October 17, 2019
As part of the II Historical Soundscapes Meeting – Évora 2019, Giovanni Cestino (LEAV) will present a paper on his Evening in the Old Town (2019), an audiovisual soundwalk of the Vienna city center based on European Sound Diary (1977). The presentation will take place at Auditório of Colégio Mateus de Aranda of the University of Évora, at 3:20pm.
In 1975, Raymond Murray Schafer and his research group, the World Soundscape Project, toured in Northern Europe to study different rural and city soundscapes. A narrative account of the trip entitled European Sound Diary was among the results of that trip. The book combined excerpts from diaries by Schafer’s collaborators with city soundwalks to be performed by future readers. The soundwalk is an «excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment» (Westerkamp), «a form of active participation in the soundscape» (Truax) introduced by the World Soundscape Project to promote critical listening. A soundwalk often comes, in its written form, as a map with verbal instructions, and may also prescribe soundmaking practice.
Nearly 45 years after the World Soundscape Project trip, I performed the Vienna soundwalk again, documenting my experience in a 17’ video realized with the support of the LEAV (Ethnomusicology and Visual Anthropology Lab, University of Milan). To enhance a first-person perspective, I shot a video with an action camera fastened on my head, and also wore DSM microphones as earphones. Subtitles, elicited from the original soundwalk, have been added in post-production as a step-by-step commentary, and serve as a touchstone of how the Vienna soundscape transformed through time. The result is an audiovisual product which works on multiple levels: while the audiovisual level mediates the researcher’s experience, subtitles stimulate the audience’s response to what they see/hear and what they read.
In this paper I will illustrate the case study, touching on the technical choices and narrative strategies I adopted. Particularly, I will dwell on how certain concrete problems – which arose in the making of – prompted a reflection on some theoretical concerns. This audiovisual soundwalk, based on a previous experience, revealed how the 1977 text can not only work as a prescriptive device, but also as an historical source and a script. Moreover, this multimedia product might provide an additional educational practice in acoustic ecology which joins Schafer’s historical ones. Lastly, this case study contributes to the discussion on the authenticity of documentary practice, and links with the actual debate on the concept of soundscape.