When planning our vacations and staycations, we’re usually led by our eyes — there’s a reason we call it sightseeing. But have you ever traveled somewhere to hear how it sounds? Your very own city may be a great place to discover soundwalking, an activity akin to wine tasting wherein you savor the notes that express one terrain. Free to anyone, all it takes is a bit of walking with your ears as well as your eyes open, though closing the latter sometimes helps.
Inspired by Re-sound, a guided walk led by artist Andrea Polli in June 2016 and sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art S.B., let us help you springboard your own aural map of S.B., full of human sounds and animal sounds, loud ones and quiet ones, near ones and far.
As you leave the parking lot and walk toward the sand, you depart from the chatter of cormorants and ducks and move closer to the bray of seagulls. On the pier, passersby murmur and a fisherman’s daughter laughs, and then enters the booming buzz of the Goleta airport prop planes. Above and below all, the sound of the ocean — one of the most powerful sounds on earth — resonates, crashing and soothing unendingly.
Mission Rose Garden
Nestled between the Mission’s bricks and the home façades of Plaza Rubio on hilly terrain, this grassy knoll enjoys a strong and dreamy reverb quality. The voices of children and their playfully reprimanding parents or caretakers resound, and cars stream sleepily by while the lovely song of finches is aflutter all around.
High above S.B., the listener is afforded varying strata of traffic noise — both the hazy hum of the faraway freeway and the more immediate cars careening on Alameda Padre Serra. A leaf blower and suburban din cut through many frequencies, but a preponderance of birds reminds you of how pleasant everything else is.
Not far from the wine-tasting rooms of the Funk Zone, the neighborhood on the opposite side of Garden Street is flush with sounds of hard work: construction workers hammering, truckers trucking. On the corner of the street, the industrial wall of sound from Cemex is punctuated by a rather delightful backup tone from a cement truck, which bubbles up like a Super Nintendo sound effect.
S.B. Public Library
One of the quietest places in S.B., here you almost swear you can hear the sound of thoughts themselves among the soft thumb of turning pages. An insectile, air-conditioning din hangs in the room. All is mostly quiet until a cell ringer goes off, and then a video chat begins to blare in the library lobby. “Sir!” a librarian says, and thankfully the quiet is preserved.