Grinnell College Sound Walk

Artist Statement

Admiring the work of the Alter Bahnhof Video Walk in Germany, I sought to create a similar experience on Grinnell’s campus. The evolution of this project through various stages has brought me to a simple but important piece. The videos I recorded focus upward throughout a roughly 15 minute walk, providing enough visual cues to allow the participant to effectively follow the geographical progression of the video. I chose this style of recording to minimize the distractions provided by the visual aspect in order to encourage the participants to expend more focus on the auditory component. Secondarily, it requires that the participant examine the entire space in a manner to which they are likely unaccustomed, laying the groundwork for discoveries by multiple senses and, potentially as a result, the optimism of looking up occasionally.

The auditory component is comprised of both the sound from the original, recorded walk and the sound which is generated live along the participant’s individual walk. The video component of the sound has not been added to or significantly altered, other than attempts to clear up unnecessary recording static. The live component of the sound adds interest to the piece because it creates a unique experience each time which encourages the participant to focus their attention to the broader world as it relates to the video. Some of the sounds are innate to the activity, such as opening a door, while others will occur only live or only on the video, such as a passing car or conversation snippets. I hope that participants will engage with the junction of these experiences, allowing both the louder and quieter moments of their walk to connect them to their surroundings, both in time and space.



Though partially described above, I want to briefly cover the process of creating this piece. Initially, I experimented with a few different video lengths, walking paths, styles of filming, and filming equipment. The best audio came from a portable video camera with the most effective visual occurring, not surprisingly, during daytime filming. When I filmed straight in front of me, I found the visual of people walking by, seeing the time on many clocks around campus, and other cues which identify the source of sound too distracting from the sound.

After many technological difficulties encountered with Reaper and the plug-in ReaFIR, I minimally manipulated the sound, needing to strip the video of audio then return it upon the completion of editing.

I filmed a couple video walks, only one so far successfully uploaded to youtube. In a more complete installation, I would have more than one QR code around campus, at the various starting locations, so that one could pick up wherever they like.




One thought on “Grinnell College Sound Walk

  1. Hi Tess,

    Nice. After watching the piece from start to finish, I have to say that the simplicity of your piece makes it surprisingly effective. I loved viewing the campus from an unusual perspective, and you are absolutely correct that the perspective helped to emphasize the changing soundscapes and acoustics as you moved from place to place.

    I admit, I didn’t follow this in person on my phone around campus…but I feel fairly confident that this would have been a difficult process. Since the perspective is unusual, and the pace is fairly fast, it would be hard to keep up, at times. I liked that you stopped a few times, and I wonder if you could have stopped a bit more, perhaps even using these moments as an opportunity to turn around and look back to where you have been to provide your participants a few more visual cues. Inserting these visual cues could be kind of like the process a composer uses when writing for voice. The vocalist needs to be able to find their pitch before they enter in a piece. The composer will often write the pitch (or other closely related pitches) into instrumental parts in the moments before the vocal entrance to cue the singer. Something like this could really help to make the process of following the ‘score’ (the video) a bit easier. More pauses would also allow your viewer/listener to catch up.

    To be honest, though, I was content watching the video while sitting in one place. I think if I were to watch it while walking in the places I might lose some of the details of the experience while navigating through the space.

    Did you try following along with the video on your phone? This would be a really important step in the creative process. If you were going to make a version that was for watching/listening while sitting, I’d say it could be a bit shorter. The walking/listening version could actually be a bit longer, though, especially if you include some room for more pauses. I worry about your viewer’s neck, though (I’m only sort of kidding). I wonder if there might be room for additional unusual perspectives…for instance, staring down at the ground/your feet, and transitioning to the sky view over time?

    Finally, I think the ending could be a bit more staged. For instance, you could end right as you open a door, or end with a longer pause, looking up at the sky for a period of time, or slowly panning the camera around the current location. I just wanted a bit more of a sense of completion.

    In any case, I was actually quite impressed–the simplicity of your approach served the project quite well.


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