Sound worlds and everyday space
The starting point for this project was my MPhil thesis (University of Leeds, 1995) Aural Geographies. An Investigation of Sound In Everyday Space, which has as its subject matter the concept of sound in everyday space. The MPhil thesis argued that in considering everyday space more attention should be paid to the aural experience. The argument did not try to `bolt on' what is heard to what is seen. Rather it contemplated the intricate relationships between the visual and aural senses within everyday space. Following from the work which was undertaken for the MPhil it became clear that further and more substantial research into the area of sound and space was merited. This research has been carried out at the University of East London as a PhD programme, under the supervision of Professor Andrew Blake, who introduced me to numerous aspects of music analysis. The thesis acknowledges and expands upon the work on sound carried out by the limited number of social theorists who have addressed this issue such as Adorno, Attali and in particular Schafer and his work on soundscapes. There is discussion throughout of the inspirational ideas of John Cage. The aim of the thesis, which is explored through many inter-related pieces of analysis and empirical work, is to expand upon our knowledge of the role of sound in everyday life. The thesis contributes towards knowledge by providing many new insights about the soundworld and its place in human experience. As befits a thesis which centres on the aural, the research methods are also innovatory allowing the readers/listeners themselves to experience sound worlds. The thesis therefore relies 111 heavily on newly-developed new recording/mapping techniques, using high quality audio recordings which are then used to produce digital sound maps in the form of hypermedia made available on a CD-ROM. The thesis demonstrates how these maps enable us to comprehend some of the complex sensory processes associated with sound worlds. Sound worlds are the main focus here, and in particular the way in which sound worlds are constructed by individuals. Where the MPhil examined sound in public spaces, this thesis further reflects on that investigation before going on to investigate the sound worlds generated in the living room (a key everyday space). This enables us to hear/see how the sound worlds associated with the living room link up with other everyday spaces. The contention is that sound is crucial for the organisation and operation of everyday space Though the thesis is persuasive in indicating the importance of the aural in everyday life, the question arises as to how the relationship between the aural and the visual can be represented in academic work, and especially in the discipline of geography. This question is addressed in the thesis by the presentation of a number of specially developed aural terms, such as `sonic order' and `sound maps'. The thesis describes how people organise their activities around sonic order, and explains how conflicts arise over sonic order. The thesis concludes that sound maps are present in everyday space and that people use them to navigate everyday space. This sensitivity to sound spaces generates geographical (aur/imagin)ations, which are in turn subject to study from within the discipline of geography.