On July 18th this year, Teresa Barrozo‘s question — What might the Future sound like? — will be opened to global participation. We bring news of World Listening Day, and speak with Teresa about her intervention. We also hear of data archival developments in acoustic ecology. And we speak with Leah Barclay, the editor of Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, about her Biosphere Soundscapes project and some of the challenges of developing accessible apps for mobile platforms. Cris grapples inadequately with the terminology of the anthropophone, the biophone and the geophone in his everyday life. The audio work heard in this episode can be found on the Soundclouds of Leah Barclay and Teresa Barrozo.

[low humming and static playing]

[CRIS CHEEK]

This…is…Phantom Power. Episode 6.

[squeaking sounds]

[CRIS]

Data streams.

[sound of flowing water fades in as squeaking continues]

[MACK HAGOOD]

Welcome to Phantom Power, I’m Mack Hagood. Today,  My co-host cris cheek prepares us for World Listening Day, an annual global event held every July 18th and sponsored by the World Listening Project with events held all over the planet. We’ll get you tuned in to acoustic ecology and World Listening Day with plenty of time to find an event near you, or perhaps to start one of your own. cris has a show for us in three parts. First, we’ll meet Teresa Barrozo, a sound artist, composer and sound designer for film, theater and dance, and the creator of the theme for this year’s World Listening Day. Next, cris does some close listening of his own in a meditation on the sounds of humans, animals and earth in his neighborhood. Finally, we meet Leah Barclay, who made the recording we’re hearing right now in dolphin code on the great Sandy Biosphere Reserve in Queensland, Western Australia. She’s the president of the Australian forum on acoustic ecology, the editor of Soundscape Magazine and the Vice President of the World Acoustic Ecology forum. Leah spoke with Chris from a remote biosphere reserve when it was still summer in the southern hemisphere.

[sounds fade out, ethereal music fades in]

[CRIS]

World Listening Day enters its second decade in 2018. This year’s theme is future listening, created by Filipino sound artist, Teresa Barrozo. Phantom Power caught up with Teresa amidst her preparations.

[ethereal music continues with drum rolls, wooden chimes, and traffic noises periodically playing]

[TERESA BARROZO]

I’m Teresa Barrozo, and I’m a composer and a curious listener from the Philippines.

[CRIS]

Whereabouts in the Philippines are you?

[TERESA]

Carson City, Manila.

[sounds continue]

[CRIS]

Theresa, how did you get involved with the World Listening Project?

[TERESA]

It’s quite popular every year. I get to read up on it. For this year, I got invited by Eric Leonardo and Leah Barclay to create a theme for this year’s World Listening Day. I’m actually surprised that they invited me, because I’m starting out as a sound artist.  My day job is that I’m a composer for film and theater and sound designer for theater, but this since that’s my background, I’ve been very fascinated with how sound and music is used in storytelling. How we use sound and music to manipulate our audience.

[sounds are distorted, sped up and slowed down, with an occasional car honk being heard over the noise. Technological sounds are added.]

That’s where my interest began. Here in the Philippines, there’s no such thing as sound studies, so I started looking outside the Philippines. I started reading about sound and listening online. Mostly, we find everything online, so I just started Googling stuff about sound. I really got interested. I got interested with sound installations; how sound can stand on its own as an art work. I’m interested on how sound can shape the society.

[sounds become softer and have more of a rhythm, or steady beat]

I saw online there’s this thing called acoustic ecology. There’s this thing about deep listening, of course I heard about (inaudible).

[CRIS]

So, what’s your idea for World Listening Day this year?

[TERESA]

The theme for this year’s World Listening Day is Feature Listening. Here we are inviting people to respond on the question what does your feature sound like?

[distorted sounds play again in the background]

There are also other general guide questions to consider. I’m going to read them. What does your past sound like? What does your present sound like? Which sounds do you wish to retain? Which sounds do you wish to never hear again? Which sounds do you consider as toxic waste? How does the silence and noise sound in your feature? Which sounds have gone silent? Can you still hear?

[rhythmic technological sounds play in the background]

[CRIS]

People will be responding to World Listening Day all over the world, I hope. Are they expected to make recordings, or to write about the their experience, or both?

