Ximena Sol Gomez Della Valle

P8 public spheres

Tune in

How does listening enhance a sense of place, help us orientating in space, and what sounds reinforce or create meaning in the urban surrounding environment?

Tune in is a participatory sonic artwork that is presented at Staldenbach Center in Pfäffikon SZ.

Passers-by and the invited art public can take part in the artwork by donning a combined headphone set that functions as a multi-station receiver available at the site. The sounds are coming from the everyday human activity collected around Pfäffikon. It’s the mundane sounds and noises from everyday life, which might not always be associated specifically to this place, however, contribute to the consolidation of its sonic identity.

Listeners will discover the different sounds that they are receiving triggered by various locally dispersed transmitters. Fading in or out, depending on the participant’s proximity to the hidden transmitter, the sounds derive from the artist’s recordings of everyday activities around Pfäffikon. Here, they not only serve orientation (and dis-orientation), but also create (and destroy) a sense of place. Listening is explored as total body engagement: Are the movements of the body determined by the sounds one longs to hear? Or do the sounds that are heard determine the path the body takes through the space?

Considering that the sense of hearing is instrumental in navigating and defining the environment, Tune in makes manifest how settings can turn into more familiar ones when combined with a specific set of sounds that are always waiting to be attended to and re-created.

Zentrum Staldenbach
zwischen Bahnweg und Churerstrasse
8808 Pfäffikon SZ

Sonic Identity

A simple way of conceptualising a sense of place is to consider it as a group of characteristics that makes it possible to recognise and identify the place, i.e., differentiate it from others. Sounds belonging to a place can be recognised as a significant sub-group of such qualities that constitutes the so-called sonic identity or soundscape, in other words, all the sounds that produce a sense of the place, the sounds that make it possible to recognise and identify this place as different (or similar) to others, in particular, all the mundane sounds of everyday life there.

For example, most modern suburbs lack the singularity of soundmarks1 or qualities that proper places may have. The sonic environment is neither purely natural nor purely urban, but rather a so-called dirty anthropogenic mix, which is the result from the influence of human beings in the nature. If the various sounds in the sonic environment can not be differentiated, it’s difficult to identify and perceive specific and characteristic sounds related to a community in particular. This leads to a diffuse or even non-existent sense of the place, explaining as well why it is difficult to relate to certain kinds of environments.

1“The term soundmark is derived from landmark and refers to a community sound which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded or noticed by the people in that community.” Schafer, Murray R.: “Soundscapes and Earwitnesses”, in Mark M. Smith (Hg.): Hearing History – A Reader. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 2004, S. 8.


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