Since 2004, I have been leading soundwalks for groups and individuals in NYC, the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. These walks are based on listening and involve fostering a deeper connection between oneself and the urban environment. They were originally modeled on the soundwalks of Hildegard Westercamp, a founder of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. Over time, my own unique creations have been developed that sometimes include headphone-based meditative works or various site-specific activities including eating local edible plants or therapeutic aromatherapy. When we focus on listening to the environment, other senses can be awakened like smell and touch, which can connect us to our immediate surroundings, and to our breath, to the ground. Though other senses are involved I still prefer to call them 'soundwalks' as listening is the main focus. I have given lectures and have taught courses on listening, sound, and ecology at various institutions, schools, universities, and conferences internationally. The curriculum consists of listening exercises, soundwalks, recording, and audio editing which sometimes includes soundmapping utilizing the NY Soundmap concept that I co-created with the New York Society for Acoustic Ecology in 2005.
As part of my research as a Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where I studied with Pauline Oliveros from 2014-2018, I created a soundwalk called Riverfront Park Soundwalk, that was based on the past, present, and future of the Hudson River in Troy, NY. The 20-minute soundwalk is comprised of meditative narrative, music, soundscape, and storytelling from locals and water experts. The feedback from participants of this project showed that small creative engagements with nature such as soundwalking can improve a sense of stewardship and care for the environment in a very personal way. My early findings were published as "Soundwalking: A Creative and Meditative Art Practice Used to Foster a Sense of Stewardship for Local Waterways" published by Invisible Places 2017: Sound, Urbanism, and Sense of Place in Azores, Portugal in 2017. As an extension of this project, in 2018 I received a New York State Council of the Arts grant for Imaginary Futures where the public was asked to sit down together via a mobile kiosk in various locations to draw their visions of the future for the Hudson River in Troy, NY. The two winning drawings, selected by the public were enhanced with photoshop and sound design to be presented to the city of Troy, NY.
Also, in collaboration with artist Lee Pembleton, I have a project called SleepWalks, which is an overnight, electronic music performance that introduces soundwalks into people's dreams. We began in 2009, and since 2012 we have been collaborating with Todd Anderson, sleep researcher at Sheepdog Sciences in San Francisco. We have found that our theme often matches the dreams and collaborative dreaming has occurred, where participants see each other in the dreams. In 2016, I received a Community Arts grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for SleepWalks: The Body of Dreams, a multi-media dance performance based on the collaborative dreams of two overnight SleepWalks performances. They were water-themed dreams focused on the Hudson River, and it has since been performed at locations close to the Hudson River at the Chapel + Cultural Center in Troy, NY and at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, NY. Most recently, we were part of the Saunter Trek Escort Parade (S.T.E.P.) exhibit at Flux Factory in Queens and at the Queens Museum in 2018 and Ione's Dream Festival in 2019.
Soundwalks have been led for individuals and also for groups through these organizations: The Whitney Museum, The National Gallery of Denmark (SMK), Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, Elastic City, Central Park Conservatory, Electronic Music Foundation (EMF), Canary Project, Mills College, California College of the Arts, Arts Benicia Gallery, NY Art Book Fair, Figment Festival, Conflux, CulturePush, and the Fountain Miami Art Fair. Some soundwalks have been led by me as an individual artist and some by me as part of the group that I co-founded, The New York Society for Acoustic Ecology.
Quote from soundwalker in Gowanus, Brooklyn: "The experience was amazingly intriguing. At first, I did start off the walk not really thinking more about it than my daily to do list. Once we started walking slowly it felt as if I had put myself in this ceremonial situation. I started thinking about the environment and questioning the sound I constantly heard my feet on the streets, but eyes saw much more. How could I hear the sun? Or this beautiful space? At times, I heard beautiful things: the birds, the Latin music in the cars, I even heard the water flow. Whatever happened, I don't know what, I transformed so serenely into a state of calm tranquility. Was it the environment? The sounds? The fact that I left the city and my to-do-list in the past?" -- Ambreen H.
ARTICLE on SLEEPWALKS: THE BODY of DREAMS (Albany Times Union, October 20th, 2016)
INTERVIEW/ARTICLE on SOUNDWALKING (Soundfly, March 25, 2015): http://soundfly.com/soundfly-explores/what-is-a-soundwalk/