Cartographic Audition

Over the last decade, there has been a growing interest for sound within numerous sites academic and cultural production. With new environmental imperatives, researchers and practitioners have used sound to challenge conventions of spatial representation—both visual and conceptual—and provide evidence of spatial processes that otherwise escape easy documentation.  This ‘sonic turn’ has been expressed most clearly through numerous exhibitions of sound-based art practices; writings on the sonic aspects of cities and landscapes; and site-driven research projects that hope to communicate the dynamics of a changing biosphere through its changing soundscape.

With few exceptions, designers have engaged listening sporadically and superficially, and yet, would strongly benefit from a critical engagement with spatial listening, and reciprocally, contribute to the general understanding of the relationship between sound and space. In this regard, Landscape Architecture’s engagement with cartographic techniques and theories is instructive. By informing cartography with a design mentality, we have seen how spatial categories shape our expectations of what things populate a city or a landscape. This seminar will explore how a similar approach might inform our understanding of listening.

A number of questions are implied by the synthesis of sound-based practices with design-inflected cartographic theories. For instance, how might designers use listening as a rigorous method of urban and ecological research that is distinct from other modes of spatial inquiry? Or, how might we highlight nuanced questions about representation and forms of a priori spatial knowledge, through listening? 

In response to the above questions, this seminar will build a theory of Cartographic Audition with readings, class discussion, listening examples, and sound-based research exercises. Specifically, we will explore two parallel lines of thought within the environmental sound studies literature: On the one hand, that listening is an unmediated and non-representational practice that operates independent of spatial categories; and, on the other, that sound is evidential of urban and ecological through which a listener may detect important changes.  In the first half of the semester, we will focus on foundational sound studies texts that address these dual understandings of environmental sound. Alongside these texts, students will also read contemporary cartographic theory. During the second half of the semester, the topic of Cartographic Audition will be explored through student-derived research projects where practices of environmental sound recording will be informed by techniques of data-driven spatial analysis. 

Pre-requisite: SCI-6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation + Speculation, or permission of the instructor.