Posts Tagged: ‘milena droumeva’

Sensory Postcard: Galiano Island

October 20, 2014 Posted by Milena D

So once again, it was the time of my annual pilgrimage to Galiano Island, where I spent two weeks with one dog, two cats, and one girlfriend (one of the weeks). I have listened, thought and written about this before (including at the Acoustic Ecology journal), so nothing new…but this time around I had some new thoughts, because I spent even more time outside sitting with my thoughts, while the dog rolled around in the wet sand. This is something I hardly do any more, but used to do a lot when I walked my dog in my childhood – walk silently with my thoughts and experience the surrounding environment.

2014-09-27 13.22.44One obvious delight about the house where I stayed on Galiano was of course the massive expanse of acoustic horizon, the fresh air that I was really appreciating this time, and just all kinds of little bits of material things – weird field spider webs in the morning, crisp smell of morning dew, grass, pine trees. I also love the resident crows that make their daily circles at dusk sort of chatting (quarreling?) back and forth to each other. I’ve actually gotten to be really fascinated with crows lately…they are super intelligent, and I always feel like their behaviour and language is just beyond my understanding but so close I can tell it is intelligent and meaningful. It’s hard to describe how us humans as intelligent beings can recognize (or think we can recognize) and tell apart meaningful exchange from instinct-driven behaviour?…

Anyway, this post was meant to be a tribute to the materiality of existance, finding joy and awakening in smelling, feeling, listening, seeing beauty and life in nature, in its serenity and chaos. I love to just sit an observe small areas like tidepools, or ant-hills, everything has a place, and it’s a microcosm within the social construction we call ‘culture’ – as if, delusionally, we are the only ones here, or the only ones who matter.

Sensory Postcard: SFU campus

July 25, 2014 Posted by Milena D

As an aside note, I am always playing catch-up with all my ‘sensory postcards’ – I take way too many photos, videos and audio recordings and can never manage to turn all of these experiences into blog entries…it really has become about ‘recording to remember now, not remember later’ (the tagline from fieldnotes). I guess if I really wanted to turn these experiences into a proper archive I have to be more disciplined and make myself blog every day or something of that sort. Once a month is not enough – I am so in the habit of collecting these that I do it literally everyday. So here’s one for the memory lane.

I’ve been at SFU for over 12 years….I started on this very same campus, Burnaby mountain, living in the campus dorms, walking along the concrete-and-grassy combination that sort of epitomize this campus. There is just so much ‘meadow’ space here that it’s never been a problem to find an empty-ish lawn and park oneself down for some alone time. I remember spending many days and days parking myself in different corners, nooks and crannies of the mountain. I feel a bit like a tree that stands in one place seeing change take shape in front. In the time I’ve been here the campus has gone from empty grass and forest to a cornerstone of shops and supermarket and artificial fountain and a big condo development – elementary school even! Around 1/3rd of the campus has been completely gutted and renovated, and probably a 1/6th of brand new space has been added. Yet there are still these empty grassy areas that are so private, so quiet, so ‘alone-with-your-thoughts’ and hence the sensory postcard. This feeling of being hidden away, of being surrounded by concrete and forest at the same time, is kind of unique and safe in its familiarity. And even aurally, the combination of distant buss roar and children’s voices just within earshot brings back memories of living on campus during the summer alongside constant summer camps. This sound, it’s both irritating to my desire for serenity, and at the same time joyous and uplifting in its predictability. It’s the sound of renewal if I had to name it. Always new kids, always willing to make a racket.

Sensory Postcard: The Sound of Coffee

June 28, 2014 Posted by Milena D

I came by an interesting post today on Facebook, from the Creative Post about a study (I am yet to read, but very curious) which suggests that coffee shop ambience fosters creative intellectual labour. The story goes as so – as more and more independent creative contracts are moved to the cafe instead of to the (home) office there is a new ‘normal’ for creative workflow. Apparently ambient cafe noise at around 70dB is optimally productive, while levels pushing the 80dB are distracting (not to mention harmful, given the average laptop worker spends over 3 hours in a cafe).

