Not only have we made it into 2022, we are also very pleased to announce the winners and honourable mentions of the Sound Walk September Awards 2021.
2021 was the year in which, perhaps against the odds, the COVID pandemic raged on throughout the world, and where lockdowns kept us occupied, or perhaps not, throughout the world. But, many soundwalk creators took these challenging times as a reason to create work to immerse the public in nature, and to connect them with a kind of outdoors reality. We received over 150 eligible soundwalks from around the world, more than ever, leading to a short list of 13 potential winners.
The shortlist was roughly divided into two camps; deeply imaginative approaches, broadening the mind and providing visionary ideas on how to extend the concept of walking, and thoughtful reflections and sensitive criticism around our lives as we live them today, and how we’ve lived them in the past.
It reveals, once again, the strength of soundwalks as catalysts of innovative narratives, and interdisciplinary storytelling, sharing awareness with the meaning of place, often beyond words.
New formats, out of the box creation, and careful design show the maturation of a medium that is in full development and is becoming established with an important place in the broad field of art and culture.
Eventually it is not a surprise that the winners and the honourable mentions delve deep into the potential of the medium, and focus both on the larger stories, as well as small scale individual experiences, combining a back and forth between the real and the imagination, and to do this with great care and detail, with sense and sensibility.
Notwithstanding the strength and beauty of the stories shared by the winners and honourable mentions, there is a challenge in appreciating, understanding, and experiencing soundwalks that are created in interaction with a specific place and their “locale”. How to truly evaluate, from a distance or online, a work that is made to immerse the listener in a place?
To compensate for this challenge, we gave the opportunity to the shortlisted creators to contextualise their work in a supporting text, which were published in the weeks after Sound Walk September 2021
We have the luck and pleasure of receiving strong support from an excellent jury, composed of global and world class specialists and artists. Their combined expertise and experience filled in much of the blanks, along with the additional context provided by the creators themselves.
All winners and honourable mentions receive a one year gold membership of WLC, valued at 100 euros, each. In addition, each will receive a physical commemoration, sent to them. Keep an eye on this page to get to see what this will be.
In a first, both our winners are based in the United States.
Come Sunday is a beautifully orchestrated and thought-out portrait of the rich cultural heritage of Portland, Oregon, put together by Darrell Grant and commissioned by Third Angle New Music. The listening experience consists of music and a huge range of interviews which are set to a walk between houses of worship. The audio production is extremely high, enhanced by a gentle marimba note to denote the synchronisation for the points on the route.
Darrell creates an arresting, interesting, and even powerful aural journey that weaves a narrative of the changing communities in this area, and the effects of gentrification. It tells remarkable oral histories, and sets them with music that enhances, expands and continues the stories. The music is not just a filler, or there to enhance the experience, it’s a part of the culture and continues the story by itself.
The piece creates a powerful connection with the place and its history, and is an important piece of oral history. It stands in its own right, also when just listened to as an audio documentary.
Where am I? A Dislocated Soundwalk
In Where Am I? A dislocated soundwalk, Viv Corringham captures the disjointed experience of physically being in space as our thoughts drift and take us elsewhere.
Imagine taking a routine walk and observing habitual sights while listening to an audio guide that leads us to unfamiliar voices, landscapes, and sounds; fragmented conversations, descriptions of seemingly mismatched and impossible routes like a train passing through a Tokyo train station to a Long Island Beach.
Even if we are physically anchored to a familiar walking trail, a high street, a public park, or possibly listening to Where Am I? at home, the evocative panoramic collection of sounds transports us to real and imagined places. Viv poignantly conjures the emotional, physical, and intellectual dislocation of the pandemic by inviting us to be ‘misguided.’
Through questions and prompts that summon memories and activate nostalgia and imagination, Where am I? provokes the disjuncture between the past, the present and the future by inviting us to find solace and adventure in the (un)familiar.
Where both our winners shifted our focus to the Americas, both honourable mentions are based in the United Kingdom.
Bristoler Chronik, a soundwalk by Cliff Andrade, explores issues of identity, biography, and class, by wandering through the neighborhood of his former home and connecting it to his current home, reflecting on his experiences as a student at university.
Wandering with purpose, Andrade calls back the ghosts of a former time, asking questions about bias, racism, generational wealth, biculturalism, and the role which ‘place’ and ‘society’ have in constructing our sense of self.
The SWS jury found Bristoler Chronik approachable and generous, at times hesitating and doubting, and conveying a sense of intimacy to the listener. The soundwalk draws on numerous other voices to deepen a sense of mobility in relationship to place, teasing out the ways in which memory is mapped onto the spaces we inhabit, and challenging a single monumental story about Britishness. The jury felt the work fulfilled numerous criteria important to Sound Walk September. The work is accessible and reveals unheard voices, it addresses critical current issues of inequality and identity.
Site is intrinsic to the work, as we hear the sonic footprint of Andrade’s travels, and recognize that place can amplify and reanimate memory.
Collision & Conflict
Collision & Conflict is a deftly considered soundwalk that steps us around a section of Hadrian’s wall in Northumberland, Cumbria, through the eyes, ears and hearts of 14 commissioned artists. It is a Green Croft Arts community project that is built on the back of the Echoes platform using GPS triggered sound fields on mobile phones.
Born out of an iconic landscape already hewn in stone, stories, sounds and songs, each of the 9 stops en-route drills down into the site in a variety of ways: whether musings on the migratory path of birds from Africa to Cumbria, to a creative commentary on the symbolism of control and conquest that all such walls embody, or an acoustic dive into the world of Syrian bows and Roman archers.
If each of the artist’s responses to the site is a project unto itself, the group work as a whole with Hadrian’s Wall being the omnipresent backdrop. Collision & Conflict reminds us of the power such sites can still exert on us after thousands of years, and it shows their potential for inspiration in the ever-dynamic play of soundwalks today.
A changing of the guard
It’s also that time of the year where we run the risk of having to say goodbye to fine SWS Advisory Board members, while also cherishing the opportunity of welcoming new ones.
After two years of valuable, incredibly helpful, and always insightful input, we’re very sad to see Julie Poitras Santos leave our board, in the hope of making her schedule a tiny bit less hectic. Adieu Julie 🙁
Meanwhile, we are thrilled to welcome Anna Luyten, from Belgium; a performative philosopher, writer, teacher, radio- and televisionmaker. Welcome Anna 🙂
The year 2022 has taken off with a shaky start. That said, we can reasonably argue that there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. How, exactly, this will mean what the year will bring is still hard, if not impossible to predict; we’ve got plans, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, we’ve started to receive the first submissions for Sound Walk September 2022. What will you create this year?