A recap of the 2023 WFAE Conference: Listening Pasts – Listening Futures
The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, (WFAE) a global nonprofit membership association devoted to the study of soundscapes, hosted an international conference, Listening Pasts – Listening Futures from March 23-26, 2023, in partnership with Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, FL USA) and Stetson University (Deland, FL USA).
The Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology was thrilled to have multiple members present at the event, including Alex Braidwood, Lindsey French, Maya Nguyen, Deirdre Harrison, Ivy Fu, Viv Corringham, Alex Young, Lisa Schonberg, Maya McCollum, and the outgoing WFAE President, Eric Leonardson. They presented music, installations and papers and composed an important part of the vital dialogue fostered by this conference.
The WFAE 2023 conference coincides with the 30th anniversary of the WFAE, founded in 1993, during ‘Tuning of the World: The First International Conference on Acoustic Ecology’ at the Banff Centre for the Arts. This is the first time it has been held in the United States of America.
Artists, academics, authors, students and community engagement specialists gathered to present research, performances, installations and workshops prompted by the essential question of how we may learn collectively from the past and imagine new futures based on a diversity of listening practices and acoustic relationships in our ecosystems. Over 80 people from 20+ countries of origin, including a dozen students from Stetson who assisted with installation, concert and panel production we hosted on-site in New Smyrna Beach, were joined by 109 remote participants from around the globe over four days, with an additional 100+ members of the local public at pre-conference events organized by ACA and Stetson. Another 30 or so visually impaired youth participants and staff of the Young Sound Seekers program at Canaveral National Seashore spent an afternoon with global attendees making field recordings together.
As the wider field of sound studies has matured, so have contributions made by acoustic ecology towards sonic scholarship and practice, including addressing the legacies of the World Soundscape Project. At a time of pivotal environmental awakening, the convening of this community of international specialists allowed time and space to reflect on and re-imagine core values of the field, central approaches, methods, and key theorists of past, present, and future. Emerging from this reflective process is the conviction that acoustic ecology and soundscape studies have much to offer the world.