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Listening to the

landscapes: soundscapes

Dimitrij Mlekuž
Dept. of archaeology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


‘Visual culture’

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Perception =Direct perception
(Gibson 1979)

Direct in a sense that hearing is not a computational


activity of a mind within a body but an exploratory activity
of an organism with its environment.
Perception begins with the position of the perceiver at the
centre of an ambiental array, which contains higher order
invariant information. Information within the ambiental
array presents affordances to the observer.
Affordances are 'properties of the real environment as directly
perceived by an agent in the context of practical action'.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


To be seen, an object needs to do nothing.Visual
perception depends solely on the reflection of light from
the outer surface of an object and as such implies both
the opacity and inertia of what is seen and the
externality of the perceiver (Ingold 2000, 210). Its
information is passively encoded into ambiental optical
array.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
To be heard an object must actively emit sound. Sound
exists only when being performed. Therefore, what we
hear is always an activity.
Sound is subject to rapid fading: as such, sound creates
both time (when it is performed) and space (where it
fades).
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The soundscape (Murray Schafer 1977)

R. Murray Schafer

An acoustic space is the profile of a sound over a landscape,


the area over which it may be heard before it drops below
ambient level. This edge of audibility is called the acoustic
horizon.
The soundscape is a sonic environment, with emphasis on
the way it is perceived and understood by the listener.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The soundscape (Murray Schafer 1977)

The soundscape is relative to the listener; it surrounds him/


her and moves with him/her as he/she moves. A
soundscape is experienced; it is in a constant process of
construction and stratification by the listener him/herself as
he/she moves across the landscape. Taking a Gibsonian
view, a soundscape is a set of affordances that surround the
listener.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The soundscape (Murray Schafer 1977)

Keynotes are undifferentiated background sounds, in analogy


to music where a keynote identifies the fundamental tonality
of a composition around which the music modulates.

Foreground sounds, sound that are intended to attract


attention, are termed sound signals.

Sounds that are particularly regarded by a community and its


visitors are called soundmarks, in analogy to landmarks.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Social life of sounds:
taskascape (Ingold 1993)

... array of interrelated activities that carry forward


the process of social life.

If a landscape is what we see around us, then a taskscape is


what we hear.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Study area: Polhograjsko hribovje

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The modelling of sound propagation over a landscape is
computationally extremely difficult, as it depends on a range of
variables, which are, at best, ill defined.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


A reconstruction of past sonic environments, a sequence of
sound profiles in a space at a specific moment, is therefore
impossible.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Binary acoustic horizons ...

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... are naive, misleading and false

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The adoption of fuzzy set perspectives promotes a more
holistic view of past phenomena, treating them in terms of a
series of gradual and transitional changes in state. It challenges
the notion that clearly defined categories existed and would
have been recognised as such in the past (Gillings 1998,
130-32).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Fuzzy acoustic horizon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Digital model
of acoustic
space

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Digital model of soundscape

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A digital model of a soundscape is a fuzzy acoustic space from
the perspective of the listener situated in the map and is
represented as a set of fuzzy audibility levels from each sound
source.

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Interpretation of past soundscapes can only be contextual.
Technology, can assist us in the re-creation of past acoustic
spaces, but clearer and better models of past soundscapes can
only be created when our understanding of past social life gets
richer or 'thicker'.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Looking, listening and touching are not separate activities,
they are just different facets of the same activity: that of
engagement with an environment (Ingold 2000, 261).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011