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Soundmapping Beyond The Grid


Published in The Journal of Sonic Studies, 11, 2016.


Online gridded soundmaps have recently gained popularity as a platform to engage communities with their surrounding soundscapes and physical environments. However, they have also received criticism with regards to their effectiveness in gridding sound and its personal significance (Ceraso 2010; Waldock 2011; Ouzounian 2014). What is often overlooked, or even omitted, are memories, emotions, thoughts, and associations, a criticism also made of traditional Western cartography in general (Wood 1992, 2010; Caquard 2013). In this article, I argue that soundmaps have the potential to chart personal and collective, imagined and remembered, and invisible and physical relationships between sound, the world, and ourselves. I call these peripheries of lived experience “in-between-spaces,”[1] and I argue that soundmaps can only truly document listening if these spaces are mapped. However, this will not be achieved unless we adopt a more imaginative approach to cartography, traversing the boundaries of the grid.

Drawing from projects that already map sound in unconventional and creative ways, including my collaborative project with Fionnuala Fagan, Stories Of The City: Sailortown (2012), this article explores forms of soundmapping that expand the online gridded soundmap platform. Not only do these examples map the invisible “in-between-spaces” of personal relationships to sound, but also the unseen spaces of urban architectures. Sound is intangible, ephemeral, and invisible in nature, and therefore possesses profound potentials to map invisible geographies, which might otherwise lay silent. We will only bring voice to these other layers of experience if we embrace cartography as a creative and potentially empowering platform.


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