Soundscape Explorations: Sensing Place on Mount Tom (2014)

For the past years, the Pioneer Valley Soundscapes website has largely featured student documentary works. These have mostly been centered on ethnographic studies of local musical ensembles. I am interested in working the idea of sound beyond music into the collection. My project relies on the concept of soundscape as the spatialized realm of sounds that characterize each place. Rather than adopting Bernie Krause’s search for “wild untrammeled places” (working to eliminate human-made sounds from the auralized environment), my project focuses on the relationships between sounds, which I refer to as “ecologies” of sound.

I have recorded the soundscapes of Mount Tom, a local landmark, with an ear for anthrophony (human-made), biophony (the sounds of other living organisms), and geophony (non-biological sounds.) Keeping in mind the ethical conducts of both bioanthropology and ethnobotany, I have chosen only a few interactions between different elements, organisms, and humans in the environment. My hope is for this project to be a way of engaging the broader Pioneer Valley community with the sounds of Mount Tom. I want to work with the parks staff to encourage visiting members of the community to make their experiences heard. My project will reveal Mount Tom as its own mosaic of soundscapes, experienced through many circumstances, on varying occasions. Each person perceives this place differently, and can lend a different perspective.

In addition, I would like to expand the body of participants in this project. I want this to be a project that continues after I leave. There is the potential to make use of Bryan Pijanowski’s Global Soundscapes App as a means for people to categorize and upload recordings with their smartphones. For community members in the Pioneer Valley, it may be a chance to share the experience Mount Tom in a new way. In a culture so focused on visual perception, I want to create an opportunity to enjoy auralized encounters.