Sonic Intervention Wildernesses

06 September 2016

The shifting personal conception of a site …

When encountering an environment that is unknown to me, I am biased. This prejudice is grounded in my personal context: opinions and stories I heard from others inform my conception as well as memories of both previous emotions and experiences of similar environments.

Over time, I replace my biased conception with a more detailed picture: Using my senses, I both consciously and subconsciously explore the site and its inhabitants. My observations either support me in my previous assumptions, or, if they do not align, they suggest to adjust my understanding accordingly.

Over time, my picture of the environment becomes more detailed and increasingly grounded in my personal experience. I start to feel more secure and am in turn willing to risk more in my actions.

… 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 has 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.

SIW is a highly 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 experiencing an unknown site as described in the beginning, spending time investigating an SIW for, e.g., its soundscape and acoustic properties —possibly with the intention of making music— makes it more “tamed”; it gradually turns into an environment in which I am increasingly able to imagine myself to “risk” making music.1

Simultaneously to the process of developing my musical conception of a site by grounding it to personal experiences, though, effectively turning it into a musically known site, I run into the dangers of getting less flexible in (re)interpreting my observations.

Dangers, because my personal understanding of making music (opposed to performing or composing) is grounded in curiosity and exploration, which both are qualities that require an 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, actually I change much more than does my environment. However, it appears to me as if the environment changes its face and gets more tamed while I just get more accustomed to it.