[TERESA]

I personally feel that anyone is welcome to respond in any way they prefer. One example, they’ve been doing this for the past few years, other communities do sound box, and there are some other groups that gather and talk about sound. There are groups who curate concerts or performances that’s inspired by the theme, not just artists but anyone who has something to say or anyone who hopes or dreams can actually be included in this global campaign. It’s not exclusive.

[CRIS]

What kind of future sound do you imagine?

[distorted sounds play again in the background]

[TERESA]

How we can change our future by being present in our listening.

[rhythmic technological sounds play in the background]

How we can examine our hopes, dreams and even our ambitions to go where we want to by being conscious of what we hear.

[CRIS]

One term often used to describe the some of what we hear is “acoustic ecology.” Theresa Barrozo used that there, but what is it? It seems kind of specialist, right? Here’s is a very brief description.

Acoustic Ecology, sometimes called echo acoustics or sound safe study, is a discipline studying the relationship mediated through sound between human beings and their environments. My thinking increasingly became about phones. The anthropophone, the biophone, and the geophone. Here’s my own attempt to get to grips with that. I make a quick local inventory of what I hear around me.

[as sounds are listested, we hear them in the background]

The racket of a pair of my shoes tumbling in the dryer, drifting up from the basement of the house clanks like a broken part in some kind of drum. Not as loud or persistent as the repetitive whirl and woosh of an air conditioner spinning into action during high summer or the clicks and hums of the fridge in the kitchen, but examples of anthropophone nonetheless. Someone sanding a plank with a cranked amp in a trunk to bring some kind of bump crawls by. Peer pressure is the sound of summer mowing, leaf and snow blowing, and all the fun of the power tools that change the dynamic. An anthropophone in the anthropohone scene. All sound produced by humans, whether considered coherent, such as music and language allegedly, or incoherent and chaotic, such as random signals generated primarily by electro mechanical means of ambient noise all forging part of this ongoing sonic patina. In the evenings, I hear the voices of various people calling to their pets across the hill, emergency sirens on the arterial, whistles from distant trains. A stronger wind brings chimes from the neighbor’s deck. A cackle phone of city dwelling here in Northside, Cincinnati.

[rhythmic music continues]

Lying awake at night, we can hear screech owls outside the house sometimes. Raccoons fighting, persistant dog barks, sometimes even coyotes hunting along the creek bed in nearby woods. By day, blue birds, cardinal sparrows, hawks and starlings flick and tweet and sing and sometimes swarm the trees around our house. Imitate phone tones, perhaps, and in a decent breeze, tall trees creek out and rub against each other. Bees troll for pollen. Squirrels skitter from branches to gutters in across rooftops. At dusk, possums edge out eerily across the steps leading up to the porch. Mice in the leaves. Moles cruise street side strips of lawn along the edge rows of this urban biophone. We cannot hear their frequencies. A resonance within the hill on which house is set. The sounds that travel underground. Granular land, water runs, ears with roots,  rock cracks and earth tremors in the gathering ice and or heat. Those songs of the earth, geophony.

[moderately tempoed music fades in]

Hey everyone, its Mack Hagood. Here at Phantom Power we are so fortunate to have generous funding from the Miami University Humanities Center and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Among other things, this means that we don’t have to implore you to buy a new mattress or join a Sock of the Month Club. If you’re a regular podcast listener, you know what I’m talking about. So luckily, we don’t have to do that. We do however, have one small ask, just go to iTunes and leave us a review and a rating. We’d really appreciate it. It’s a great way for the people who are funding this show to know that folks really are listening to it. It’s also a great way for more people to learn about Phantom Power. Thank you.

[music fades out]

[CRIS]

for the rest of the show, here’s Leah Barclay.

[calming music with nature sounds fade in]

It sounds like you’re in a great environment right now, actually. There’s some nice bird sounds in the background.

[LEAH BARCLAY]

I am. Yeah, I’m actually in the biosphere. There’s cicadas, very loud cicadas. Can you hear those now?

[sound of cicadas fades in]

[CRIS]

I can.

[LEAH]

Okay. I mean, I can close the windows. If that’s…

[CRIS]

No, no, no, I like it. I like it.

[LEAH]

All right.

