Imagining space through sound

McCombe, Christine (2001) Imagining space through sound. In UK and Ireland Soundscape Community Conference: Sound Practice, 16-20 Feb, Dartington, Devon, UK.

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Buildings come to exist as sites of memory and imagination. Any built space, whether constructed for habitation or utility, resonates with the human activity that has occurred within it. Our experience of a space is influenced by many things; by knowledge of the functions of the space, by cultural associations, by memory and imagination. The way we experience a space is determined largely by our aural perception of that space. One can be in a room in complete darkness and yet still have a powerful sense of our own physical presence within it, through the sound of footfall, of the voice and even the sound of our our breath.

In this paper the author/composer will refer to her work with environmental sound (in the form of installations and electroacoustic composition) and discuss the ways in which sound can be used to enliven our experience and understanding of space. Examples of electroacoustic soundscapes and documentation of installation work (including a recent collaboration with Edinburgh based artist Anne Bevan) will illustrate how the author’s work focuses on the associative power of sound. By juxtaposing disparate sound worlds or by re-contextualising environmental sound, the intention is to focus the aural imagination and to enrich the listener’s experience of space, whether physical or imaginary.

The author’s work has a strong preoccupation with old and abandoned spaces, and a fascination with the memories such places evoke and contain. In some ways the work is an attempt to reanimate space and to tap into the resonances of imagination that inhabit old and neglected buildings. Her work can be seen to incorporate various approaches, ranging from installation and soundscape to historical documentation of specific sites.

Drawing on the ideas of various writers, the author will place her work in a broader context and reflect upon the issues raised. Gaston Bachelard’s seminal work, ‘The Poetics of Space’, offers a starting point for attempting to describe the impact that our built environment has on our imagination. Bachelard describes the ways in which human imagination and memory are strongly linked to, and shaped by, our physical environment. “Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are‿. Part of the motivation for the author’s work is to exploit the associative richness of specific sites and locations and to create work which engages the imagination in a variety of ways.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 295
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Space and sound, memory, imagination, environmental sounds, soundscapes
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Musicology and Ethnomusicology (190409)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 19 Jul 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:21

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