Soundscraper – Live Social Soundscaping

What might it sound like to improvise with the world right now? Imagine hearing the sounds of multiple locations simultaneously. It puts a peculiar aural lens over the world. It lets us get a kind of “global earful” — to seek out and hear different pulses, perhaps, or different themes or trends in our world through its sounds. Listening to different locations on Earth simultaneously, as they happen, gives us different perspectives on our planet and on ourselves. We notice more of what we have in common as well as what makes us, and our environments, unique. What if we started to share sounds of the world with each other much like we do with photos or videos?

The Ultimate Soundscraper project
Sharing the sounds of our world brings us closer together. One mission of the Soundscraper project is to foster social networks and “telecommunities” where the world’s sounds, contributed by anyone, become the principal content and vocabulary. These networks will offer a different view — a view through sound — of our presence, our simultaneous “presences”, through the sharing, exchanging, and conversations about live sound feeds from the global soundscape.

For now, at its onset, Soundscraper is a series of sound art performances and installations. As it happens, the audible mixing-together of simultaneous locations can create intriguing musical results. Soundscraper performances will delve into the musical forms of “live social or crowdsourced soundscaping”.

Soundscraper now: what it is and how it works
Soundscaper performances depend substantially if not entirely on the interest and kindness of other people contributing their present sound environment, live, to a real-time mix.

It is not a new form or a new concept, but today’s so-called “live-streaming” technology most readily and freely supports it and it beckons to be explored. Sound streams (or feeds) from each participant in a performance are enabled using live-streaming software; a kind of personal Internet broadcasting system. This software is free, generally easy to install, and runs on most mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop and laptop computers. So most computer devices with a microphone can provide a live audio feed over Wi-Fi (WLAN) or Internet-carrier networks.

The performances are often structured improvisations, each with a score (more like a schedule) offering participants a sequence of timed “requests”, at which to stream somewhat specific sound environments. When a participant can “fill” a specific request, at the associated time in the score, then they do so otherwise they wait. (Perhaps they listen to the the live-mix stream while they are waiting to “come in” with their part.)

How the requests for types of sound environments change and progress over the course of a piece is what gives the performance its structure, and this is the domain of the score.

The mixer-performer receives the simultaneous streams from the participants and attempts to shape (more like herd or sweep) the incoming ambient sounds into a kind of narrative musical expression, with the score, or schedule, serving as a sound map.

Taken together these activities define the term “soundscraping”, it being a structured sequence of timed requests for sending and receiving sound environments, live, from the world at large, and the mixing, processing, and diffusing of those sounds streams inside a performance venue. This mixture may also be streamed from the venue out to the Internet for others, including the participants, to hear.

Soundscraper: next steps
Here is more about what happens during a Soundscaper performance.

And here you can find installation instructions for live-streaming applications that work well for participating in a Soundscraper performance.

There is also currently a call for participants worldwide. Please consider streaming sound from your slice of the world into the upcoming performances.

live crowdsourced soundscaping