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Archive for November, 2016

I have just returned from the Sonologia conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sonology is the term given to Latin American Sound Studies by the research group, who facilitated the conference. The range of papers was fascinating, with a particularly strong compliment of ethnographic studies and cultural and sociological reflections on the role and implication of sounds in everyday life.

It was interesting to note there was little discussion about the placement of sounds in public spaces, a theme of interest in a concurrent conference at Leiden University. Mine and one other by Colin Ripley, were the only two. Most soundscape papers reflected on existing sounds, and the capacity of ethnography to reveal community relationships with these sounds. It now occurs to me why this might be the case, after having spent a week in the megalopolis of Sao Paulo.

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Samba dancing in Avenue Paulista

There is SO much sound in this city, why would you want to introduce more? The streets are alive with activity. In Avenue Paulista, in one day, I encountered music, protests, football and political chants, traffic, fire crackers and car horns. The city is extraordinarily vibrant and eventful. Alternatively, my work, which intervenes in everyday life with sound installations, has developed in the context of Australian suburban quietude, where I would argue we encounter cultural alienation manifesting as isolation.

After my talk some discussion occurred around the desirability of adding sounds to the urban environment. My feeling was (perhaps correctly, or not) that my Brazilian colleagues were less convinced by the idea of adding sounds, in distinction to understanding relationships with those sounds that already exist. Upon reflection, it occurred to me if addition is a worthy approach in a quite country like Australia, then perhaps subtraction is the favoured approach for such a noise-filled city as Sao Paulo.

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politcal protests in Avenue Paulista

And I don’t mean noise in the negative sense. I mean it in the sense of ceaseless invigoration, just as I mean quiteude as a type of cultural retraction. It left me with the sense that each city has its own particular challenges, thus further emphasising the importance of site-specific sound art practices.

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