Tag Archive: sounds

On Trees and Sounds

The english translation of my essay “On Trees and Sounds” is now available for download on my homepage. I wrote the text for the July/August 2010 issue of the German magazine “Neue Zeitschrift for Musik”. It takes the old question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, credited to George Berkeley, as a starting point to reflect on various ways to define the term sound. Here are the first two paragraphs:

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This koan-like question is often quoted in texts on sound and perception, and the answer given is often a counterintuitive no. The argument is as follows: a sound is something created in our brains when our ears perceive the vibration of molecules. Consequently, a sound is nothing but a mental representation in our nervous system, while the sound waves outside our ears are simply part of a larger physical continuum of vibrations. A sound is a product of our sensory apparatus: without ears to hear, no sound.

A similar case can be made in terms of acoustic communication: the production of a sound runs through the classic stages from sound source via medium to recipient. The movement or vibration of a sound source generates sound waves in a surrounding medium such as air, water or solid objects. The sound waves spread concentrically and reach the recipient, who then translates these fluctuations in pressure and density into electrical pulses and perceives them as sounds. If any one of these stages is missing, then there can be no sound. In the absence of a recipient, as in the abovementioned forest, though it is possible to speak in physical terms of a transfer of energy from the falling tree to the surrounding medium, acoustic communication in the sense of an exchange of information does not take place: without a recipient, no transfer of information, and thus no sound.

To read or download the full text please head to my homepage. The text was translated by Nicholas Grindell.

At Berlins n.b.k. the exhibition “Sounds: Radio – Art – New Music” starts today. 5 radio art pieces of the project “rádio d-cz” are at the center of the exhibition. On listening stations in the showroom one can hear over hundred additional pieces of German broadcasters, one is my composition “windscapes“.

Sound Maps of the World

The BBC asked their listeners in a radio programme called “Save Our Sounds” to upload sound recordings from where they live in order to create an audio map of the world. This idea is indeed not new and there are some collaborative sound mapping projects around for quite some time. One I’m particularly fond of is the dutch site Sound Transit where you can “book” a transit from one place to another via a third one and then listen to the three field recordings mixed into one single file. I have added a couple of recordings to the vast library and you can find sound bits of many more artists on their beautiful site. Another mashup-way of sound mapping is bringing sounds recorded at a specific location onto Google Maps. Good examples are aporee.org and many other site covering a certain area of city like New York, Montreal, Chicago or London. A sound and video map of Kwung Tong, part of urban Hong Kong and under threat of large urban renewal plans, documents the cultural heritage of their unique community. Finally, the British Library has recently made their sound archive available, more than 25.000 recordings of music, spoken word, and human and natural environments can be examined by everyone. Not a sound map in the first place, the user can nevertheless browse through varios archives with the help of interactive maps.