I’m reading this in a cafe called The Bean in Mid-town Manhattan NYU, right across the Strand bookstore, and below we see the sound levels, which are in the mid-70s. So even according to the author of the original article this is a bit high. The problem is it’s hard to find a place that hovers at the flat 70dB mark. In my, now over four-year long extensive ‘study’ of North American coffee shops, it is quite rare to find a place that comes in at any less than high-60s dB. In fact, a popular ‘working’ cafe with all the ‘fixin’s’ – constant coffee machine turnover, steam, dishes, lots of voices, shuffling of chairs, background music – typically measures at mid-70s to 80dB. According to worksafe regulations, regular working exposure to sound at a magnitude of 85dB or over causes hearing loss over time. If we spend more and more working time in cafes, I ask then, why don’t we care more about the levels of sound we expose ourselves to? And what about those who work in cafes and restaurants? Restaurants are even louder than cafes, in my experience, based on past measurements.

In fact, not only isn’t anyone bothered (ok, I know that’s an overstatement) but people seem to like loud-ish environments to do creative work in. The article also pointed to a website called Coffitivity, which showcases an app, or rather a ‘revolution’ I think in productivity apps. Coffitivity offers the light ambience of a cafe for the creative worker who is getting writer’s block or coming up dry in the creativity department in the silence of their home. In fact, Coffitivity cite a paper that suggests some levels of noise is positive and productive for creative pursuits. The Creative Post article actually rallies against cafe noise, however, instead advocating ‘rain’ apps. That’s right, apps that play you an ambient rainscape that you can control in terms of intensity and type of rain. I am writing about this today because I’m just caught totally incredulous and open-mouth about this. It reminds me of the time I first heard about white noise machines for sleeping. The idea of adding undifferentiated constant sound when I need silence to sleep seemed like the strangest idea.

So, having grown up in a ‘keep-silence’ type of educational environments I cringe at the idea of adding ambient noise to my workflow in order to squeeze more creativity out of myself. Especially given that I hate the sound of North American cafes and whenever I am there I work ‘despite’ the noise, not because of it (or at least that’s what I tell myself). But I am starting to think there is something to the idea of sound levels and intellectual labour. In the past six months I’ve been intensively writing my dissertation at a work group on one of the SFU campuses. A public space, which albeit quiet, is still distracting. I’ve been listening to music on headphones while I work, and over time I noticed, when I turn it down I am much more distracted by it then when I turn it up past a certain level. Past that level my brain somehow puts it in a different category and it functions concurrently with thinking/writing instead of competing with my brainwaves. Very strange for me, because I am so fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of pumping noise into my ears in order to drown out distractions. It’s like a metaphor for urban noise – because the idea of eliminating it seems impossible, we instead focus on managing and counteracting it with other noise. And then again, maybe we haven’t eliminated city noise because we do in fact function better with it somehow.

Sensory Postcard: Limerick Soundwalk

April 28, 2014 Posted by Milena D

So, I’ve been meaning to put up a bunch of my impressions of Limerick online. These come from a visit in the end of March for the Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship conference there at UofL. As well as being the first time travelling for me in quite a long time, I also attended a beautiful soundwalk as part of the conference, led by Softday – Mikael Förnstrom and Sean Taylor. They were both recording the walk with monitoring headphones and high-quality furry mikes. I made a few recordings with my phone, but also spent large portions of the walk (which was around 3 hours long) just listening and taking in the rare experience of being in an unfamiliar place.

Surprise surprise the experience was about much more than just sound! It all started with even getting to the Milk Market (the starting point of the walk), getting lost, getting found and generally stressing out about not having enough directions and control. Once I started out soundwalking, however, I made a conscious effort to relax into the unfamiliarity and to reflect on how my (now North American) sensibilities affect my experience of being in a different place. It struck me that no one besides me was too worried about controlling all the information, knowing everything, being in charge. So I started just rolling with it and listening. I remember literally the feeling of relief that spread in my body when I decided not to worry about following the group or getting lost, etc.

With regard to the soundscapes that we went through I had an overwhelming sense that even the traffic noise was a bit quieter overall than what I’m used to in Vancouver. I am not sure if that’s the case really but I felt that the entire surrounding built environment was a little less overwhelmed by hums and drones and other constant irritants. Perhaps it was a quiet Saturday morning as well. Perhaps it was the European style cobblestone roads that create less noisy friction than asphalt. Going in the train station was an extra delight, not only because it was rather Harry Potter evocative (as are most train stations now) but also the wonderful resonance in the station space with the echoing PA announcements and soft shuffling of people and suitcases around. I got a coffee from a delightful little coffee stand and just enjoyed that European feeling of calm and not sure how else to describe it but ‘human scale’ sensibility. In North America I often feel brushed on all sides by a kind of cold institutionalism. Big sanitized buildings and institutions.

