Our Soundscape

In 1979 the second edition of the book ‘The Soundscape: our sonic environment and the tuning of the world’ by the canadian composer R.Murray Scafer was released. I didn’t discover this gem until much later. During those 30 years or so a lot of other books got written and there’s more or less a small jungle of theese academic/research/studies types of books about our sonic environment and different types of listening. To me it seems there’s almost as many different kinds of theories as there are authors… or so it seemed at first glance.

This one however, starts it’s journey during the late 1960’s when Schafer and a group of people at the Simon Fraser University established a small educational and research group with the name The World Soundscape Project (WSP). They released a few booklets about noise pollution and Vancouvers rapidly changing soundscape.

While reading I find myself even more intrigued and amazed following the changes of our soundscape through history of time. Schafer summarizes his soundscape research, philosophies, and theories. He talks about different types of soundscapes, the industrial revolution, symbolism, noise and silence.

Last year we did a soundwalk in Stockholm. If you’re in town, click here and you can print the map and do it whenever you feel like it. Nothing special is required except your ears. We’re planning on doing the same walk this winter to see if we experience the same walk differently and discuss why that might be. More info in November about that.

Now, back to one of the more crucial things this book is trying to map out. Our own behavior towards sounds we like and sounds we don’t like. Of course everyone has different preferences and that’s why I find the pages about noise legislation extra interesting. By whom, how and why were theese laws against sounds/noise engaged? Here’s a short quote from the book.

“The first example of a by-law in the modern sense relating to noise was passed by Julius Ceasar in his Senatus Consultum of 44 B.C. *Henceforward, no wheeled vehicles whatsoever will be allowed within the prcincts of the city, from sunrise until the hour before dusk…Those which shall have enterd during the night, and are still within the city at dawn must halt and stand empty until the appointed hour”.

As Schafer says: By selecting one city we can get a historical overview of the situation for Central Europe.




















for further reading:

World Forum For Ecoustic Ecology

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