The Sounds of Liminal Space

In geographical terms liminal space describes a transitional area through which we pass but don’t belong. This may include features such as hotels, rivers, roads, and borders.

Similar to the way in which we experience sound, our passage through liminal space is often ephemeral and intangible.

Following are three recordings taken within Sydney’s transport system. Here the idea of travel performs the 3 stages of liminality: separation, marginalization, and reaggregation.

Sydney Airport

The modern airport exemplifies the concept of liminal space. On a daily basis passengers move through its halls in a physical and mental state of transition. As passengers focus upon the experiences awaiting them in other regions little thought is directed to the space in which they temporarily inhabit. However sonic features such as boarding calls, gate changes and delay announcements serve as soundmarks for this particular environment.

Central Station

While the sounds in airports can suggest the beginning of new and exciting possibilities, train stations are often associated with life’s more earthbound moments. Sounds of business shoes stepping through station hallways, coffee machines working overtime for workers on an early shift amplify the fact that this liminal space is often a transitional point between the workplace and home. In this recording a platform speaker malfunctions amidst the daily arrival of trains.

Sydney Harbour Water Taxi Platform

The sounds of Sydney Harbour are often associated with pleasure as ferry passengers move from the crowded city to an open space. The mental peace that results from this experience is reflected in its soundmarks. In this recording a water-taxi platform gently moves with the wake generated by ferries further out in the harbour. The sound in this liminal point connects terrestrial and aquatic elements.

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