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Scenic Listening 2020

| October 23, 2020 | 0 Comments
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Scenic Listening

After climbing a tree, a mountain or even stairs up a tower, the breathtaking views available to us make the panting and pain all worthwhile. An experience such as this can be elevated further with the addition of music, just as songs heighten emotions in movies. By adding a soundtrack to everyday or even historic places, we can transform the way we perceive them. A current project in Seattle, WA uses this gesture as a statement against noise pollution and allows us to concentrate on the beautiful and subtle sounds that are muffled by the city.

The Volunteer Park Water Tower Project, created by Robb Kunz and the Audible Semaphore Group, uses the 360 degree views of Seattle from the 1906 water tower in Volunteer Park to present and perform for us the daily sounds that our ears cannot detect. For this project, a playlist was created by eight composers, with each track assigned to complement a specific view from the tower. Users follow a map which shows the precise positions they are to proceed to and then play the track that corresponds with the numbered view. Originally, self-service kiosks with headphones where intended, but due to security issues, participants must download the playlist and use their own mp3 players. Maps, music and information can all be obtained from Audible Semaphore Group website at http://www.audiblesemaphore.org/index.html

Each track and view incorporates a different theme, which is clarified by the music. Some play sounds of nature such as ocean waves as we look out to the sea. Others make the view of the trees blowing in the wind seem like instruments themselves. One track includes music heard from cars driving by and street conversations, whereas others hone in on church bells and somber tunes. Even a compilation is created as a match for the sight of the Space Needle and Frank Gehry’s EMP. It truly gives participants a sample of the diversity that can be sensed throughout Seattle, past and present, yet makes it available in one place.

Kunz, the project organizer, intended for this to be a way for us to notice and appreciate the wonderful things in everyday life. Ironically he speaks out against mp3 players and how they have created personal bubbles around people so that we interact less with each other. However, he justifies their use in the project because of the shared experience they create, even though they are controlled individually. We might notice different details, or see diverse scenes depending on time and weather, yet the underlying combination of the viewpoint and music links each participant together.

Not only does this project encourage the appreciation of details that we usually pass over, but it also encourages us to supplement our everyday activities and facilities we use, with music for instance. The Volunteer Park water tower currently includes an exhibit informing us of the park’s history, but by adding something as simple as music, the functions of the space are altered and it becomes an interactive museum, a concert, a public meeting space, a memory. This is a great example of how we can use existing structures in new ways.

water tower 150x150 1
Volunteer Park Water Tower
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Water Tower Project Floorplan
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Introduction Track
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With ‘Empty Tank’
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With Spacial Study Noise With People
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With ‘All Feet’

An experience Listening such as this can be elevated further with the addition of music, just as songs heighten emotions in movies.

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