Soundscape Mapping Project

Count sheet

Human → H

Technological → T

Motorized → M

Nature → N

Animal → A

  1. Rain – N
  2. People talking – H
  3. People laughing – H
  4. Cafe door squeak – T
  5. People walk by – H
  6. Skateboarder passed me – H,T
  7. Cafe-Bakery’s paper bags in people’s hands – H,T
  8. Homeless man’s cart – H,T
  9. Restaurant’s music – T
  10. Opening umbrella – H,T
  11. Bicycle passed me – H,T
  12. Family coming down restaurant stairs with stroller – H,T
  13. Lighter – H,T
  14. Cars passing in a rainy street – M,N
  15. Hiss of buses – T
  16. Cars [in the street] behind me go slow – cars [in the street] that I face go fast – M
  17. Scream of a car making a turn in intersection – T
  18. Playing piano (2 people) – H,T
    1. First removed the plastic cover – H,T
    2. Also talked and laughed – H
  19. People in cafe’s patio lowered their voice to hear the music – or seemed so to me because I saw them looking at the piano player? – H
  20. When cafe door opens, music inside – T
  21. Humm of lights – from shops around me – T
  22. Another humm – could not locate source – T
  23. Another bicycle – had a terr terr sound attached – T,H
  24. Dog bark – A
  25. Plastic bag – man passed me – H,T
  26. Plane – couldn’t locate but seemed behind me – T,M
  27. Plastic bags in lots of ppl’s hands at once – I noticed this at this second because I saw it or it was accidental? – H,T
  28. Jiggle of key or something when a woman walked – H,T
  29. Luggage on asphalt – H,T
  30. After it passed me, heard a ringing sound from its wheels – H,T
  31. Coughing – H
  32. Lamborghini accelerated – M,T
  33. High heel – H,T
  34. Sneezing – H
  35. Plane again – doubted if it’s thunder – T or N?
  36. Bus warning ring – T
  37. Music from homeless man’s cart – I just heard it, very strange – T
  38. Truck parked in the back alley – M,T
  39. Whistle to call a dog – H
  40. Cars on red light – cars on green light – just noticed a rhythm! – M,N
  41. Dog coughing – A
  42. Ambulance distance – T
  43. A group of ppl in cafe patio suddenly laughed and clapped – H
  44. Someone with broken leg – uneven walk – H
  45. Lots of ppl coming out of restaurant made noises on the stairs – scratch umbrella against stairs – H,T
  46. A minor crash – wow right? – T
  47. A whistle sound from the intersection – but couldn’t understand from what – ?
  48. Truck going reverse alarm – T
  49. Newspaper on tables just in front of me – T?
  50. Different bicycle – T,H
  51. Sound of a leather coat [sleeves rubbing against body] woman was wearing when she passed me – T,H
  52. Crows playing with newspapers on the table – their wings as well – A,T
  53. Stroller – T,H
  54. Man on electric wheelchair passed – T,H
  55. Locking bicycle – T,H
  56. Wind moved a batch of leafs – N

Sound Map

Exact location of my ears on Google Maps

Bute-Robson Public Plaza

IMG_3089

Homeless man and his cart…

IMG_3075

Footage of the Plaza

The Sound Map

Sound Map

Symbols used in Sound Map

Symbols

How does a Public Plaza sound like?

The location I picked for this soundscape is a block of Bute street between Robson and Haro called Bute-Robson Trial Plaza. As described on the City of Vancouver website “[t]his car-free space is for sitting, socializing, relaxing, and holding small events”.(City of Vancouver, 2017) Several cafes and restaurants are located in this single block. One of them is a 24-hour cafe, which is among the very few ones in the City of Vancouver. Huge cement vases block the streets from both sides and in between, a few tables and chairs, some benches with overhead umbrella, a piano, and a Mobi bike share station are placed. I believe the soundscape captured in this area was as unique as presence of a public plaza in the City of Vancouver.

The soundscape produced here was a lo-fi one, like most of urban soundscapes. This led to my failure in locating source of a few sounds, or the identity of another few. For instance, I clearly heard an ambulance sound and sound of a Lamborghini accelerating. However, I was unable to estimate from which direction I heard them. Also, when I heard what I perceived to be sound of a plane taking off, I could not locate its relative location and path. I had doubts which sound is the original one and which one is just a reflection. For a moment, I felt like this plane departure sound comes from everywhere. I even thought I might be hearing a thunder. Furthermore, there was one high pitch and loud whistle-like sound that lasted for a few seconds and it was not far from me. Yet, I could not classify it.

