Surprised with my resistance to Jessica Barnes’ artist statement, which I read after exploring her soundmap for quite some time. I didn’t appreciate being told what my experience was. I didn’t appreciate being told what “the user learns.” And I want to say that as a user I never learned “to use the space heuristically.” Perhaps I just used the space heuristically because that’s what we do with designed spaces. Humans are “form seeking animals,” as Berthoff likes to say. My experience with Barnes’ art space/soundscape enacts this for me. I found myself noticing patterns, rhythms in this case, stacking sounds in different patterns to satisfy a layering that felt fitted. The visuals, interestingly, enhanced in their spareness; I barely noticed them. Rather I noticed a genre–a kind of steampunk tonality to the textures and visuals.
I appreciated the notion of the site as “designed space” that “invites” people to create their own compositions. Narrative, though, is a stretch. I resist the notion that I “read” this space, or that I “wrote” it. What I did was closer to music than narrative. It’s result was much more abstract and impressionistic, the conclusions I drew from the experience less about drama and more about nature, human nature in terms of making meaning and responding to stimuli. Perhaps Barnes, in her artist statement, wants people to associate sounds with their real-world sources, but that was not my experience; I heard them as I heard them, without automatically fixing them to a perceived source; I didn’t need the source and found the list of names in the statement distracting. I suppose, though, if you need to associate with a source you’re likely more inclined towards designing a “narrative” with the sounds.
My experience of the nature soundmap was similar; looooved the listening, hated the alpha-linguistic descriptions on the interface of the experiences. I really didn’t want to be told what I would be listening to, especially the flowery language: “Bumblebees are buzzing, and the warm air is full of birdsong” (Andalucian Dawn). Also, after last week’s class I can really hear the condensed, tinny, e-strain of the sound. Having spent much time in nature, the volume of the experience in sound just isn’t captured here.
I’m learning, as I read through this material, how much I appreciate simplicity when it comes to sounds and sound projects, like soundmaps. I appreciated in Waldock’s article, the “Basque country map’s simple aims.” And I also appreciate Waldock’s questioning of the nature of “open access” and equalizing power of soundscapes and sound maps. I found interesting, while reading this piece, the parallel I felt between a theorized over-appreciation of rural soundscapes and demonized urban soundscape; I noticed how much I experience urban sounds in an e-strained way. The sounds feel filtered, smaller, as if happening in a dome. Perhaps that’s my imagination shaping perception. So while I acknowledge the likelihood of a kind of “aesthetic moralism,” it’s hard for me to believe there isn’t scientific evidence (psychology, physiology) to demonstrate the real negative effects of urban sound on bodies/societies and the real positive effects of non-urban sound on those bodies. I found interesting, too, Waldock’s ultimate call for the necessity of alpha-linguistic messages from the contributors in order to create a consciousness regarding the subjective nature of the recordings. This, coupled with my apparent annoyance with the word/written descriptions, appears to me like a clash between academics and experience and lends Waldock’s work a sense of the kind of political correctness many spurn.