Sound and space are closely linked. Our ears help define our surroundings by picking up on spatial clues in reflected sound waves. This innate ability to situate ourselves in our soundscape was probably more overtly useful in the days before electricity, when we had to rely on our ears to alert us to danger our eyes could not detect. There is, however, a movement in the visually impaired community to cultivate this ability to help them navigate in the world and participate in sports, and artists such as Janet Cardiff use sound and spatiality as integral parts of their work (see The Forty Part Motet).
In order to document and share the soundscapes or our world, we built an online sound map over the summer and asked the public to contribute to it with field recordings and sounds from their lives. The map was presented as a sound component to the MoMA Studio: Common Sense space, held in conjunction with the Century of the Child exhibition.
The map is meant to draw attention to the sonic characteristics of various locations around the world, and was therefore designed to have minimal visual information. As you explore the map, you find orange markers indicating locations where participants have uploaded a recording. Mouse over the marker to get a short title, and click it to launch an audio player.
There are currently 51 recordings on the map, and the sounds are rich and varied: wind turbines in Andalucia and Ireland, chanting from Japan, a manifestation in Madrid, various recordings throughout the streets of London, a “soundwalk” through The Museum of Modern Art, Cypriot goats, Californian owls, and Irish birds.