Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an afternoon of talks on environmental sound at Goldsmiths University, hosted by the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community. Two of the presentations which I found particularly interesting were by Max Dixon, who was responsible for implementing the London Mayor’s Ambient Noise Strategy, and Lisa Lavia, managing director of the Noise Abatement Society.
Dixon spoke about the changes to our perception of and interaction with sound, from the ancient nomads who listened for survival, to settled communities who relied less on sound, then through to urbanised and industrial societies, where sound became noise and we learned to stop listening. It is now ten years since the Environmental Noise Directive implemented regional noise mapping, but Dixon believes that it is now time for a more inclusive approach, i.e. design that takes into account different “archetypal soundscape mixes.”
Lisa Lavia spoke a little about an ‘inclusive’ approach to soundscape design, with her project Sounding Brighton. The Noise Abatement Society took a positive approach to tackling the issue of noise on West Street, Brighton, an area that is packed full of clubbers at the weekends. They decided to play ambient music from speakers placed along the street, and Lavia’s team, along with the official police report, noted a marked decrease in antisocial behaviour. The idea behind this was to try to interact and cooperate with the club goers and owners, rather than merely to vilify them.
It’s an interesting concept, and perhaps soundscape design requires more of this kind of thinking if it is to be effective.