[cicadas sounds fade out]

My name is Leah Barclay. I’m an Australian sound artist and composer, and my work really revolves around acoustic ecology and environmental field recording. I work with different ecosystems, particularly ecosystems that are often beyond our auditory perceptions, such as rivers and lakes, and marine environments. I create experiences of being immersed and present in those ecosystems.

[surreal music and sounds play in the background]

[CRIS]

Installation style, or concert style, or a mixture of both?

[LEAH]

Both. So, I use these environmental field recordings in different contexts. Immersive installations, which are always in surround sound, usually eight channel surround sound, and often have interactive elements so that human presence in the space affects the sonic environment. I also create live performances with these materials where I’ll mix all the sounds live again in a surround sound context. These often involve live streams as well, so live streaming hydrophones from a different ecosystem that I will bring into that live performance.

[surreal music and sounds continue. A chime sounds, then sounds distorted.]

[CRIS]

Can you talk about the biospheres project?

[LEAH]

Yeah. Biospheres Soundscapes is a project that I started in 2012, and the idea launched in the new biosphere reserve in Queensland, Australia. Inspired by the model of biosphere reserves, which UNESCO designated sites designed to look at innovative approaches to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity. It was a model that revolved around a local environment but was globally connected. Biosphere soundscapes really started as this project that could develop participatory acoustic quality experiences in the context of local communities of biosphere reserves, and connect to different sites. Using sound as a tool to inspire ecological engagement, but also leveraging the scientific possibilities of sound for understanding ecosystem health.

[gong goes off, music and sounds are more ominous, then fade out]

We’re actually rebuilding our sound maps and databases at the moment to create this central repository for community recordings. What we found when we’re running workshops and engagement exercises in the biosphere reserves, is the communities want to keep going. They want to keep recording the environment for both artistic and scientific purposes. We want to create these interfaces that enable them to keep doing that and enable them to share and compare those recordings with other biosphere reserves as well.

[a low hum is played in the background with an occasional bug chirping]

[CRIS]

How are you archiving the data that’s collected?

[LEAH]

That’s an excellent question. It has been ongoing challenge with the project. Initially, we looked at this model of cataloging everything on site, backing everything up on hard drives, and we’re always taking a different approach to recording. We’’re doing in situ field recording where we’re staying with the equipment, which might be a three hour session. Then we’re doing long duration recordings, which can be a 24 hour recording, or could be a two week continuous recording. So obviously, the kind of backup systems and the data management on site is dramatically different for that kind of material. We’ve gone through different processes of the best way to manage that. That’s why we’re building these new databases and sound max now, which will streamline that process so communities can upload their material directly. As with any project of this nature, where we’re generating huge amounts of acoustic data, there’s a lot of material from the past that hasn’t been annotated at all. Basically, the exciting point where we are now with this kind of technology, with real time species recognition and algorithms that can analyze that acoustic data, we believe that we’re going to be able to use that material as we move forward to prepare acoustic diversity to 10 years ago.

[the hum fades out as nature sounds continue]

While we’re not annotating and data basing everything in a perfect way, we see great value in collecting as much acoustic data as possible.

[CRIS]

Yeah, and I presume that tagging must be a really big part of that too.

[LEAH]

Absolutely.

[CRIS]

What layers and levels of tagging you get into, how much detail and how much complexity?

[LEAH]

That’s exactly right. The new community system basically has layers of tagging. You can select location is the big one, time of day, and then our communities can choose them to add more layers of information to the point that they can actually identify specific species if they want to, or identify, simple differences between biophilia and giophilia and things like that.

[nature sounds continue, this time more water-based sounds]

[CRIS]

There will be this gradual…I’m going to be a bit of a space cadet in saying this, global mapping in terms of complexity of sound and location.

[LEAH]

I think there’s been a lot of calls for that throughout various artistic and scientific communities. Obviously, there’s a lot of incredible soundtracks that exist online that have inspired elements of this project, but often they don’t call for community participation, or the ones that do call for community participation are around specific themes or very broad. Looking at the way that listening can inspire presence and connection to place and all of the future possibilities we have in these scientific fields that allow us to use to monitor environmental health.

[calm, quiet music plays in the background with an occasional metal clank]

[CRIS]

The potential proliferation of live streaming sites triggered by presence or triggered remote.

[LEAH]

Exactly, the live streaming element is a really interesting one as well. We had set up various models and frameworks to live stream within biospheres, within a parallel project called River Listening using hydrophones in rivers.

