Mapping Sonic Futurities (MSF) combines sound art, listening practices, and ecological research to trace the present and future histories of local ecosystems. The project involves a series of 24-hour ‘sound vigils’ in outdoor spaces and habitats with tenuous futures. During these retreats, the keeper of the vigil commits to being in one location for an entire day and night. For each of the 24 hours, they dedicate time to acts of ecologically engaged listening and sounding. This involves making field recordings of the space, performing music that responds to nearby sounds, and/or sitting in meditation with a focus on different modes of listening. All the while, they journal about these experiences. The final documentation of the sound vigil is a 10-minute video art piece where 25 second segments, representing each hour, cycle continuously. The segments contain videos, still images, field recordings, and performances that are meant to give a glimpse of some salient features of the habitat revealed through the vigil keeper’s subjective experience of them. The emphasis on subjectivity is meant to encourage a creative license with how the vigil keeper would like to engage with the environment (i.e. drawing, singing, dancing, playing an instrument, or just listening). Each video art piece is accompanied by field notes taken during the vigil.
This inaugural MSF project takes place in different locations on UCSC’s campus at sites where the LRDP plans to potentially pave roads and erect new buildings by the year 2040. The locations are playfully named after their inhabitants as a way to christen them as sites of significance from the perspective of the vigil keeper. The video pieces and accompanying field notes will function as an immersive rendering of the ecological sounds that define these spaces, and a baseline from which to measure change should development occur. We will also use the recordings as ways of documenting and researching the presence of native and migratory species whose habitat may be degraded once roadways or buildings are built.