Sonic artist and environmental designer Mileece shares instructions on taking a meditative sound walk

Header photo by Logan White

By Geoff Shelton

Mileece is a multidisciplinary sonic artist, environment designer, and renewable energy ambassador. She has devoted herself to creating projects that, she says, “facilitate connections between people and plants for the sake of people understanding that plants are 100 percent equivalent to life on earth as we know it.”

One of the many different ways she does this is through connecting small electrodes to plants that conduct the bioelectric emissions they emit. She uses her self-authored software to process this data and translate it into musical soundscapes that are pleasing to both humans and plants. That’s just for starters! Mileece shared with Tom Tom a sound walk exercise so that we can better understand our acoustic ecology.

Sound Walk Instructions:

First some vocabulary. As denoted by R. Murray Schafer from the World Acoustic Ecology Forum, elements to distinguish and recognize the environment include:

  • keynote sounds: sounds which form a backdrop or constant in the sonic environment. For example, the wind, water, birds, or now, commonly, traffic. They exist mostly without our conscious awareness of them.
  • sound signals: sounds that indicate an occurrence, or specifically demand attention, such as sirens, alerts, or other sounds that we are typically consciously aware of.
  • sound marks: a sound unique to an area. Sounds can be determined as belonging to one of the following categories:
    • geo-phonic: produced by non-biological natural sources
    • bio-phonic: produced by biological natural sources
    • anthro-phonic: produced by man-made sources
    • acoustic ecology: the relationship between living organisms and their environment, as mediated through sound.

Some basic attributes of sound:

The higher the frequency of sound, the more directional the sound is and more prone to refraction and reflection. The lower the frequency, the more it is able to bend around objects and penetrate through them.

Now let’s get to it. Go for a walk and begin listening.

While listening, it may be helpful to close your eyes occasionally. It takes a minute to “tune in,” like when you look up at the stars and initially only see a couple but then begin to see more.

Take a moment to turn your attention towards sound as its own rightful “element.”

How do the sounds you hear make you feel? Do those feelings change as we change the context of our appreciation of the sound?

How do sounds interfere with one another (between a keynote and a sound signal, for example)?

What are the ratios of geo-, anthro-, and bio-phonic sounds?

Try notating the sounds as you walk, so a “sound map” can be created. This map will indicate the recognizable characteristics of a place exclusively by way of its sonic elements.


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