During our residency in Sonic West (see the related post here), myself and Mayke, we decided to organize a few soundwalks in Amsterdam Oud West, and we had the chance to show our findings to the public, but also encourage our guests to start listening to their surrounding sounds. Initially we planned one soundwalk on 18 July to celebrate the World Listening Day but due to high demand and the limited amount of people we could host, we planned two more, one on August 24 and one on October 17.
It was very impressive to see that so many people were interested to join our walk. At the same time, we saw an opportunity to guide all these people in a particular route and observe the changes as the seasons went by and the weather conditions differed in every walk. Our audience was very diverse, from curious locals to art and sound aficionados of any age.
Typically, the weather is unpredictable in Amsterdam and for this reason we decided to ignore that factor and plan our walks anyway. In July we walked through the rain, with raincoats and umbrellas, and this forced us to spend less time at each spot but also experience different sounds. However, in August it was very warm and we had a peaceful walk in the sunshine. In October it was, naturally, colder but still very pleasurable to walk outside, without distractions and without rain.
Every time, we walked through the same route that we had already pre-designed. We made sure to include some of the most (sonically) interesting spots and accentuate the contrast between the sounds of one place to another. In this area, one can wander between very noisy to very quiet streets, and often find hidden, unexpected sounds that son’t normally belong to the center of a big city, such as some chicken between the Kinkerstraat and Overtoom.
We enhanced the experience by playing some recordings of sounds that are not always present in those streets. Each guest was provided with an mp3 player—or with the Sonic West app on their own phone—in order to play those recordings, according to our instructions, at specific locations. By presenting sounds that we recorded some time ago, we created a sonic time machine. Some of these sounds were, for instance, recordings made during the christmas holidays or recordings in shops and buildings that were not accessible during the walk. Last but not least, we made sure to include some recordings that we made in the hidden gardens (binnentuinen) in order to give our guests the chance to hear some of the sounds that are hiding behind the buildings.
We ended all three walks at the Johannapark, a communal garden for private use between Overtoom street and the Vondelpark. We visited the garden for the first time in June 2019 in order to make recordings and we discovered a very well maintained, big garden, behind a very busy street (Overtoom), with very impressive soundscape and plants. The owners agreed to grant access to us and our guests during our soundwalks and it was great to share such an experience with everyone.
Through these soundwalks, we observed how the landscape changed together with the seasons, but also we discovered how the plants, birds, and insects react to those changes. The soundscape of our walks was definitely different every time. At the same time, it was a very good chance to show to the public all those hidden spots while trying to motivate them to start listening and pay attention to the sonic details around them. The diversity of our guests was a very positive surprise because we realized that people are very interested in exploring a neighborhood and start seeing it from a different perspective. It is certainly something that we will keep on organizing.