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How to make an audio-walk

A short overview of this creative method for urban geography, design and planning. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommon
by Anja Haelg Bieri on 12 June 2013

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Transcript of How to make an audio-walk

Making audio-walks. A creative research method for urban geography, planning, and design. Anja Hälg Bieri, Doctoral Candidate
College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech Research in the city. Where to start? Where to look? Where to listen? If you are used to driving switch to the human scale of walking and discover on what paradigm your city is built: on the human body or the car? There is so much more than roads to explore! Take a boat (or bus) trip for a different
perspective of your city. Search out public spaces and parks
and observe people. Can you find your topic?
Listen to the sound of the place.
Distinguish man-made, natural and hybrid sounds.
What is going on? Observe urban life. Study the planning history of your city:
why is there a highway through the city?
Why is there a stadium at the waterfront?
how does this affect urban life? Who lives or works here? What could they tell you? Collect sounds of various spaces - also the not so pretty ones.
They are part of your city. Where to walk? you need a topic you need a place you need equipment and a plan. Initial phase of discovering the city on foot. This prezi and all included photographs © Anja Hälg Bieri Composing & Editing Are you the narrator? Like this Saturday morning market scene, your audio-walk would be a loud mess if you don't structure the different sounds, arguments and stories that you've prepared. Post-production starts before edting:
systematise your files
make rough cuts
write and revise a script
What is the story or argument you want to tell? Bring your material in a sequence likes these booths.
Know that there will be people and other sounds to make it denser and add dimensions. Lead your audience through your soundscape. Publishing Website for others to download the walk

exhibition as additional sound dimension

share with the community you worked with Analysis This is the Blacksburg Walks site, an audio-walk project I made at Virginia Tech in 2011. Each walk has its page and visitors can download the audio file for their mp3 devices.
Have a look at http://www.blacksburgwalks.spia.vt.edu Equipment Depending on how you want to display your work later on, you need to choose different equipment and media.

Do you want to publish the sound-file of your walk on a website with images, maps and text so that other people can download it and go for a walk?

Do you use your soundscape to add a sound dimension to your model for an exhibition or charrette?

Do you have other ideas what to do with your work? 1. Check-out equipment:
Most universities have great equipment for you to borrow. 2. Learn and experiment
with equipment:
Check your u's IT courses or find tutorials online.
Make your first études during your initial walking phase to learn equipment and software. 3. Keep it handy and ready:
Always check batteries and back ups.
Be sure how to use it, avoid clumsy fumbling in interviews.
Keep equipment clean and free from dust or dampness. Hardware:

Sound:
external hard drive or cloud account
SD card (8GB min.), card reader or cable
batteries for recording devices
digital audio recorder, windshield for microphone
journal (paper)

Imagery:
photo/video camera
tripod
spotlight for interview situations
(and the release forms also go into your bag) List of Equipment and Software Software:

Sound:
GarageBand (Mac iLife)
Audacity (Mac and PC, free)

Imagery:
iPhoto, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.
iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, etc.

Website:
Wordpress or other web builder for logbooks and for creating the final website Recording Start recording seriously early enough in your project.

Find all your sounds yourself rather than using existing loops and special effects.

Imagine a variety of sounds, natural, man-made, hybrid. Ears vs. Recording Device Your ears can zoom in and focus on a particular sound. Your recording device captures almost everything - even with special mics. Cities have a loud soundtrack running non stop. Make sure you can go close to what you want to record. Explore and be adventurous.

HOWEVER, STAY ON THE SAFE SIDE!

Get trustful information before you go into certain neighbourhoods and streets.

Avoid certain areas all together! Decisions to make After your initial collection phase of walks, strolls and field-trips through the city, choose:
topic and area
theoretical framework, working question and hypothesis
style of audio-walk Topic and Area Go for an area that is not too big
Go for a topic that is not too superficial, explain the bigger context through small observations and relations
Going closer into something is probably more interesting than scratching - and remaining - at the surface Focus Your theoretical framework helps you with the angle and analysis of your work
Working questions and hypothesis help you to stay focused
You can revise them during the creative process of research and composition The importance of theory Just like in Plato's allegory of the cave, there is need to mediate between what you sense and imagine to see and hear, and what you can understand by problematising reality in a defined epistemology.

Critical social theory, urban and cultural geography, planning history, etc. are good sources to help you frame your thought. Decide whether to make an audio-walk that is... - or more factual - more poetic and abstract - or a bit of both: a documentary art project Style of your walk Decide what form you want:

essay
collage
story
report
... a guided walk with directions
information at specific sites only
a soundscape without precise path
... Introduction This creative and interdisciplinary approach attempts to expand our ways of knowing about the built environment.
It invites you to study and contextualise people's imaginaries and practices in order to better understand
the social, historical, and spatial relations that constitute the city. Group field-trips Log recordings
& conceptualize Edit audio-walk Map your walk and topic Theory & Analysis Keep a logbook/journal Walk Stages of making audio-walks Pre-production, production, post-production, analysis.
These stages are in constant dialogue with each other. Walk for research
Record sounds,
narration, interviews Get closer Walk Walk Walk with "experts" Image © Heather MacLeish, Blacksburg Walks Logbook Carry a paper journal with you - always, and write down observations and ideas for your audio-walk research and design.

Set up an online logbook or blog, too,
to start collecting, selecting and organising your recordings, images, writing.

If you share you can get feedback from colleagues and friends on your first études or tests.

This is also helpful for your research as you might use the reflective writing for your final analysis.

Finally you can work with a perspective for building your project website. (This is a wordpress theme.) Walking Initially, go on random walks as often as you can. Open your mind and senses. Collect. Observe. Imagine. If you already have your recording equipment set up, use it for your first tests and études.
(More on equipment later.) Now, that you made your audio-walk, how do you see and hear the city? What phenomenon do you want to explore more? Can you contextualise your observations in society, history, economy? http://anjahaelgbieri.com
© Anja Hälg Bieri Thank you! Now go for a walk. In this short overview of how to make an audio-walk you will learn about the practical aspects of the documentary research process and the creation of the audio-walk. The force of artist-scholarship lies in the combination of research and analysis on the one hand, and on the other hand the aesthetic, essayistic form that helps shed light on aspects that might not come to light in conventional site inspections.
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