‘Our Sonic Playground’: A model for active engagement in urban soundscapes | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 2050-9790
  • E-ISSN: 2050-9804



‘Our Sonic Playground’ is the name of a public event organized by the author in 2013 for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago. This project attracted the participation of a number of local artists interested in sound, music and the environment. Many were members of the ‘World Listening Project’ and Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology. ‘Our Sonic Playground’ suggested that this event could serve as a model for actively engaging the public in soundscape awareness, an oftenneglected aspect of life in urban and other environments. This model is potentially useful for future engagements by providing a ‘recipe’ or set of practical suggestions for educators and ‘critical citizens’ as it relates to broader concerns with environmental change, urbanism, and awareness of place and public space. The author’s pedagogy of play and free improvisation emphasizes the importance of community and a type of aural-tactile engagement with listening and sound making that critically employs the physical, social and aesthetic role of media technology. This interest in public engagement is informed by the foundational work in the early 1970s, by the ‘World Soundscape Project’, and subsequent activities led by Canadian composers R. Murray Schafer, Hildegard Westerkamp and Barry Truax. Partnerships with local arts institutions, community organizations, led by faculty and students at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the city’s large creative community show how art and technology can reach out of the academy and into daily lives of people by effecting the acoustic identities of cities in positive and socially meaningful ways.


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