Diagnosing the Sound of the Landscape: The Sound Cycle Ride
Liminal, including sound artist David Prior and architect Frances Crow, with support from The Wellcome Trust have been researching perceptions of sound with specialists in architecture, sound art, audiology, computational neuroscience and acoustics as part of the project commission by Sustrans 'Tranquillity is a State of Mind'. This led to exploration of the relationship between our 'headscape', the interior sounds that we experience, and our exterior 'soundscape.'
The research included a four day Sound Cycle Ride from Worcester to Cricklade (NCN 45), where they invited local residents to join them and listen to the landscape, then survey and record their perceptions.
The project began by looking at the condition of Tinnitus and the affect that unwanted sounds have on a sufferer's psychology. Using this as a metaphor for society's relationship to sound, the artists suggest that listening aids may work as diagnostic tools to investigate our health and well-being in relation to our soundscape:
"When the atmosphere is dry and clear, and the bowels regular, the hearing is more acute, than in moist weather, and the patient more susceptible of the impression of the undulations of sound, especially if he has been taking exercise in the open air... It is for this reason that walking or riding, so as to cause a gentle perspiration, will be found very beneficial in promoting the action of the glandular system..." (Treatment for "the diminution of hearing and the noises affected, arising from the secretion of wax" prescribed by Thomas Buchanan in his book Illustrations of Acoustic Surgery, published in 1825.)
Just as a doctor listens to the body of a patient through a stethoscope to diagnose their health, so participants during the sound cycle ride participant used listening aids to listen to and record the sounds of the landscape in new and exciting ways.
The findings from Diagnosing the Sound of the Landscape can be found in Liminal's final project report on Tranquillity is a State of Mind.