This next one is another stop of the soundwalk where we stopped by the cathedral and went in there to record. It’s amazing to me how ok everyone there was with us recording. Sean even went around all over the gift shop with his big microphone, no one even batted an eyelid. I recorded a short segment of the gift shop as well because I love Irish accents especially when middle-aged ladies are speaking it, and I also appreciated the crisp ringing sound of the cash register and coins falling in – I find it so antithetical in a way to the idea of godliness and faith. Hah. But anyway. The sound below is the calming little waterfall sound of a little Virgin Mary shrine.

And this last excerpt is the soundscape in a daffodil park by the Limerick Art Gallery site we stopped at. The park is right in the middle of several busy streets, and despite its serene visual appearance the sound of traffic overwhelmed its soundscape. That and the extremely loud leafblower, which I found ironic in a park where you’re supposed to enjoy the quietude and the leaves! Well, there was precious little quietude to be had, but I did try to capture some vocal birds nearby. You had to get very close to the bushes to hear them clearly though. But visually, the park was quite pleasant.

One of the other highlights of the soundwalk included walking at 8:30 am on a Saturday through the UofL campus, by the green athletic field, listening to a number of unfamiliar songbirds, the weather crisp but sunny (later on it got increasingly cloud). I remember the sense of calmness and freedom that I felt inside my whole body in those moments. Of course that was before I got lost and almost didn’t make it. Another highlight was walking along the edge of the Shannon river, under a big traffic bridge, the water and the structure working together to reflect all the sounds of the city – traffic, birds, talking, sirens, construction, wind. It was an interesting moment to look visually at the city laid out alongside the other river shore, and at the same time to have all the sounds of the city reflected across like a sonic postcard, conveying a wholeness of the soundscape as the ‘face’ of the city.

Are smart phones ruining the world?

December 11, 2013 Posted by Milena D

Convergence_device1There is a lot of buzz of recently about the nature of presence in public spaces, including inter-personal communication (or lack thereof) and individual behaviour. Countless pieces have surfaced on the microblog universe and become ‘viral’ across different ‘virtual’ venues and online participants. WIth over 5 million views there is the interview with comedian CK Lewis talking about how we use our smart phones to avoid loneliness because we’re too scared to experience being alone (“Why I won’t let my daughter use a cell phone”). The recently popular youtube video “I forgot my phone” offers a poetic warning for how devices disconnect us from the present, from ‘authentic interaction’ is going strong with over 32 million views. In the TED-universe Sherry Turkle’s talk “Connected but alone?” predates the more recent pop culture contributions with a more well-rounded discussion of how the presence of ubiquitous technology is re-shaping the relationships we have with ourselves, with each other and with technology itself. In addition to numerous  articles on the bloggo-sphere organized around the theme of ‘how the iphone is ruining the world’, the presence of this critical mass of cultural resistance points to some important collective fears we have with regard to presence, communication and relationships.

When I say ‘we’ I really think digital immigrants fit this condition most accurately for a number of important and unique reasons. As occupants of a truly transitional world between print/old and new/digital media we inernalize the angst and moral panic of a technological culture that is rapidly surpassing our ability to adapt; we are naturally mired in nostalgia over the very different nature of our childhoods that were built on face-to-face interaction, yet we cannot get on the exclusive “text is best” horse our parents and grandparents seem to be riding. Meanwhile, what is probably more accurate of the present day is a gradual shift towards withdrawal from the public sphere, retreat into our silos of family and close friends, particularly in urban centres that have overtime become concrete jungles filled with strangers and institutions. De-personalization of the public sphere in this sense way predates the emergence of the mobile phone – it is more appropriate to see it as a symptom of an already shifting social and inter-personal relations and an evolving nature of presence.

