Local sound families and a choir in Estonia: Inquiring into acoustic specificity through multi-layered soundscapes

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A local sound is not only a sound one can record in a specific location, manifested in a specific cultural context and pointing to an unique life form and/or human activity – a local sound, the way I understand it in the context of my recent artistic research, is a sound whose uniqueness in itself is not as relevant as the fact that it resonates in a web of uniqueness, meaning, in a dynamic and complex cohabitation with other sounds – some local, some even maybe better described as being global or indeed universal.
To speak of a single isolated sound as being local – even in such poetic examples as the whistled tunes of the almost extinct Portuguese street walking knife and tool sharpeners – strikes me as inadequate. I propose instead to discuss the role of families of local sounds in my recent sound work.
An example would be the specific choral tradition in Estonia, not only the well documented, politically and historically significant national engagement with large scale choir festivals, but the one that is manifest in the small village of Mooste in the Monday evening gathering of their local fifteen people choir. Sounds recordings gathered from this choir are in a relation to the whole choral tradition, but it is the relationship itself which makes these sounds local, not the fact that they are available to be recorded in a specific locality.
These families of local sounds are more easily understood in the context of a consonant and resonant soundscape than as samples collected from a given soundworld. To describe them in a textual form ones needs to describe a sound mapping movement which gathers and relates these sounds into a given experiential context.
This detailed description, something like an annotated diary of sound sense impressions – including not only an account of the specific acoustic circumstances surrounding my encounter with the Mooste choir, but also a series of sonic experiences including a biographical sound-­‐sense narrative of meeting and collaborating with those who permitted me access to this choir, as well as the sonorous presence of the surrounding landscape shifting and changing during my stay – is what I propose as a contribution to the upcoming anthology on artistic research in the context of experimenting with the notion of “local”.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArtistic Research : Being There, Explorations Into the Local
EditorsLuisa Greenfield, Myna Trustram, Eduardo Abrantes
Number of pages13
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
PublisherNSU Press
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-87-87564-92-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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