Spaces Speak: Conversation with Barry Blesser

Current conversations
Post Reply
bblesser
Traveler
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:56 am
Location: Belmont, MA
Contact:

Post by bblesser »

As the author of Spaces Speak, I am delighted to have an open dialog with anyone interested in the aural experience of space. Actually, the topic is far broader because it is also a vehicle for elevating an awareness of sound in our techno-visual culture. Hearing actually serves three function: understanding speech, appreciating music, and connecting to the events of life. We have lost an appreciation for the third use of sound. We are always connected to sonic events; we have no ear-lids.

Those who work with sensory disabilities observe that individuals with vision problems lead perfectly normal social lives, but those with a prodound hearing deficit have the burden of the mental and emotional distress of isolation. Deafness is a major disruption even though most people think that vision is their primary sensory modality.

Yet in our modern culture, we create spatial acoustics and soundscapes that produce functional deafness. The most obvious example is the iPod generation. Not only do the elevated sound levels of ear-buds produce permanent hearing damage, but while wearing them, individuals are functional deaf to events in their environment. You cannot even hear the sound of your own footsteps. Many of us have had the experience of being functionally deaf in a restaurant with corrosive acoustics.

My book brings together the issues of aural architecture, but it is only a beginning. While it provides the initial foundation and langauge for discussing the subject, the ideas will not become relevant until a large number of others add to the starting base. I have already had dozens of wonderful email dialog with people who have shared their personal expereinces. No doubt, there will be a 2nd edition or a sequel to Spaces Speak, and I welcome the community to participate.

Please contribute to the discussion.
Barry

bblesser
Traveler
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:56 am
Location: Belmont, MA
Contact:

Post by bblesser »

I predict that deafness and the iPod generation will be a hot topic within a decade, primarily because there is very little public understanding of hearing loss. First, the conventional wisdom holds that those who lived in a jungle in the 19th century never lost any hearing even in old age. All hearing loss is the result of abuse. Second, hearing loss progresses from high frequencies downward. Almost nobody notice a loss at 10kHz or even 6kHz. But when the loss enters the speech region, around 3kHz, some people notice. But everyone notices when the loss extends down to 1 kHz. By that time it is too late. The best advise is to get yourself tested by an audiologist and start taking care of your ears while you still have some auditory capacity. No much for a negative message.

As for learning to appreciate soundscape, not just while traveling, but also in you home town, consider the following switch in perspectives. Instead of thinking of sound as such, think of the event that create the sound. All sounds results from a dynamic action of some kind. There is no such thing as a static environment producing sound.

Create a mental picture of the objects, animals, and activities that are producing sounds. Tune into the children playing by listening to the sounds they make. Similarly for birds, cars, and cafe dialogs. One builds a picture of the world through sound. But unlike a visual picture, the soundscape is dynamic.

If you get more sophisticated, you can also sense the way passive objects and geometries change sounds. You can hear a building by its echo or by how it changes spectral coloration. You can hear a long cavernous street by its reverberaiton. Both the sound sources and the passive environment allow you to build a picture of the world. Vision and cameras are not the only way to acquire a picture. Smells and touch are also good senses.

In this way, soundscapes, like landscapes, are all part of sensoryscapes.

bblesser
Traveler
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:56 am
Location: Belmont, MA
Contact:

Who cares about protecting the soundscape?

Post by bblesser »

Noise has always been a political issue especially in the early part of the 20th century. There were laws and enforcers of laws because the soundscape was far more unbelievably polluted than now. Nevertheless, noise it is still a hot topic.

To get a basic education, I recommend starting with the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse at http://www.nonoise.org, which has many links to other individual sites. Also, visit http://www.quiet.org, or the UK Department of Health at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/ ... tion/fs/en

Just a quick web search shows dozen of sites. Washington State maintains a web site devoted to relevant rules and regulations, but enforcement is another question. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/noise.htm

Progress on protecting the soundscape only arises from grass roots politics.

planeta
Site Admin
Posts: 6843
Joined: Wed May 14, 2003 8:03 am
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Contact:

grass roots politics question

Post by planeta »

Barry, your responses have all been first-rate. Many thanks for such timely and thoughtful replies.

Following up, do you have a few examples of how grass roots politics have been successful in protecting the ambient soundscape?

Post Reply