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  • Writer's pictureRae Story

Sound & Feelings in the City

On Tuesday 13th February 2018 a group made up of participants from TLC St Lukes and Manchester Community Qigong Group walked from a meeting place in front of Sainsburys corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street along the canal to Castlefiend and over onto the Bridgewater Canal. You can hear our sound recordings of the walk on the LISTEN page of this website.

The objective of the walk was to explore the sounds we could hear in different parts of this walk and also how we felt as moved through these different sound spaces. In each place that we stopped to listen and record the sounds and our feelings we jotted them down in our folded beak book. These recordings then informed our discssions at the end of the walk and Nigel took them with him to use as the basis of the poetry class that evening back at St Lukes.

First - the weather report... It was a freezing cold day and had been raining all morning so we were a slightly smaller group than we had hoped, but the rain stopped as we began the walk and the sun gradually pushed through the clouds and turned into a glorious sunny afternoon - but remained icy cold througout... Eight of us in total braved the elements and took part in this process.

You can see the images of this walk here - many thanks to Dominique Tessier for following our footsteps, crossing bridges and documenting this collaboration.

Our findings make for interesting contemplation, You can see an image of the main findings below, The sound walk itself was conducted in silence, this is to help focus our attention to being receptive to the sounds and not to interupt that process with conversation/other people's experiences or being distracted. So it was very interesting just how much overlap there was in the findings. Not surprisingly people heard similar sounds, although how people desrcibed and recording the sounds, the words they chose differed, but the similarity of feelings that emerged was surprising. You can see from the table below, that only one place that we stopped to sound sample produced mostly positive feelings - and that was Catalan Square in the centre of Castlefield. It seems as the 'city sounds' of traffic, construction, a range of human and man-made sounds fade a little people feel a little more comfortable. When we are right in the middle of that noise it can feel overwhelming and uncomfortable. But when the same sounds recede even a little and we can hear other sounds - including sounds of birds, footsteps, breathing etc we feel easier and less suffocated. These points came out further in our discussion. For some people in the group, whilst the sounds were intense and a bit loud, they also felt safe in the hustle and bustle of the city and felt more vulnerable as we walked along the canal and several people in different people referred to feeling 'exposed'. Another interesting finding that people agreed upon in the discussion was about feeling discomfort when the city sounds were behind them, in particular as we had asked people to focus on listening not on looking, this awarness of loud sounds without being able to check visually seemed to create a feeling of not being safe.

For lots of people in the group, this was their first time on a sound walk and they found the experience changed their perception of and experience in the city. Some people found that these exercises gave them a sense of connectivity to place, and other people reported noticing so much more than usual. Dominique also commented on how as she was taking photographs she was noticing the sounds associated with the image as much as the image itself, for instance the sound of the water as she photographed the water. Active listening in this way can embelish and enrich our sensorial experiences and enhance our awareness.

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