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A soundwalk is a walk with a focus on listening to the environment. The term was first used by members of the World Soundscape Project under the leadership of composer R. Murray Schafer in Vancouver in the 1970s. Hildegard Westerkamp, from the same group of artists, defines soundwalking as "... any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are." [1]

Other terms closely related to soundwalking and used by Schafer[2] include:

  • Keynote: typically ambient sounds which are not perceived, not because they are inaudible but because they are filtered out cognitively, such as a highway or air-condition hum)
  • Soundmark: a sonic landmark; a sound which is characteristic of a place)
  • Sound signal: a foreground sound; e.g. a dog, an alarm clock; messages/meaning is usually carried through sound signals.
  • Sound object: the smallest possible recognizable sonic entity (recognizable by its amplitude envelope)
  • Acousmatic: a description for sounds whose sources are out of sight or unknown. This also relates to acousmatic music.

Schafer was particularly interested in the implications of the changes in soundscapes in industrial societies in children, and children's relationship to the world through sound. He was a proponent of ear-cleaning (cleaning one's ears cognitively), and he saw soundwalking as an important part of this process of re-engaging our aural senses in finding our place in the world. [3]

Soundwalking has been used as artistic medium by visual artists and documentary makers, such as Janet Cardiff.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Westerkamp, Hildegard (1974). "Soundwalking". Sound Heritage. III (4).
  2. ^ Schafer, R. Murray (1977). The Tuning of the World. Michigan: Knopf; original: University of Michigan. ISBN 0394409663.
  3. ^ Schafer, R. Murray (1969). Ear cleaning: notes for an experimental music course. New York: Berandol Music; sole selling agents: Associated Music Publishers. ISBN 0911320903.