Alaska art exhibit meant to be heard, not seen

Photo credit: James Brooks licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’m a doctor, not an art critic, but I was intrigued by this report in the Alaska Daily News about a new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. As the article notes, museums are typically visual experiences, but this is an auditory art exhibit, “Listen Up: Northern Soundscapes.”

What’s a soundscape? The article states:

If a landscape is a wide view of a place — its layout, shapes, colors and features — a soundscape is the same idea, except that the “picture” is auditory, not visual. A soundscape is a collection of sounds heard in a specific place — the ambient noise that you might (or might not) notice while standing in that spot.

The article continues, reporting that “[t]he recordings in the museum’s database are being collected as part of an effort in soundscape ecology, which is used by scientists to understand what’s happening in an environment in ways that may not be visually observed.”

When I go for my morning walks, I see lots of joggers and walkers listening to their personal audio systems. I prefer to listen to the sounds of nature, the chattering of squirrels and the bird calls, some of which I can even identify. And of course, since I walk in the street, often before dawn, part of my urban soundscape is the noise of approaching vehicles.

It may be a good idea for all of us to pay more attention to our natural soundscapes.

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