(UBC 2019) Geographical Methods – Sonic Geographies Component (II)

* Undergraduate Course Module taught for GEOG 371, by Kristen Roos (2018-19)

This class requires a close engagement with the following core concepts:

  1. Field Recording

Audio Recording – the process of listening with headphones through an audio recorder can bring attention to things that may have been taken for granted, or things unheard (could be small sounds, or sounds that are blocked out such as car traffic, etc, also with the use of EMF receivers there is a whole world of unheard frequencies beyond our spectrum of hearing 20Hz – 20KHz)

– e.g. The distant rumble of traffic, insects, rain, low frequencies, etc

Field recordings can magnify the liminal features of a place. Consider in these powerful examples :

John Wynne – Transplant – http://www.transplantproject.com/


  • N.B. The Log section of the site contains Interviews, recordings of carts, breathing tests, etc all collected from the hospital that the project focuses on.

Chris Watson – El Tren Fatasme

Site – https://chriswatson.net/


Bandcamp – https://chriswatsonreleases.bandcamp.com/

Christina Kubisch – Iceland


Site – http://www.gruenrekorder.de/?page_id=10742


Sonic geography site: EMF recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCSK5-4B8jc

Exploring sound with contact mics – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbjU8UDl2EQ

Sonic Geography Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/user-393565691

Haunted spaces https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UiAvbVWWvM

Hydrophone recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJD-hBDPVx8

  1. Sound Mapping

An audio composition can also be thought of as a mapping of sound or a ‘sound map’ – traversing space — and producing space —  by collecting sounds with audio recorders, and then composing/editing and assembling these sounds to create an impression of that space. The sound map and sound drift projects are examples of collecting and assembling sound as a kind of sound map.

Online examples:

Chinatown Soundmap (site created by former UBC Geographer Angela Ho) – http://chinatownsoundmap.com/

Radio aporee, world sound map: https://aporee.org/maps/

Brooklyn pirate radio sound map: https://map.pirateradiomap.com/

Radio Garden – http://radio.garden/

Record labels that have sound mapping projects:

Gruenrekorder – (iceland) http://www.gruenrekorder.de

Art kill Art – radio frequency mapping record/field recording – http://artkillart.org/radioscapes/

This maps the radio spectrum, and the needle of the record follows this mapping as it spins…

  1. Soundwalking


image from https://www.gardaconcierge.com/lago-di-garda-sound-walking/

Soundwalking is a method which can be a part of the process of sound mapping, which could also involve field recording.

Usually sound walking is done in complete silence, with a leader that has created a predesigned route. There is a local group that was started by Hildegard called the soundwalk collective, which offers soundwalks a few times each year. Soundwalks can also be improvised, and are a great way to explore a place with a group of people.

Soundwalks bring up different modes of listening, and if one is aware of these modes of listening prior to a soundwalk, it can add a unique way of processing the sounds that one is confronted with on the walk.

For example – Political Listening:

> How are the spaces constructed – socially and politically?

> How can we listen for markers of this construction?

> Does the public have a role in shaping these spaces/forms?

Online examples:

see Hildegard Westerkamps revised version of her essay on sound walking :


  1. Installation

This is not so much a method, as it is a way for presenting sonic material. The collaboration with SEEDS and ARCH 544X Design Build: Platform for Local Material Ecologies will be an opportunity to be a part of a sound installation/architectural installation.

If students are interested in this project, any of the methods that have been outlined above could be used in the process/collaboration. We will be meeting with the graduate students and be involved with the process of the project  – extracting the trees, milling, planning, etc.

This will also be a chance to collaborate with students in the graduate level course –

Students in Platform for Local Material Ecologies will design a temporary architectural installation for the UBC campus that explores themes of material ecology and acoustics. The pavilion will be fabricated of timber milled from trees scheduled to be cut down at building sites on campus. Students will participate in every aspect of the installation design and fabrication, from mill specifications to final assembly. After two years, the installation will be disassembled and the seasoned timber used for projects in local schools. Platform for Local Material Ecologies is a collaboration with UBC Geography and artist in residence Kristen Roos, who will develop acoustic content for the installation.

  • Connecting materials to local ecological and cultural contexts
  • Taking into account the full lifecycle of materials
  • Developing a design from concept through construction documentation
  • Constructing architecture from fabrication drawings

Any of the audio material that is collected will then potentially be used in the final installation in June of 2019. The final decisions on the sound that will be used in the installation will be made by the artist in residence (Kristen Roos).

Two examples of site specific sound installation:

1 Max Neuhaus – Drive in Music

2 Rebecca Belmore – Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother


A good description/history of sound installation, which includes these two installations, can be found in this essay:

Sound installation art: from spatial poetics to politics, aesthetics to ethics

in this publication available online through UBC Library:



There are a number of publications that I have scanned copies of that deal with Geography/Architecture/Sound available on my google drive:


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