Coming at it from the old paradigm of defining communication technologies by their sensory affordances – yes, it seems as if we bury ourselves in the screen, privileging a visual, virtual field; however, if we let go of this type of conceptualization of communication technology, we can see mobile smart devices as micro-worlds that are receptory as much as they are participatory for activities we control (see pic above) – so we are in fact burying ourselves primarily into a world we control, full of connections, sounds, images, gestures and haptic interactions. I’m not saying that smart phones aren’t changing the world; but I have to reflect on my own pre-conceived notions – both theoretical and personal – before I aim to point out exactly how, or why. As McLuhan said, rear-view mirror vision is 20-20, and we often discover that the changes we ascribe to technologies were in fact at play long before technology arrived to the stage of social action and cultural practice – particular technologies such as in our case the “smart phone” simply captured and promoted those changes especially well.

Some fun blog posts on this:

http://runt-of-the-web.com/ruining-everything-smartphone

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/micwright/100010648/louis-c-k-is-right-smartphones-have-become-a-blight-on-our-society/

http://www.thejanedough.com/burnout-101-why-the-smartphone-is-ruining-everything-for-everyone/

Aural Postcard: Italian Days Street Festival

July 14, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Well, I’m actually posting months later and as it happens I have largely forgotten what made me remark on this event and record it. I am pretty sure I took a db picture as well but alas, can’t locate it now. I just leave this with the hope you enjoy the recording which is a delightful (I think) stroll through the street crowd at Italian Days on the Drive (Vancouver) – a car free event in the summer with participation by the Italian community. Imagine sausage dog stands, pizza stands, craft tables, small stage performances on every corner for about 20 blocks on a hot summer day. Well ok, not hot, that would be too much to ask of the summer in Vancouver, but a sunny warm one. In this recording, I was walking by a particularly campy music stage, through a talkative group of strangers, and towards another latin beat corner. Enjoy.

Not that anyone reads this blog but…

June 27, 2012 Posted by Milena D

I had to clean-reinstall WordPress and lost my image paths, so please bear with me as I go through and update them! Thank you 🙂

Taking back the soundscape!

April 9, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Just a little Prezi thing I put together for last day of class (Cmns258) a bit of a hodge-podge of different initiatives, projects, uses of sounds and listening that are, at least in my view, transgressive and interesting.

Audioboo: People Watching

June 18, 2011 Posted by Milena D

And here is an audioboo of a brief thought I had while sitting in front of Tinseltown. It actually doesn’t have that much to do with sound, other than it was a moment of un-mediated observation happening in an unmediated acoustic environment as well. The boo is me reflecting on the fact that watching people in this way felt all of a sudden like “more” than what it was, important enough to reflect on. Reminded me of the way i grew up, culturally, people watching was such a dominant way of socializing outside. I think the thought I had was that is feels so much more consentual and organic as a social transaction than watching media (tv, etc.). We all participate in it and at different moments we are the observer or the observed, no one occupies a  permanent objectifying position. Anyways, here goes.

People watching (mp3)

RjDj Soundwalk

March 13, 2011 Posted by Milena D

After a brief hiatus where I was busy with who-knows-what…Oh, yes, being obsessed with the Harry Potter series and already planning my next Severus Snape halloween costume, ahem; I am back to RjDj with ideas for a new scene. And I’ve re-discovered three scenes I didn’t give a decent chance before – Aware and Unowis, and KDSP’s Replay Atlantis. Now, I’m having some trouble uploading to RjDj’s web interface (Error 413?) but I’ve made mmm, at least 5-6 new recordings. The trouble is really, it’s so easy to accumulate recordings, and I always have trouble thoroughly listening to them again…

The other great news is that I’ve successfully now proposed a soundwalk with RjDj through the Vancouver New Music 2011 Spring Soundwalk series. This is an excellent initiative that has a long history, and is associated with the WFAE and CASE in Canada, part of the worldwide acoustic ecology movement. I have to confess I’ve never actually attended an official VNM soundwalk, and I know the usual folks are used to some techno-geekery but I don’t know how exactly walking around with headphones in is going to pan out!

Really, the only thing I wish is that I had some more time to look at all the PD utilities and tutorials and make a new scene specifically geared towards the soundwalk, a scene that hopefully goes a bit beyond the RJC in sofistication…Next time!

Since RJDJ have now closed their product and all associated website support, including their embedded player, I can’t actually link to any of my recordings there. But thankfully, the recordings of the soundwalk (some samples anyway) can be accessed via the Interference Journal, where I published a piece with my collaborator and colleague Vincent Andrisani.

Interference Journal: Aural Cultures Vol. 1, Issue 1.