I’m listening to this programme on this sunny afternoon as I work in my turret in Leicester – and thinking about place. (More interesting stuff about memory, place and sound from this brilliant man, Chris Watson, sound recordist here)
I’ve just finished a research proposal assignment for the Research Design and Practice module I took last semester – and it’s forced me to really think about:
a) what am I actually doing this research on?
b) what will it look like?
Although there is still much work (and reading, yes there is that) to be done, and although I need to maintain flexibility and fluidity in this process if things don’t work or things fall through, there is always a need to be able to adapt to change, but as I’ve thought about the design of this project, the themes, ideas and connections explored within this short piece, I’ve become more and more drawn to the ways in which place-making practices through everyday participation change across first and second / third generation immigrant groups in Glasgow.
In the second thing I linked to at the top, we hear an interview with Chris Watson in which he muses on the relationship between sound, memory and place. Thinking about whether the memory of place can be attached to the fabric environment, he talks about intangible ‘atmospheres’ of place. He describes a trip to Venezuela, in which he talks to Wahiro indians about places they regard as special – discovering through this trip and many travels through recording wildlife sounds – the connections that people have universally to landscapes, often, he argues, represented by the acoustics of a place.
Each person’s soundscape of place will be informed by the places they go, the activities they partake in, the languages they speak, their embodied experience of being in place, and the privileging of sight over every other sense means that these soundscapes which illustrate our existence are mostly overlooked, and rarely consciously thought about. Watson advocates more careful listening, so that we can build a picture of the environment we live in, be more aware of the sounds that swirl around our heads, what sounds get swept away beneath the traffic and chatter. Indeed, paying attention is one of the New Economic Foundations’ 5 Ways to Wellbeing.
Reflecting my thoughts about interpretation, representation and presenting information to a variety of audiences, as I’m eating lunch Watson stops me in my tracks as I listen saying:
“in order to get people to listen and engage with it, it needs to presented properly…if you want people to listen to it…you need to present it properly, and then people get it. You don’t need any great artistic justification” Chris Watson
Prior to this, I thought I should probably engage in a bit of place-based play myself, in advance of more in-depth methodological experimentation, with fellow researchers and participants in the project itself.
So I pulled out a map of Bradford and Leeds that I’d bought just before christmas in my local brilliant Age Uk charity bookshop / cafe that is filled to the rafters with gems of all genres.