Sound Heritage: The World Soundscape Project (PDF)

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VOLUME III, NO. 4

Please note: This is a digital file.

This issue of Sound Heritage continues the broadening of the scope of this publication as an aural history quarterly. The articles were generously provided by the staff of the World Soundscape Project and contain a viewpoint on the acoustic environment which should be of interest to aural historians.

The World Soundscape Project, located at Simon Fraser University, is an organization dedicated to the study of the quality of the sound environment. Their aim, as defined by R. Murray Schafer, is “to bring together research on the scientific, sociological and aesthetic aspects of the environment.” Their aim is not merely research but also the creation of analytical tools by which the sonic environment, or soundscape, can be studied and its optimum condition determined and promoted as an ideal toward which individuals and acoustic designers should consciously strive. To achieve these ends, the World Soundscape Project has set itself a number of imposing tasks: the recognition and preservation of important and socially meaningful sounds (soundmarks) and old or disappearing sounds of the recent past; the collection of cross-cultural information concerning individual sound preferences and sound phobias as well as that concerning the social differences in soundmaking behaviour and attitudes to sounds; surveys of the historical development of sounds, and the development of a flexible methodology which can be applied to specific environments anywhere and thereby assist in the interpretation of the world soundscape as a whole. In this effort, the Project has studied and collected many important sounds on tape and defined for the first time characteristic sounds through the use of concepts derived from physical science, music, psychology, sociology and other disciplines. The Project has also produced a series of “document” on the soundscape including a ninety minute quadraphonic tape on the sounds of the ocean, a study of a man’s changing relationship to the environment studies of noise pollution and noise pollution by-laws, and their first field study of an actual environment: The Vancouver Soundscape. They have already inspired great interest in their research and their ultimate goal of creating a balanced sonic environment, and they are continuing to pursue these aims, this time on a world-wide scale.

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