For the second summer in a row, MSAE participates in the Chicago Park District’s “Night Out in the Parks” summer program that brings “cultural events to neighborhood parks throughout the city”. This summer we had an array of thematic soundwalks led by our wonderfully talented team of teaching artists. All soundwalks were supported by fellow NOITP interns and Program & Event Facilitator, Sean Heaney of Inferno Mobile Recording Studio.
Amanda Gutiérrez led a bilingual (English and Spanish) “Sonic Taste of Chinatown” soundwalk on May 6th, in the near south side neighborhood where the sense of taste and hearing were activated through the personal narrative of Amanda, a Mexican immigrant whose family history is linked to Chinese culture.
Norman Long led “Many Sounds: Listening to Washington Park” at the DuSable Museum in commemoration of Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Burroughs’ centennial celebrations. Norman also recounted the significance this space once held for longtime Chicago jazz player, poet, and philosopher, Sun Ra.
Sara Zalek and Norman Long led “Between the Wind and the Ground” soundwalk at the newly opened Big Marsh park on July 29th. The soundwalk focused on movement that highlighted the space’s history as it has evolved from a former grey dump site to a natural area and recreational bike park. Each artist performed an improvisational piece that bore witness to the revitalization of the park’s natural areas.
Lindsey French led “Tangles and Flows” at Ping Tom Park on August 6th. Lindsey’s soundwalk focused on connective listening and plant communication. As mostly sessile beings, plants nevertheless actively express themselves through growth and position.
Anthony Janas led “A Prairie in the Lake” at Northerly Island on August 13th with two handmade hydrophone listening stations, which gave listeners an opportunity to eavesdrop on the unheard sounds of Lake Michigan. Attendees were also given the opportunity to record what they heard to share with friends and family.
In addition to the NOITP summer soundwalks, MSAE led other soundwalks around the Chicagoland area including a night soundwalk at Wauconda Area Library and a private soundwalk for SoHo House Chicago members. Planning is underway for MSAE’s third 2018 summer soundwalk series. Contact us with any of your ideas and suggestions for future programming in the parks!
As part of Balance-Unbalance 2017, MSAE founder and co-chair, Eric Leonardson led “The Advances In Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape: A Virtual Panel” discussion. The panel was made up of Linda Keane, Norman Long, Amanda Gutierrez, Lindsey French and Leah Barclay.
Advances In Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape: A Virtual Panel
Eric Leonardson, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology, Chicago, USA.
Paraphrasing Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar, it is surprising that our sense of place is so strong and yet it defies definition. Herein lies one of many paradoxes and conundrums that provide a kind of soil or spark for new ideas about how art and science attract constant appraisal and reappraisal of the questions: “Where am I, where do I belong?” as a state of being. Proposed is a panel discussion of several ongoing projects that intersected in 2015, under the name “Eco-Sensing and the Soundscape,” a course taught in the fall of 2015 by Eric Leonardson and Lindsey French, at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This studio course connected concepts and practices of acoustic ecology with the hacking aesthetic of art and technology to open up possibilities for transdisciplinary collaborations that offer new understandings of our environments and our boundaries, locations, and roles within them. Subsequently, numerous collaborations continue in new contexts and places with additional support for public engagement in the ecologies of sound, listening, and environment. The panelists, who join Leonardson on-site and online are sound and media artists Leah Barclay, Norman W. Long, Amanda Gutiérrez, and architect Linda Keane. Their individual and combined efforts engage and activate students and public communities in design of urban soundscapes using virtual environments, social codes of immigrant communities, river listening, soundwalking, plant communication, and new media.
The Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology presents Soundwalks – quiet events leading groups to explore their relationship as listeners in the acoustic environment. This soundwalk, “Tangles and Flows: Connective Listening” will be led by teaching artist, Lindsey French.
About the soundwalk:
You cannot move except to grow. With some exceptions, plants are immobile. As mostly sessile beings, plants nevertheless actively express themselves through growth and position, whether or not we detect these changes through human perception. Plants send promiscuous signs into the atmosphere by way of airborne chemicals. Communication often focuses on the sender, but what is possible when we consider our role as a receiver? What kind of communication is sense-based? Drawing on biological modes of communication, visitors will be invited to engage in practices of active and sensual listening. Alternating between motion and stillness, along the river and under a canopy of trees, we will attune to both sounds and sensation in practices of radical receptivity.
