Sonic Intervention Wildernesses

06 September 2016

The shifting personal conception of a site …

I am biased, even and especially when exploring an environment previously unknown to me. My prejudice towards this place originates in my personal history: memories of previous experiences (possibly in similar environments), and stories I picked up from others.

My biased (pre)conception is altered and filled with detail while I am at the site, using my senses to consciously and subconsciously take in the place and its inhabitants. My observations either support me in my previous assumptions, or, if they do not align, suggest me to adjust my understanding accordingly.

Over time, my picture of the environment becomes more detailed and increasingly grounded within my personal experience. I start to feel more secure and am willing to risk exposure and, possibly, vulnerability.

… and its connection to Sonic Intervention Wilderness

I use “Sonic Intervention Wilderness” (SIW) as a descriptor for something that is unknown to me in a specific sense: It describes an environment that appears sonically uncanny, alien, sublime, independent of the familiarity it might have to me in a different context.

This wildness may be caused e.g. by its musically uninviting cultural or natural context, or by its soundscape that escapes my understanding or interpretation as being musically sensible.

Such SIW is a personal term. Despite the obvious subjectivity of judging on the familiarity and musicality of a soundscape or context of an environment, the decision whether or not I consider it sonically wild is subject to constant change, too.

Similarly to the effect that exploring an unknown site has on my conception of it, using that time for a more focused investigation, e.g., to examine its soundscape and acoustic properties, possibly with the intention of making music, makes it more tamed. My perspective shifts to interpret it as an environment in which I imagine myself to risk making music.1

Simultaneously to developing a musical conception of the site by establishing a personal history, effectively turning it into a musically known site, I get less flexible in (re)interpreting my observations. I establish (music making) habits.

I base my understanding of making music (opposed to performing or composing) on curiosity and exploration, both qualities that require a certain openness for reinterpretation. While I want to get to know the site in order to make music there, I want to keep it fresh and extent the time in which it surprises me.


Sharing experiences and living through emotions together are two important aspects of a bond between two parties. Making music is a cultural activity that can act as such a bonding mechanism. It is a scaffolding mechanism for establishing and deepening a personal bond to a previously foreign environment.

How can an SIW be shared with others? How can I exchange my understanding and interventions of an SIW with others? How can I fruitfully share aspects of site-specific art interventions with people for which that place is an SIW ? How do different kinds of SIW’s differ from each other?

This text fragment was written around the (sonic) wild code field lab in Kilpisjärvi (2015) and the micro-residency Sonic Wild{er}ness at Hai Art in Hailuoto (2016).

  1. By spending time, it is me who changes. However, it appears to me as if the environment changes its face and gets more tamed while I just get more accustomed to it.