Thesis

NOISE DESIGN: Architectural Modelling and the Aesthetics of Urban Acoustic Space 


Review - World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE)
Volume 5, Number 1 Spring/Summer 2004 - Acoustic Design
 by Gregg Wagstaff

Review Dansk Musik Tidsskrift, nr. 5 februari-mars 2004
Recension: Erik H. A. Jakobsen

Review Arkitekten (AT), november 2003
Recension: Pehr Mikael Sällström, Buller är mer än buller

See other reviews on the link "Press".

The thesis was defended at the School of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), in 19’s of September, 2003.
Noise Design is published at Bo Ejeby Förlag ISBN 91 88316 38 6. 
It is possible to order the book on Internet: www.ejeby.se
Prize 239 SEK
Size: 272 pages + CD-ROM

Avhandlingen försvarades vid  Arkitekturskolan, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH), 19 September 2003.
Noise Design är publicerad av Bo Ejeby Förlag ISBN 91 88316 38 6.
Det är möjligt att beställa boken via Internet: www.ejeby.se
Pris: 239 SEK
Språk: engelska, 272 sidor+ CD-ROM

Abstract
The overall aim of this thesis is to develop methodological tools that are useful in the design and analysis of sounds, acoustic spaces and the sonic aspects of architecture. It derives from a structural approach and involves both experiments and analyses.

Noise Design takes up a structural approach to sound issues in general and more particularly to urban acoustic space. While most recent research efforts in the field adopt a defensive attitude by seeking to protect people from sounds, this book celebrates our constructive and creative relations with the sound world and develops methods to manage sounds as mediators of qualitative information. The title is chosen to oppose the common meaning of noise, as ‘unwanted sound’, which implies a denial of all its immanent qualities as well as its contexts and uses. The thesis explores the concept of transparent and fluid space as a central principle for architectural conception. Urban acoustic space is seen as transient and immaterial, making public and private spaces less predictable, less monotonous.

The thesis comprises a Prologue, which provides an overview of the subject, and three essays: On Sound Design, On Sound Effect and On Sound Identity.

The first essay – On Sound Design – deals with a certain field of musical aesthetics related to sonic transients, textures and transformations – i.e. a musical genre that is sometimes described as sound art. It comprises musical styles such as electro acoustic music, acoustic art, neues hörspiel, concrete music and sonic art, which often engage networks of people from different artistic disciplines. The composers and music theorists Trevor Wishart and Denis Smalley are central to the discussion, but also composers like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. This essay also includes a presentation of theories developed by the inventor of musique concrète (concrete music), Pierre Schaeffer. And in regard to the discussion of the concept of acousmatics and sound-object, this essay will show how some of his theories may be adopted and thereby prove useful in the musical and sonic environmental discourse of today. It also embraces an operative study – Tiks – which illuminates the concepts discussed. Tiks (which stands for Transparent Information of the Klara Systems) originates from a sound art installation and is presented on the attached CD.

The second essay – On Sound Effect – is a presentation of the research methodology A l’écoute de lénvironnement (Listening to the Environment), created at the French institute Cresson (Centre de Recherche sur l’espace Sonore et l’Environnement Urbain) in Grenoble. This methodology consists of a set of concepts, described as ‘sound effects’, which circumscribe different types of auditory phenomena in the urban environment from an interdisciplinary perspective. The essay also frames an operative study that explores the metabolic effect, which is one of the central effects within this methodology, concerning figure-ground patterns of sounds. The metabolic effect is also central for the entire thesis, and discussed in all three essays.
 
The third essay, On Sound Identity, is a presentation of the methodology L’identité sonore des villes Européennes, elaborated by the Swiss-French researcher Pascal Amphoux, stationed at Cresson and Irec (Institut de Recherche sur l’Environnement Construit) in Lausanne. The methodology comprises different types of qualitative methods and strategies of actions – architectural, acoustic, sociological and aesthetic – for specifying the sonic identities of cities. The essay also encompasses an operative study – Tiger – that, on the basis of the methodology, investigates the acoustic space in city neighbourhoods in Stockholm. Tiger (which stands for Tourist Information Guide of the Environmental Resonance), originates from a sound art installation, and is presented on the attached CD.

