Pool Arts Quiet Spaces Collage Workshop 19/4/18
The soundscape you are hearing is a recording made during the quiet collage workshop, you can get a better sense of the intimate sounds if you lisen on headphones. The group were not instructed to work in silence, but you can almost hear the concentration and focus of their activity!
What better way to spend a warm spring afternoon than in a cool calm quiet space contemplating and discussing quiet spaces, green spaces, breathing spaces and thinking about how we can represent them with collage. For this workshop we partnered with Pool Arts - an arts organisation with a difference - find out more about their unique and inspiring work here.
We began the session with a slide show to introduce members of Pool Arts to the Mapping Manchester's Quiet Spaces projects - in particular the findings that are emerging from the different workshops and conversations that we are having around the theme of exploring quiet spaces and well-being.
Our discussion touched on what different peoples preferences were regarding noise levels and sounds - as we often find not everyone wants peace and quiet, some people want the buzz of city life and sounds surrounding them connecting them to the vibrancy of the city. One person had moved out of the city recently and shared their feelings of unease when they realised just how quiet it was as night fell, but with time they have become accustomed to the quieter ways of life and now feel the intensity of sound levels of the city when they return. One person felt like they lived in the perfect location with easy access both to the city centre and to the countryside - Macclesfield Forest being one of their favourite places to visit. When asked if they had to make a choice, which would they choose - countryside or city - they answered 'it would have to be the countryside'. One person raised the important question about whether we are just romanticising the countryside and maybe our city sounds are just as valid soundscapes, and why do we love bird song and not love the industrial and technological sounds - is there anything in it or is it just a fashion for nature sounds, or something that we have convinced ourselves of?
I think there is nothing that answers this question better than Murray Schafer's book the Tuning of the World (1977) Schafer and the World Soundscape Project did extensive research - both in-depth research about particular soundscapes and broad cross cultural comparisons of soundscapes and our responses to them. This book catalogues peoples preferences for nature sounds and explores reasons why this may be the case. In particular, nature sounds very rarely reach levels that are unpleasant or dangerous for our hearing or sense organs, whereas so many man-made, industrial and technological sounds constantly emit sounds that are dangerous to our hearing. In addition, Schafer explores the notion of hi-fi and lo-fi sounds where hi-fi describes soundscapes where discrete sounds can be heard because the other ambient sounds are relatively low. So the country is more hi-fi than the city, night time is more hi-fi than the daytime, ancient times more than modern times etc. Lo-fi exists where there is a high density of sounds overlapping such that they merge together to give a continual sound level where perspective and foreground and background is lost. As these conditions are relatively recent we have not evolved to cope with these new sound environments and they may contribute to people feeling disorientated and tired and require us to create our own sounds louder than those around us so that we can still relate to ourselves in space - or indeed to wear headphones and replace one soundscape for another of our choice.