From the Seminar on Urban Form, 1954, MIT Kevin Lynch archives:
“Kepes: If you could articulate the existing city sound patterns, what would you do, what would be your needs to be satisfied? With purposeful organization of city sounds, we could enrich the experience of the city.
Cage: My feeling is that this is already the case.
Kepes: Ordered pattern, not a fixed, fully controlled or rigid one, but one partially defined, such as the 12 o’clock bell, in contract to the chaotic flow of the random sounds, could help to structure our responses.
Cage: Regularized events, such as the 12 o’clock bell, form a rhythmic situation, for the bells never completely coincide.
If they were really controlled, they would not do what they actually do, that is to produce and overlapping situation. With magnetic tape, many have considered the possibilities of controlling sounds completely. The results have proved to the contrary. In Cologne they have created synthetic sounds to produce harmonious controlled sound, but the material resists control. Now they are using the card method, on the plan of a Cybernetics machine. I think it would be better to give up the idea of control and merely enjoy the absence of control.”
Discard studies has an interesting bibliography of noise pollution
If waste is, broadly defined, the externalities of social and technical systems, then noise is a quintessential form of waste. Noise pollution is disturbing or excessive sound that may harm humans or animals, and, not surprisingly, it usually emits from industrial technologies.
A previously unpublished text by Stadtmusik members Dietmar Offenhuber and Sam Auinger on the relationship between urban configuration and the soundscape.
The morphology of the urban environment and its experience is a topic with many facets, and urban planners and designers developed a rich palette of methods for describing the structural qualities of urban space. Many of these qualities are closely related to the visual experience of urban spaces. For example, Camillo Sitte’s principles of urban design were to a large part justified by their visual effect (Sitte 1901). Consequently, there is a long history of modeling the sensory urban experience based on formal and structural measures of the built form. Not surprisingly, many of these approaches focus on the visual experience of urban space, while the sonic qualities play a secondary role. This paper investigates to what extent the existing urban morphological measures are applicable for understanding the acoustic qualities of urban spaces. This investigation includes a review of the role of sonic qualities in the existing urban design literature, following a framework by A. Sevtsuk (Sevtsuk 2010), dividing these urban form measures into five categories: topological measures, aggregate, morphological, cognitive and observational measures.
Read the text here: Configurational Aspects of Soundscapes (pdf)
Trevor Cox in the New Scientist:
“One problem with decibel measurement is that it does not differentiate between “negative” and “positive” sounds. Take the sounds made by a fountain in a town square, happy children in a playground or the cheerful toot of the Manchester tram – any one of which might exceed permitted sound levels. Increasingly, researchers have been pressing for these positive sounds to be considered within urban design alongside more traditional noise-control approaches.”
New Scientist article
The military is currently developing models for calculating scattering in urban sound propagation:
“Future US Army ground sensors in urban terrain will process acoustic signals to detect, classify, and locate sources of interest. Optimal processing will require understanding of the effects of the urban infrastructure on sound propagation. These include multi-path phenomena that will complicate sensing, and must be accounted for in sensor placement and performance algorithms. The objective of this work is to develop spatial processing techniques for acoustic wave propagation data from three-dimensional high-performance computations to quantify scattering due to urban structures and develop reduced-order models of wave-field data.”
and from a second paper:
“The United States Army is continuously improving upon its situational awareness in operational environments. This is particularly difficult in an urban scene because line of sight is limited and because the acoustic interaction between and over the top of the buildings is not yet fully understood. Once this is fully understood the acoustic detection, classification, and localization can be accomplished through the use of well-placed acoustic sensors.”
Ketcham, S., D. K. Wilson, H. Cudney, and M. Parker. 2007. Spatial Processing of Urban Acoustic Wave Fields from High-Performance Computations. In Proceedings of the 2007 DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program Users Group Conference, 289-295. IEEE Computer Society.
Parker, M., S. Ketcham, and H. Cudney. 2007. Acoustic Wave Propagation in Urban Environments. In Proceedings of the 2007 DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program Users Group Conference, 233-237. IEEE Computer Society.
A student of Kevin Lynch and Professor of Urban Studies at UC Berkeley, Michael Southsworth created experience maps of 1960 Boston’s sonic environment. Unlike Schafer, Southworth did not try to describe characteristic sounds for an urban place, but was mainly interested in the strength of the relationship between soundscape and place. This links back to Lynch’s idea of imagibility, the extent to which an urban environment can form a concise mental image.
Sam Auinger and Reinhard Braun (steirischer herbst, Graz) / Image from the Paneldiscussion (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus (Arsenal, Berlin), Mike Sperlinger (LUX, London), Josef Dabernig (Secession, Wien), Alexander Horwath (Filmmuseum, Wien))