The concepts constitute an important part of the thesis, and are presented as lists in the Appendix (one list for each essay). However, these lists of concepts are not to be solely interpreted or read on a lexical level; they are not dictionaries, but are specified in order to handle a specific range of issues, which comprises both a descriptive and an operative level. In other words, the concepts describe certain issues within certain contexts, but to comprehend these issues the concepts need to be illuminated by examples, simply by putting them into practice. This seems obvious since sounds by nature are largely non-verbal. Thus the descriptive level is a language issue that aims at describing a certain subject, character, phenomenon etc. The operative level, on the other hand, requires that one sets the concepts in motion. For example, the concept ‘linear extension’ may to some extent describe the temporal characteristics of a sound phenomenon, but to understand the concept one needs sonic examples.
 The thesis addresses architects, acousticians, musicians, sound artists, sound designers, sound technicians, filmmakers, as well as all persons with interests in sound.

Keywords: architecture, music, aesthetics, sound art, acoustic space, sound design, sound effect, sound identity, sound morphology, graphic notation, diagram, sampling culture, acousmatics, sound-object, metabolic effect, ubiquity, synecdoche, schizophonia, gesture, listening-hearing-attending-understanding, Cresson, Jean-François Augoyard, Pascal Amphoux, Tiks, Tiger.

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Referat
Stadens ljud benämns ofta i termer av noise, eller buller, vilket enligt den gängse definitionen betecknar ’oönskat ljud’. Men en sådan utgångspunkt innebär samtidigt ett åsidosättande av ljuden som förmedlare av kvalitativ information. Buller är därför inte bara buller, utan är alltid något mer än sig självt. Abstrakt och på samma gång universellt, bullret omkring oss förmedlar information och utvecklar nätverk som är vitala för sociala och kulturella processer i den fysiska miljön. Betydelsen av begreppet buller kan således utvidgas till att på samma gång behandlas som ’oönskat’ som ’önskat’, beroende på vilken kontext som avses.

Det mesta av den forskning som behandlar ljud och ljudmiljö idag är defensiv i den meningen att man söker utveckla metoder för hur ljuden kan reduceras, genom olika typer av ljuddämpande åtgärder. Samtidigt finns det förvånansvärt lite kunskap om stadens ljud ur ett ’offensivt’ perspektiv, dvs. hur man kan designa – eller ljudsätta – den fysiska miljön. Och ett tydligt tecken på detta är att vi saknar ord för att beskriva det vi hör. Noise Design handlar därför om att presentera teorier, metoder och begrepp som genomlyser ljuden ur en konstruktiv och kreativ synvinkel, vilket innefattar ljuden som förmedlare av kvalitativ information; den urbana ljudmiljön – som till sin natur är immateriell och flyktig – gör det offentliga och privata rummet mindre förutsägbart och mindre monotont. Noise Design utgår främst från arkitekturens och musikens kunskapsfält, med betoning på design av ljudmiljöer i den urbana miljön. Bl.a. diskuteras behovet av en akustisk stadsplanerare. I boken finns en ordlista, med cirka tvåhundra begrepp, som klarlägger och exemplifierar ljudens komplexa sammanhang ur arkitektoniska, musikaliska, sociala, estetiska och perceptuella perspektiv. Texten är på engelska.

Noise Design vänder sig till arkitekter, akustiker, musiker, ljudartister, ljuddesigners, ljudtekniker, filmmakare, lärare och alla som är intresserade av ljud. Boken innehåller även en CD-ROM med ljudinspelningar, musikexempel och konst-/ljudinstallationer (för PC och Mac) vilka illustrerar bokens huvudinnehåll.

Nyckelord: arkitektur, musik, estetik, ljudkonst, akustiskt rum, urban ljudmiljö, ljuddesign, ljudeffekt, ljudidentitet, ljudmorfologi, grafisk notation, diagram, samplingskultur, akusmatik, ljudobjekt, metabolisk effekt, ubiquity, schizophonia, gestik.