Professor Pedro Rebelo's keynote address introduced methodologies and strategies relating to recent participatory sonic arts projects, developed in the UK (Sounds of the City, Belfast), Brasil (Som da Maré, Rio de Janeiro), Portugal (Sou Cigano, Castelo Branco and Vestido a Rigor, Viseu) and Mozambique (Behind a Performance: Tufo da Mafalala).
These projects explore the way in which sound relates to notions of the local, identity and everyday life. Participatory strategies based on authors such as Paulo Freire and notions of relayed creativity by Georgina Born, are at the core of this approach which aims to establish sonic arts as a vehicle for intervention, documentation and social change. The sonic histories of Belfast reveal conditions that are at the same time segregated and shared, articulated by memories and sonic story telling. The territorial conflicts in a Rio favela manifest sounds and events while military occupation aims to control the discourse around local politics. Fieldwork, interviews, sensory ethnography, sound sculptures and immersive audio are strategies to engage participants to reveal their own sonic stories, intrinsically connected to site and place. I aim to expand our understanding of the relationship between sound and space, deliberately avoiding a discourse of space as recipient for sound and resonance to emphasise the ability that sound has to itself produce space. There are physical and acoustic implications in this production of space, although I choose to emphasise primarily the social ones. As we produce the simplest sound, we are determining a space of influence which delineates thresholds (audible/inaudible) as we also characterise a space with notions of public and private. The sounds we produce create spaces that are individual or shared and these very sounds behave as belonging, evocative, celebration or oppression. The production of space through sound emerges every time there is an experience of shared listening and certain social conditions, be them ephemeral and transitory or embedded in established cultural practices, hence repeatable and more easily accessible. The characterisation I am describing as a production of space through sound does not relate to the properties of sound itself, nor those of space. It is primarily the social that acts as a mechanism which lends to sound the production of space(s) elements we might recognise from discussion around music and noise. “Our” music versus “their” noise is the simplest fabrication of two dichotomy spaces. In sonic arts practices the spaces of interest are those produced by sound the is contested, ambiguous, dislocated, re-located and questioned. The created spaces are frequently surprising, evocative and fragile. The social relationship that promote this production of space are rooted in the everyday, based on our histories and experience and in how we communicate and relate to each other.