depending on location, the content can be created by the users by leaving messages at locations using a telephone, or by mapping sounds from (Geo) Phone Tag.