Sounds from an Idealised World

How do we visualise the world through our auditory sense?
Does sound shape what we see?

By combining field-recordings from 4 separate locations Sounds from an Idealised World artificially creates a landscape which is visualised through auditory cues. Although the original recordings are unrelated in both place and time our instinctive listening approach creates a singular visual image from what we hear before us. Consequently as the familiar sounds of waves, birds, cicadas and wind-chimes enter our auditory system we listen visually.

Guided by this fusion of sounds we might imagine a tropical coastline where waves softly wash against the fringe of a lush green forest, the chimes adding to the tranquility of the scene. We bring to this our subjective histories, the sights and sounds of a coastline we experienced in the past or images we have subconsciously accumulated through visual media. In this aspect listening is a process which interprets our surroundings by creatively engaging with other senses.

Does the act of listening stimulate a creative process in a way that is unique among the senses? Does the unseen nature of sound spark the imagination in a way that visual cues do not? To what extent does sight rely on listening to help us navigate our way through the world? As Salomé Voegelin says sound invites the imagination – it’s an illusion that we all live in the same world. This is worth considering as we continue to form our idealised worlds through sound.

8 thoughts on “Sounds from an Idealised World

    1. Thanks Bruce. As I was writing for this entry the same thought concerning touch and visualisation crossed my mind. Maybe it proves the dominance of our visual sense if the other senses somehow defer to it.


      1. Maybe… some writers have suggested that this visual dominance is a cultural artefact and there are cultures out there where the senses are characterised or ordered differently. I’ve not yet had the chance to track down the references to work done with people from other cultures to see whether this is so.

        It would be a nice experiment to take the soundscapes that you’ve created and play them to people in non-visual dominant cultures, just to find out how they responded.


  1. I think the interplay between our senses is really interesting, especially in our response to sound – which often draws upon prior experiences, memories and of course our imagination – all of which come together in our ‘minds-eye’ which in a sense could be described as a predominantly visual experience.

    However I think sound provokes something that is much greater than a visualisation in the mind – it provides us with something that is close to recalling a memory – a conscious experience so to speak.

    For me, sound is a very powerful medium and one that has become more so since becoming interested in working with sound and subsequently learning to listen more intently. I always like to think that audio is one of the best mediums through which to tell stories, a happy half-way between reading a good book and watching a film – it captures elements from both, providing just enough information from which to construct your own worlds and experiences. But it requires your imagination to ultimately construct that experience and as you say it’s constructed from elements of past memory and personal history – so that the narrative, or story in a sense becomes an extension of yourself, a work of your own. I think that’s what makes listening so powerful and enjoyable. It offers opportunity to escape and explore new realities.


  2. For me field recording/concrete music has a sort of supplementary sense that it gives to the locations around. If only by simply using recorder to amplify ambience of presence in view. However close or distant it is. (I sometimes attach a recorder to my bike and ride slowly listening to the world around, even though its strictly sounding through the headphones). It functions like a sort of illusion superimposed on vision (which, i believe, due to its all participating use becomes quite numb as the years pass or too accustomed to the place). In this chain of reasoning, when sound fails to be intense enough or make sense in superimposing over vision, should come the touch and then the smell.
    There’s also a possibility that all forms of experience, here, specifically, hearing/sound not only cooperates, but interrupt each other. For while my visual experience of a factory district might be quite dull, the sound of it might be very intense and inviting. Here I can form an idea of intensity in dullness, or beauty in ruins, as I like to call it.
    I have spent one month living in a 100 years old 4 floors high house. After my job I would record various things in it/around it: floor, basement machinery, sea, old radio, crystal dishes,old violins etc. I thought I will compose a piece from that to sort of grasp the existence of this house. I think I failed: sound becoming abstracted takes whole lot of other operations than being a vehicle for particular token of reminiscence.
    Here’s how it ended up sounding like (you can skip the text) :


    1. I love the image of you listening to the space you are riding through, perhaps not only listening to the surrounding countryside but the sound of the bike on the road etc. Also, good point about some recordings that sound good within a space not embodying the same resonance once it is played back later in a new space … this has happened to me on more than one occasion and it can be quite disappointing can’t it? So appreciating sounds without the view to work with them later is still the an important consideration and one which, as field recordists, might lose track of from time to time.


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