I was delighted after hearing some of the sounds mentioned above. For instance, when after sitting in the same spot for half an hour, I finally distinguished the music coming out of a music player in a homeless man’s cart. Although the cart was relatively close to me, music player had a low volume. Another unexpected sound was produced by a car crash, a minor one fortunately. It lasted for less then a second, maybe 3 seconds with all the associated sounds like honking. It happened far from me and therefore it was not loud. Furthermore, when I saw a few crows playing with newspapers just a few meters away from me, It seemed very strange and astonishing. When analyzing the list, I realized it was the only mixture of animal and technological tone present in my list. It lasted for only a few seconds and had a low volume.

I could hear the lit engine of a truck, parked only a few meters away from me for a few minutes. Although it produced almost a rhythmic sound, my reaction was to walk away to a quieter space. I sat on a bench half a block aside and as I was classifying it as the most unpleasant part of my experiment, a woman wearing leather coat passed me. It was interesting, because it was not a technological sound, yet it was closely associated with an urban lifestyle. The last sound I heard during my listening time, was from a batch of leafs carried out by wind. Very low volume and very short. However, it was the only natural sound I could hear other than sound of rain.

Most of the sounds listed in my count sheet lasted for a few seconds. Long enough to distinguish them, yet not so long to tune them out. However, some tones lasted for the entire time I was on location. Among those, were humm of lights of the shops, as well as another humm which I could not determine its source. The astounding fact is, in this particular spot, the sound of people talking did not terminate even for one second. Although it was not distant from me and had a medium volume, I believe I tuned it out several times. Therefore, I believe it can be conceived as the background sound for this environment. The music coming out of a few different sources also lasted for the entire time.

On the other hand, some tones were so short it made me feel lucky that I was able capture them. For instance, sound of a lighter a young man used to light his cigarette, half a block away from me. However, what I believe is more important than little duration that can lead to missing out a sound, is the similarity to ambiance. For instance, I observed a man that his broken leg have caused him to walk unevenly and thus produce a unique rhythmic sound. When he passed by, I could have easily missed it. It had low pitch, was in the background, had low volume, and was repetitive. Therefore, it was very likely that I just grasp it as one of the noises produced in the environment. It also made me think how our visual sense makes it possible to recognize many sounds that otherwise even if we heard them, would be impossible to identify.

When trying to reimagine how our visual and aural senses are related, I recalled how during the soundscape I suddenly noticed plastic bags in everyone’s hands and began to hear the noise made by them. And I also recalled I could not remember even at that moment which came first, hearing or seeing.

20 out of 55 sounds I captured are generated by humans and are also associated with a technology. This drew my attention as I believe it depicts the fact that humans and technology are the primary agents in urban societies.

The most valuable part of this soundscape for me was when I could capture presence of a homeless man. A count conducted at September 2017, shows homelessness is up 30% in Metro Vancouver from 2014. (Britten, 2017) Housing affordability crisis, corrupt policies that impoverish and weaken indigenous communities and are the legacy of colonization, and the policies which make the low-income class poorer, are the main factors contributing to the horrific fact of homelessness in greater Vancouver. (Britten, 2017) Indeed it is a dark era for the City of Vancouver. I believe any soundscape captured in this circumstances that lacks the presence of a homeless individual in our urban surroundings, would be a dishonest one. The low volume, low pitch, and low intensity sound produced by this man’s activities, almost had made it dissolved in the ambience. Again, I believe I could not identify this sound if I was not present and was just listening to the recorded soundscape.

Consecutive sounds I mentioned in my list are often analogous types of sounds. For instance, I noted the coughing and sneezing from two different people in two different spots around the same time. In other words, when I was focusing on one type of sound, like human sounds, I did not pay as much attention to other types, such as low pitch technological sounds. In an even more interesting observation I realized that when I focused on specific sounds, I started to remember similar sounds I heard previously but did not make a note of them. A good example of this is when I noticed the noise made by leather coat a woman was wearing and I suddenly remembered sound of someone walking in high heels a while ago.

I conducted the listening experiment between 11pm and 12 am. Since most spaces in Vancouver are not lively during this time of night, this area is an exception. Presence of a 24 hours coffee shop and outdoor sitting areas that are even suitable for rainy weather, makes it the perfect environment to capture the nightlife and night time urban activities. In our readings we learned how soundscapes and sound archives reflect our subjective views. As subjective agents we are the ones who choose what sounds are interesting enough to be captured and thus, an absence of voice and silence is put in place of the rest. I believe the fact that I am found of busy urban areas and urban people’s socializing activities interests me, had much to do with selection of this location.

Reference List

City of Vancouver. (2017). Bute-Robson Trial Plaza. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/bute-robson-trial-plaza.aspx

Britten. (2017). Homeless count finds housing affordability crisis driving numbers up. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-homeless-count-2017-1.4308345

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