10:30am – 12pm
Ping Tom Memorial Park
1700 S. Wentworth Ave.*
Chicago, IL 60616
*Meet at the Pagoda located at the Chinatown Water Taxi stop. From 18th street, Turn south onto Wentworth and west onto 19th. Walk along the path from 19th under the El and past the Divvy station. The Pagoda is beside the river.
**Please bring sun protection, water and bug repellent if needed.
Breen notes that support of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out In the Parks (NOITP) program helps Chicago teaching artists plan and lead our soundwalks. The schedule will be announced in early spring. Parks proposed for soundwalks this year include Ping Tom Park, Big Marsh, and West Ridge Nature Reserve, among others.
Also mentioned, Friday, March 17, Leonardson will present in the Shapiro Research Symposium with architect, Linda Nelson Keane, and artist, Lindsey M. French, at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s LeRoy Neiman Center.
At the beginning of the evening, on Tuesday, October 25th, visitors gathered under the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)’s Kern Terrace for a short introduction to the program titled Our Sonic Playground. Eric Leonardson spoke elegantly of the relationship, mediated through sound, between living beings and their environment. Folks were encouraged to actively engage through concentrated listening at the pop-up listening stations and among the black faux-marble floors, steel columns, and industrial lighting of the MCA. Paper and pencil were handed out to participants as they deployed themselves around the museum. Trace, gesture and sound patterns were to emerge in a process of multi-perceptual experience. Listening next to the sliced mobiles of Alexander Calder one might have literally drawn a distinction between sound that is omnidirectional and vision that is unidirectional. Emphasized throughout the program were exercises that led listeners to create, share, and connect with each other around content relevant to the core mission of the MSAE while remaining uninhibited to construct their own meaning from experience.
Pop-up listening stations were separated between three levels of the MCA and staged to introduce unconventional entrances into deeper listening. In short these pop-ups were an assembly of small listening systems that included inductors applied in an electromagnetic field, contact microphones submerged in thawing ice, friction mallets spontaneously stricken on smooth MCA surfaces and resonant structures, accelerometers placed on the museum’s signature staircase, and a parabolic reflector collecting and converging sound energy toward the focus of distant sources. Depending on which pop-up, sounds were diffused by either headphones or speakers. Collectively these systems generated a central question that asked how it is we interpret sound phenomena that embody specific places. Leonardson touched on this in his opening address, “Sounds are all around us, creating our environments, our sense of place and influencing our social interactions.”
In the Kanter Room a remote listening station was devised by SAIC faculty member Lindsey French with the input of students enrolled in her Sensing the Landscape course. A hand-drawn map of the city of Chicago was projected onto the wall with different points of light on the map vibrating and distorting according to an audio signal. Each of these points corresponded to live audio signals streaming from domestic interiors. These sounds were played on speakers inside the darkened and semi-isolated Kanter Room. It was transfixing to watch points of light swell and recede according to the amplitude, attack, and familial occupation of sound. Philosopher Jean-Francois Augoyard reasoned in Sonic Experience: A Guide To Everyday Sounds that sound should be understood primarily as temporality. The illuminated expansion and contraction of sound depicted on French’s map seemed to underpin Augoyard’s proposition; pointing further towards the paradox that embodies sound: that which is used to propagate it also extinguishes it. (Time).
For the phonography performance at the end of the evening unfamiliar participants brought an array of their own collected field recordings to play back as an ensemble. In the sound ecology formulation, hi-fi soundscape is generally associated with sparse wilderness and rural landscapes and low-fi is often associated with urban and industrial soundscapes. Over the thirty minutes of this improvised performance disparate soundscapes were merged inconceivably, collapsing narrative and leaving only texture in its wake.
By continuing to provide these kinds of participatory programs the MSAE teaches us that sounds are subjective and connote ways of human knowing and best supported through multi-directional content experiences. The MSAE is serving as a “platform” that connects different users who act as content creators, distributors, consumers, critics, and collaborators. While this means the MSAE cannot guarantee the consistency of every participant’s experiences, it does open up new ways for diverse people to express themselves and engage with the institutional practices of acoustic ecology.
SAIC faculty: Lindsey French, Eric Leonardson Listening stations: Laura Campuzano, Nicholas Davis, Devin DiSanto, Guido Gambo, Tom Haigh, Peter LaRue, Neal Markowski, Kyle Nilan Phonography performance: Chad Clark, Dan Godston, Norman Long, Monica Ryan, Jessica Speer