World Listening Day

Sunday, 18 July 2010

My wife and I participated, today, in the first World Listening Day.

We purposefully did not listen to any music all day, except as it was playing (sound pollution) from the ceiling speakers at the grocery store, and by other accidental means.

Instead we sat outside for breakfast, and purposefully listened to our surroundings. The highlight of this session came when a woman walked by, singing at full voice, with not a care in the world about what anyone would think about her. We were happy to listen.

As described on the World Listening Project’s website, part of the holiday’s purpose is to listen to field recordings, so we tuned in to several of the recordings hosted here by Radio Aporee for the World Listening Day event.

Later on, my friend Gurdonark notified me (and the rest of his readers) via his Twitter feed about a compilation calling for submissions called “Of Places and Moments“. The concept requires participants to download some field recordings hosted on the website, alter them in some way, and use them in a composition. I found this to be an appropriate activity for the day, and I labored a good amount toward composing a piece for this compilation.

Later still, my wife and I went to Roger’s Grove in Longmont, with the intention of walking around listening. We very much enjoyed listening to leaves rustling, birds chirping, chattering and buzzing… when we encountered a very serendipitous find that I had never seen before even though we’d visited the park many times. A public art piece entitled “Listening Stones” by Robert Tully has as its centerpiece a ten foot tall boulder surrounded by smaller boulders. On the side that faces away from the trail, the large, centerpiece has a parabolic reflector ground into it, with a seat, situated such that your head is at the center of the reflector. The reflector points at a bend in the Saint Vrain river.

(photo from city of Longmont website)

We spent a great deal of time listening to the focus of sound inside the sculpture. The effect is something like stepping into a separate space where quiet sounds become clear and amplified, it’s uncanny.

The sculpture had a mathematical formula etched on its seat: (X2 / 2131) + (Y2 / 67) = 1

We also walked around banging on bridge supports and found objects with our knuckles. It’s too bad I didn’t have a hand-held recorder to bring along.

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