Sonic Seascape Terrace is a site-specific project, which explores connections between the seascape and sounds emanating beneath it´s surface. Two terraces, belvederes, constructed on the shorelines of Turku city are accompanied with a realtime soundscape composition, distributed on the terrace from the hydrophones hidden in the nearby body of water. The streaming sound signals question the beauty of "vista mare"opening from the terraces by revealing processes invisible for the eyes.
What is the correlation between underwater soundscape and the way the sea looks on the surface? Sound can travel many kilometres under water, so it´s noisy down there though on a sunny day the surface of the sea appears as a calm and peaceful entity. When we talk about the sea, we tend to refer only what´s happening on the surface level. But underneath is a secret world, which we know very little of. The project investigates that world with the aid of sound, which is the best communication method in water.
The aim of the project is to build view-point terraces, belvederes, in a city with marine shorelines. From each terrace one can hear the real-time underwater soundscape of the seascape visible from that specific view-point. The view over the seascape is framed from the terrace to the place where a number of hydrophones are located, so that a viewer/listener standing at the terrace can link the seascape and the soundscape to each other. The terraces form an exploration into the interaction between the sea and the land, how the sea is reflecting human activities and how city sounds merge into the underwater soundscape. In the same time, it should sharpen our senses to make observations about our surrounding environment not only with our eyes, but also with our ears.
Contemporary western lifestyle produces huge amounts of waste in various forms. The most intangible ones are noise and light pollution. While not producing anything concrete to deal with they have a direct impact on human senses and our behaviour. Our daily soundscape is filled with different kinds of electrical devices humming and beeping, machines producing a constant background noise, which our hearing blocks out to be able to distinguish sounds that matter. Normally we are not aware of this, but some people show strong physical symptoms, termed as electric allergy. Noise pollution causes stress and fatigue that is difficult trace to it´s source.
Soundscape studies and acoustic ecology form the scientific background of the project. Acoustic ecology is a rather new field of research dedicated to the study of the sound-based social interactions of living organisms. The composer and researcher R. Murray Schafer created the term soundscape in the 60`s in parallel to the term landscape. Soundscape refers to an acoustic environment in which listeners are immersed, it includes natural acoustic elements as well as those caused by human activities in a specific place of the landscape. In our project the contradiction between the soundscape and the landscape should raise thoughts about the invisible changes happening under a naturally serene surface. Even if the seascape still looks harmonious and beautiful, its polluted and industrial soundscape prefigures something really different.
Soundscape composition usually implies that the original sound sources remain recognizable for the listener. But underwater sounds are not so well known by the audience and it is sometimes difficult to relate the sound to its cause while it´s not visible on the surface of the water. Also some sounds very typical to the location can emanate during a very limited period of time. Our approach as composers is to emphasize the specificity of the soundscape of each location. To do so we select the sound material through the choice of precise points of hearing where the hydrophones are set. The real-time composition reinforces chosen acoustic qualities of the sound material to reveal its originality and the zones where sounds overlap with each others. A parallel timeline is created to the realtime transmission of sound events occurring in the water, an imaginary timeline which resonates sound memories of the location.
Text by: Marianne Decoster-Taivalkoski and Hanna Haaslahti
Audiovisual presentation of Sonic Seascape Terrace from Turku exhibition will be shown here after 31st August, 2011.
In collaboration with:
Centre for music & technology/Sibelius Academy, ProNatMat-hanke/Turun AMK, BalticSeaNow.info -hanke /Turun AMK, Ruissalon Kansanpuiston säätiö, Aurajokisäätiö, Hartela Oy