Sound Walks at the British Library

Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator at the British Library Digital Archives, and Andrew Stuck, founder of the Museum of Walking hosted Exploring with Sound Walks at the British Library, on June 7, 2019. An opportunity for those already making sound walks, and for those wanting to find out more about how to create similar walks, to come together. Exploring with Sound Walks was part of the run-up to Sound Walk Sunday, which this year will be held on September 1, 2019.

The day was made up of live presentations and video recordings by creatives, working in the field of sound walks and geo-located media for many years.

Mahendra Mahey, lead of the British Library Labs, opened the event by describing how the Labs function and how they have worked with artists-in-residence to put on exhibitions.  He then gave an overview of the current Imaginary Cities exhibition with artist-in-residence Michael Takeo Magruder, that incorporates sound and virtual reality experiences.

In his opening remarks, Andrew Stuck emphasised that Sound Walk Sunday is a ‘broad church’, encompassing walking pieces either as listening pieces or audio commentaries, as well as those linked by geo-located position. As producer of Talking Walking, he explained how he had met many creatives who have made sound walks and walking pieces. They work in many media, some are performers, others musicians, choreographers, theatre producers, poets, writers, sound designers, technologists and walking artists. Often their work is no longer available, sometimes made purely for a one-off festival, or technological upgrades have made them in accessible.

“Sound Walk Sunday grew out of the desire to make this work accessible again.  Our first step was to define what a Sound Walk could be as we wanted Sound Walk Sunday to be inclusive for all the different creatives we had encountered – the final wording is:

A sound walk, or walking piece, is any walk that focuses on listening to the environment, with or without use of technology, or adds to the experience through the use of sound or voice. This can include a scripted or choreographed score or work that has additional audio elements.”

In 2017 the Museum of Walking set up a simple directory  inviting people to submit work that they had already produced and also invited them to premiere new work on Sound Walk Sunday. So on the last Sunday of August 2017 there were over 70 contributions from more than 50 artists with live events taking place in south west France, the United States, northern Canada,  Australia and here in London. Sound Walk Sunday had captured the imagination and inspired people to make new work.

Sound Walk Sunday 2019 will be more than just Sunday 1st September it will also run for a month beyond. We already have a number of international partners wanting to encourage new work with new audiences in their local areas, as well as to collaborate with creatives in other parts of the world.  Some of those creatives who are seeking to make collaborative work  presented at this event.

Three presentations were from creatives based overseas, unable to make the journey to London. First up was Babak Fakhamzadeh talking about his work (YouTube link), his influences, and about some of his work, including his co-creation of Dérive app.

Fred Adam, of GPSMuseum, gave a walk through of CGeomap, a collaborative platform which enables up to 20 authors to concurrently contribute, to develop a multimedia digital layer of geo-located media.

Geert Vermeire is a curator, performer and poet presently based in São Paulo, Brazil. Key to his work is co-creation and collaboration, “togethering” with a specific artistic interest in libraries, walking and new media, inspired by Spaziergangwissenschaft, the ‘Science of Walking’. He is the producer of Made of Walking, an international gathering of walking artists and creatives that recently lived its 5th instalment in Prespes, Greece, at the Greek-Albanian-North-Macedonian border, bringing together hundreds of walking creatives of all continents. Here’s the YouTube link of Geert’s talk.

Geert’s analog and digital work evolves around human connections, text and space, resulting in sound walks engaging both with the landscape and with those walking through the landscape.

Working with students in São Paulo and NuSom, research center for sonology at the University in São Paulo, Geert and Babak had used the CGeomap platform to record a collaborative sound walk which was then ‘placed’ (digitally geo-located) around the British Library, for participants of the event to discover sounds from around the Mário Andrade Library in São Paulo.  Their plans include coming to London at the end of August to record a similar sound walk from the vicinity of the British Library to be placed digitally around the library in São Paulo. This concurrent sound walk will be a highlight of Sound Walk Sunday, this September.

George Fort, a former Blake Society Trustee now turned entrepreneur spoke about Placecloud that offers people the opportunity to stumble across previously recorded geo-located stories about buildings and places – known as ‘Placecasts‘ .  As a partner in Sound Walk Sunday, Placecloud will open up its platform throughout September for people to post stories about buildings and places they care about and in a collaboration with the Museum of Walking will be running a walkshop to show how straightforward it is to make a ‘placecast’. Listen to George’s presentation below

– his slides: June_Placecloud_British_Library.pdf.

Alastair Horne is undertaking a PhD on how mobile phones are changing storytelling, and has created his own geo-located audio-drama in London Brompton Cemetery.  His presentation offered new insights into writing mobile devices as well as revealing how rich in life stories any graveyard can be, but especially Brompton Cemetery.  Watch a trailer to his audio drama here and listen to his presentation here.

Another parallel piece was described by NG Bristow, filmmaker and a teacher of Directing Fiction at Goldsmiths, University of London. NG Bristow’s 108 will be a parallel audio drama geo-located on the 108 bus routes in both London and Cape Town.

This was followed by a key presentation by Marcin Barski from the IPD, Soundscape Institute Poland, in Kraków. IPD is an independent research platform for field recordings and for ways of listening. Marcin discussed what could possibly go wrong in making a sound walk – see his presentation here.

Exploring with Sound Walks was attended by about sixty people and was a great success in bringing together creatives from many fields. It is expected that Sound Walk Sunday will be the catalyst for future collaborations between artists and sound walk creatives across the globe. We have an Open Call for sound walks and walking pieces – deadline 28 July 2019

We at the Museum of Walking particularly like to thank Stella Wisdom at the British Library for making this event not only possible but very successful.

All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..