Reviewer biography

Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice

by Angus Carlyle, Editor

Reviewed by John F. Barber
Digital Technology and Culture
Washington State University Vancouver


The paucity of language to describe acoustic phenomena is noted immediately in the introduction to Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice. This slipperiness of language as a reflection of the richness of sound in space is preferred, says editor Angus Carlyle, and, as played out through the essays in this collection, becomes a celebration of "the complexity of sound's movements to and fro and of the wonders of our ears and minds" (5).

The celebration is rich and wonderful as composers, artists, and engineers discuss projects and performances designed to capture or create the movement of sound through a conductive medium, whether solid, gaseous, or liquid, so as to extend its vitality and extend its meanings.

Autumn Leaves then is a book about creative practices, drawn from diverse perspectives—from anthropology, acoustics, architecture, and beyond—all in conversation with each other about how sound encounters space and how that encounter can be made visible, legible, and audible.

For example, "New York Society For Acoustic Ecology" describes The NYSoundmap Project (www.nysoundmap.org), an historical record and subjective presentation of the city's shifting sonic environment and temporal, physical, and cultural contexts.

One aspect of the project is “Sound-Seeker” (www.soundseeker.org), a Google map-based interface for listening to the sounds of New York. Clicking icons on a map plays the recorded sound, and shows the address, date, time of day, author, and other information regarding the recording.

“City in a Sidewalk” (www.cityinasidewalk.org), another component of the same project, invites participants to navigate a provided soundwalk, or create one of their own. Using an online forum, participants can exchange personal narratives, photographs, drawings, sound recordings, environmental data, historical details, maps, and other information about their walks.

"Sound, Art, and Architecture," by Rhama Khazam, describes how music and sound art are inspiring architects seeking to incorporate time-based practices in their work. In the face of formatted behavioral patterns engendered by globalization, "artwork intended for universal and immediate consumption is giving way to the experience that unfolds over time, predicated on the public's willingness to attend and participate" (66).

The essays, interviews, and artworks collected in Autumn Leaves provide a wide-range of international voices and visions. The new translations of the 100 Japanese Soundscapes and 100 Finnish Soundscapes projects also extend the book's reach.

Autumn Leaves is accompanied by an audio compilation from the book’s contributors, released through Gruenrekorder that can be freely downloaded, including CD cover, at (www.gruenrekorder.de).