Listening as Methodological Tool: Sounding Soundwalking Methods

Drever, John L.. 2020. Listening as Methodological Tool: Sounding Soundwalking Methods. In: Michael Bull and Marcel Cobussen, eds. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 599-613. ISBN 9781501338779 [Book Section]

Sounding Soundwalking Methods.DRAFT July2019.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (382kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Amongst the interplay of competing commands and demands for our attention in daily life, multitasking attentive listening to the here-and-now with the bipedal locomotion mode of ambulation – along with an inordinate amount of other incessantly shuffling and intermingling of tasks – is considered by many as routine. Relentlessly endeavoring to attend to the sounds around you, whilst dwelling in and passing through everyday environments for an extended duration of time, by actively curtailing other customary cognitive tasks or behaviors, on the other hand, is an atypical activity. Prefiguring the developments of sensory ethnography (Pink 2015) and the “sonic turn,” (Drobnick 2004: 10), such a pursuit, under the overarching term, soundwalking, has been employed over the past 40 years as a designated and dependable, even vital sonic method.

Approaching soundwalking as an emergent rather than a transplantable fixed practice with an ossified methodology, this chapter will feed off historical precedence and draw from the author’s direct experience as a soundwalk facilitator in multiple situations, catering for participants with disciplinarily specialisms including acoustic engineering, architecture, ornithology, city planning, accessibility, social science, and arts practice, and extending out to school children and the general public at large – all stakeholders and individuals with diverse general and specific needs, concerns and understandings. Attentive concentration on listening is an engrossing experience where one can becomes absorbed in the flow of the enveloping soundscape. As it is beholden on the soundwalk leader to guide and to plan ahead to the safe and sound completion of the walk, whilst poised to attend to any pressing pragmatic issues that may transpire midst-walk, the actual emphasis on their listening tends not to be prioritized. But this in turn permits the participants to dedicate their entire attention to the task in hand. So, reversing roles, the author will also reflect on his various soundwalking experiences as participant – experience which encompasses dogmatic and more idiosyncratic approaches, in formal and performative, intimate and extrovert configurations. The chapter will critically reflect and evaluate on this multitudinous data-set that endeavors to incorporate and verbalize sensuous experience and behavior, whilst surfacing the practical, logistical, and ethical vagaries. It will unashamedly concentrate on soundwalks that do not incorporate audio playback via headphone or aspects of telepresent or augmented reality (beyond participants’ regular use of audio prosthetics) such as audio walks by e.g. Janet Cardiff, Christina Kubisch, and Duncan Speakman; it is contended that soundwalking with the “naked ear” is an already highly sophisticated and infinitely practicable and malleable methodology suitable for multiple research, training and artistic needs.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):


listening, soundwalking, soundwalk, listening walk, methodology, walkabilty, World Soundscape Project

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Unit for Sound Practice Research


24 June 2019Accepted
10 December 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Jul 2019 08:10

Last Modified:

01 Mar 2023 17:48


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)