Listening Back, Listening Ahead (2018)

In one of her inspiring writings acoustic ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp suggested that in order to orient oneself in space and survive 'we must listen to our cities as the indigenous people listen to their forests' (2007:49). Even the most delicate rustle of a leaf can communicate some larger phenomenon or emerging event. In other words, while sound is a remnant (or perhaps a by-product) of some dynamic event, it is at once an important source of information, a signal potentially affecting the currents of our future. French thinker Jacques Attali would argue that 'the noises of society are in advance of its images and material conflicts' and that 'our music foretells our future' (1985:11). What kinds of future do the constantly transforming soundscapes of our cities, towns and country sides foretell? Which sounds, both those favorite and cursed will we say goodbye to and what new kinds of sonic phenomena will populate our future environments?

Listening Back, Listening Ahead is a sound collage based on responses to these questions. They were shared by artists, cultural producers and colleagues of mine with whom I took walks in different environments. While walking, we remained both perceptive of the present, and curious about the future. We moved attentively through local environments speculating about soundscapes that might dominate them in the future. Based on those reflections and predictions, I went through my personal archive of field recordings I have been assembling for the last 8 years.

The sound collage comprises a soundscape composed of the favorite sounds of my dialog partners and a more speculative soundscape of the future also based on my companions' thoughts. At the end, you will hear their voices. The best way to experience it is by downloading the file on your mobile device, getting your headphones ready and taking a walk whereever you are at the moment.

Concept, field recordings, sound design and editing: Jacek Smolicki
Dialog partners: Neha Sayed, Erik Sjödin, Gregory Daniel, Vreni Spieser, Tim Shaw, Sheila Ghelani, Liva Dudareva, Sally De Kunst, Gosie Vervloessem, Julien Babel

The piece was composed in response to Future Listening, the theme of the annual World Listening Day on July 18, 2018. It was also featured on Resonance Extra on July 18, 2018, 4:30PM (UK time) and Resonance FM, on July 21, 2018, 6:30PM (UK time)

Westerkamp, H. (2007) Autumn Leaves, Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice, Ed. Angus Carlyle, Double Entendre, Paris
Attali, J. (1985) The Political Economy of Music, Manchester University Press