[sounds of rivers mixed with calm music]

[LEAH]

It didn’t always work. We had all these issues with, if you’re in a remote area, internet dropping out and technology going missing and the interfaces we were using weren’t working. Then I discovered Sound Camp in London in the UK, who has been running really fantastic community by the live streaming projects for many years. We started working with them to build various frameworks for community streaming kits. That’s quite transformational to data management, the stream to use them both for artistic and scientific context. They can be integrated into installations and performances, but they can have algorithms attached to them that do real time species recognition.

[sounds continue]

[CRIS]

Do you notice a difference between recording an environment when people are there and recording an environment when people aren’t there?

[LEAH]

Absolutely. That’s been an interesting process for me personally, as a field recorder. I notice the difference when I am there as well. If I’m setting up equipment in the environment, and I’m in situ on there, with headphones on actively listening, which I love doing. I think it’s such a magic way to connect to the environment, but I notice a distinctive difference in those recordings between when I’m there and when I’m not there, because obviously, everything that lives in that ecosystem is equally as aware of my presence and of anyone else has presence, and naturally, they vocalize in different ways.

[subdued nature sounds play]

[CRIS]

lEAH, I think I’m right in saying that you’re involved with the development of apps for mobile platforms?

[LEAH]

That’s exactly right, which has been a big part of the community engagement. I’ve been really interested through both biosphere soundscapes and (inaudible) to develop mobile apps that enable communities to record and locate their sounds very easily. When they’re in environments where they’re hearing different species, they can literally just pull out their phone and start recording and add that to the database. For example, you know where we are, right now you may hear the waves of cicadas in the background which aren’t necessarily a common soundscape for this time of day, but we know that this particular species of cicadas comes out when the temperature gradually starts to rise. It would mean that a community member could pull out their phone and record this and upload it straight to the database.

[calm music and a bell chiming in the background]

[CRIS]

While we know that sound has been the relatively less focused on human sense, in terms of development of internet platforms and interfaces, using the technology is also humans interfering in the environment even further. So there’s a kind of a trade off.

[LEAH]

Of course, yeah, and look I mean, realistically, I think, there’s an inherent contradiction in in many of the projects that I’ve really been pushing in a acoustic ecology and using mobile technologies as a tool to reconnect young people to the environment obviously, is problematic in more ways than one. At the end of the day, when young people are carrying these mobile phones in their back pocket, it’s not like they’re going to get rid of them tomorrow. I see great value in using the available platforms we have and repurposing these technologies in ways that can inspire this culture.

[sounds continue]

The fact that I can create these augmented reality sound walks and installations with mobile applications, and I can take those to climate change conferences and literally put them in the hands of decision makers so they can be listening as they walk past in the hallways, it transforms the accessibility of these experiences. When we start to think about these environments that we don’t traditionally have access to. Throughout auditory perception, the freshwater environments in rivers, the horrific impact that anthropogenic noise is having now on marine environments, but then, when they’re immersed in an installation or listening experience where they actually hear how loud and intense and heartbreaking in a way, that sound load is for species such as humpback whales who are migrating, yet it’s quite confronting.

[music and water-based sounds play]

[CRIS]

Well, thanks, Leah. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

[LEAH]

Thank you.

[CRIS]

I wish you a great day there in the biosphere.

[LEAH]

Thanks very much for having me. I’m excited to hear more episodes of this podcast as well.

[acoustic music plays]

[MACK]

And that’s it for this episode of Phantom Power. Thanks to Teresa Barrozo, the track that played during her segment was a piece called “Duet” and thanks to Leah Barclay. All of the sounds in Leah’s segment were by her. You can learn more about those pieces and find transcripts and links to some of the things we’ve talked about at phantompod.org. You can also subscribe to our show there, or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d review and rate us on Apple podcasts. Tell us what you thought about the show on Facebook or give us a shout on Twitter @PhantomPod. Our interns are Natalie Cooper and Adam Whitmer. Phantom Power is made possible through a generous grant from the Miami University Humanities Center and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

[music fades out]

One comment on “Ep. 6: Data Streams (Leah Barclay and Teresa Barrozo)

  1. Ros Bandt says:

    great you are doing this work Leah and Terese

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