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University of Utah Sound Walk

Submitted by jlejun1 on September 10, 2009

In public transportation systems throughout the world, people find their commute eased by a poor musician reinterpreting a few lines of Bob Dylan or a man on a keyboard playing a piece of a Sonata from J.S. Bach. Regardless of genre, there is something unique to the addition of music to the rythmic nature of a commute. Sound became the driving force behind the design of this bus stop.

The University of Utah is the home of the Western Soundscape Archive. A Soundscape is defined by the Handbook for Acoustic Ecology as “an environment of sound with emphasis on the way it is preceived and understood by the individual, or by a society . . . Since a soundscape is shaped by both the conscious and subliminal perceptions of the listener, soundscape analysis is based on perceptual and cognitive attributes such as foreground, background, contour, rhythm, silence, density, space and volume . . . .”

The form of the bus stop was derived by exploiting graphs of the soundscape of some available data from Utah and then further manipulating those results to acheive a space condusive to heightening the experience of soundmaking. The space of the bus stop is designed as an informal performance space where music students from the University could practice their instrument in front of an audience rather than in a practice room within the school of music without the appreciation of any random passersby.

Musically inclined students represent an incredibly small sampling of the sound emitting population of the campus. While the bus stop acts as the nexus of the project, the entire Sound Walk is meant to focus people’s attention upon the cacauphony of sounds that occur on campus on a daily basis that might be taken for granted and if given a little more consideration might be worth being appreciated.

The intent of this project is to engage in making place by use of heightening people’s auditory experience. By allowing people to take a few moments to consider the sound of the light rail train as it eases over the tracks or the sounds of leaves rustling in a nearby tree as a bird is in mid-song. The act of listening intently connects people to their place by making them aware of movement around them (since sound is merely the vibration of molecules of air at a frequency that is audible) and allows people to have the chance to appreciate a variety of sounds from things that might be otherwise considered as just noise to the bus stop that is dedicated to music.

Sponsored by the Utah Transit Authority, Federal Transit Authority and The University of Utah