Me and soundmaps go back a long way. I’ve been avid – and frequently critical – consumer of these modalities of aural cartography for several decades. I have integrated exploration of soundmaps into my teaching, in recent years running workshops with the wonderful MA Sound Arts students at London College of Communication, whose approaches always offer inventive (and sometimes  radical) responses to the conventions that have accreted around the form, conventions that became enshrined in a long-standing Wikipedia definition that proposed ‘digital geographical maps that put emphasis on the sonic representation of a specific location’. I commissioned an article about one example of such a digital online soundmaps from the collective New York Society for Acoustic Ecology, who discuss their multi-faceted NYSoundmap in my 2009 book Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice.

I’ve made unambiguous sound and mapping projects, too, such as “51° 32 ‘ 6.954” N / 0° 00 ‘ 47.0808” W,” my unforgivingly-titled contribution to the Sound Proof group show at the E:vent Gallery, London in 2008, which addressed the transformation of what had been a canal-side pocket of light industry and open green space for the 2012 Olympics. For 2012’s Viso Come Territorio (“Face as Territory”), another group show, I made a soundmap of the Italian commune San Cipriano Picentino in Campania.

Here are two responses to my sound-mapping activities, the first from Sound Proof’s curator Monica Biagioli, the second from Salome Voegelin’s Sonic Possible Worlds:

“Carlyle’s contribution to a sense of social and spatial orientation is asserted through finely noted observation of activity and ephemera encountered during his visits to the site. These seemingly inconsequential events and objects are plotted diagrammatically on his map as key markers of the site, giving prominence to the vernacular components of this site in transition. His approach echoes the notion that whoever maps the space gives that landscape and location its territorial characteristics”.

(Biagioli 2018: 102)

“This geography is not that of San Cipriano Picentino and not of my living room either but that of their possibilities generated in my recentred listening, exploring the material that sounds there and bringing it back into the actuality of my present listening that is every thicker and pluralized for it. These sonic narratives do not share in the generality of the visual map, nor in the image we might have of an area […] I am not following the map but mapping my own while listening.”

(Voegelin 2014:34)

From my own perspective, a lot of my creative practice inhabits a space that is proximate to maps, map-making and the devices of cartography –  and this applies not just to the more explicitly sound-related works, as might be visible above on the cover of my Makina Books poetry collection Night Blooms and an inside page from the self-published work Mirrors.

Alongside these creative projects, I’ve written a little on maps and map making. In 1999 I wrote “Below This Level There is None,” a chapter for City Levels that riffed on Virilio, Dostoyevsky and Ralph Ellison about the underground as an architectural space and how the vertical projection that is common (and pretty much ubiquitous in its adoption on online soundmaps) occludes what lies below. In 2022, I contributed an article to the Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies which, to an extent, takes some of the thinking in the 1999 article and adapts it for the sonic realm.

I’ve put both these articles on my very sparse medium account for you to read.

“Dropping Down Low: Soundmaps: Critique, Genealogy, Alternatives,” (2022) read here:

The ideas of maps and layers of sound knowledge has been a recurrent idea in Arctic Auditories. You might remember that when it was Za Barron’s turn to post to our Instagram account, she talked about sound maps: “maps can take many forms and tell many truths, but some might argue (me, for example) that they have to be visual to be maps. I just can’t get my head around the idea that a sound is a map. This is not my ontology of maps, but this project is pushing on it…”

Alongside the recordings of our conductors telling us how they have designed their soundwalks, the recordings of the walks themselves and recordings of post-walk discussions, I have been looking at Paula Ryggvik Mikalsen’s and Britta Sweers’ analyses of the transcripts of soundwalks to guide me to make new recordings of the soundwalk locations that capture a balance between what the conductor intended and what the participants experienced. This is not at all an easy task, but the inspiration is to create an online soundmap that seeks to represent this process.

I’ve been using Udo Noll’s astonishing Radio Aporee as a platform to disseminate this developing soundmap. Radio Aporee has been running online since 2000, has been hosting its maps since 2006, backs its files to the Internet Archive, has many very useful resources and, at the moment I am writing, would take me 225 days, 4 hours, 57 minutes and 40 seconds to listen to all its content. Radio Aporee is a firm feature of my soundmap teaching, it appears in the Bloomsbury chapter and it is certainly a good example of one of those soundmaps I mentioned right at the start of this blog post: one that I respond to as a listener. Radio Aporee has its own rules, such as the injunction to avoid ‘composition’ by editing or layering recordings. I have imposed further restrictions, too, but I am slowly building this Arctic Auditories layer. The quality of existing Aporee contributions sets the bar dauntingly high.

The current distribution of my recordings for the Arctic Auditories map looks like this.

If we zoom in you can see that there is a cluster in Tromsdalen / Romssavággi, reflecting the three soundwalks that took place there, each with quite rich details.

One of these recordings seeks to capture the sounds of the water that two soundwalk conductors told us had special meaning for them in this area.

The best way to get a sense of what I am doing with this online map is to dial into Radio Aporee yourselves (something I highly recommend you do anyway). To navigate to our Arctic Auditories project map within Radio Aporee and explore, head to this link:

-Angus Carlyle