Urban sound designer Dr Jordan Lacey wants to work with city sounds to enhance our urban life. But how do you creatively reshape noise to build social connections and spark imaginations?
A Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Design, Lacey is a guest lecturer in the groundbreaking Master of Design Innovation and Technology.
He believes we need to change our relationship with urban noise - and he’s been researching just how to do it.
What is your current research focus?
As a creative practitioner I am interested to know how artistic practices might create encounters in the city that enrich everyday experiences, so my research focuses on the impact of the sonic environment on urban life.
If you think about it, the geographical spread of a city can be thought of as a network of transitions, between home and work, work and lunch, to places of entertainment.
My research asks: should our experiences of the city be more expansive than this, and can we create places of encounter that engage our imagination by challenging those functions that define everyday urban life?
What are the key current challenges in your field?
At the moment, public art programs focusing on the need for creative cities often create temporary additions to already existing infrastructures.
For places of creative encounters to occur, urban planners and industry must be sure to integrate creative practice approaches into development projects.
What’s your goal - what do you seek to learn?
Living in communities that feel connected, expressive and engaged requires the creation of environments that elicit such response. In other words, cities should not exist just for the efficient functioning of economic imperatives, they should exist as the Earth has always existed: an unfolding and creative network of complex environments, which inspires and enriches the imaginative.
While galleries and theatres provide valuable and rewarding experiences, they can create the impression that cultural experience and everyday life are somehow separate.
Melbourne contains a range of public spaces that could feature sonic installations to produce restorative and evocative sound environments.
One of my goals is to create “urban sound parks” such as the Klankenbos Sound Forest in Neerpelt, Belgium, and In the Garden of Sonic Delights in Katonah, New York State. These international examples show that public sound installations can provide unique sonic experiences.
How does your research help address those challenges?
My research is somewhat located at the meeting point between sonic arts and urban design, and my public installations are interested in working with the noise of city soundscapes to create new experiences.
If we can say that nature provides us with rich and invigorating experiences, how can we start to recreate these experiences in the urban without the need to recreate nature? Can we more skillfully shape urban infrastructures to evoke and engage the public?
Skillful design becomes the reshaping of urban sounds that reflect nature’s extraordinary capacity for diverse and evocative sonic environments and this is done by unlocking the potential of urban noise in locations, such as parks, to create a range of affective experiences beyond the banal environments caused by repetitious city sounds.
This approach is called Sonic Rupture, which is also the title of my upcoming book, to be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in June this year.
Tell us about the book? How does it expand on your research?
My book challenges traditional ideas of nature by suggesting the Earth is continuously unfolding, and that the urban is its most recent creative expression.
On completing my PhD at the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory (SIAL) Sound Studios in the School of Architecture and Design, I created seven sound installations that, after much reflection, revealed to me a “sonic rupture model”.
You could think of this book as a manifesto for creative action, using creative interventions to enrich urban life.
What drew you to this specific field?
If we think of my field as being urban soundscape design, there is no doubt that the SIAL Sound Studios research culture led by Associate Professor Lawrence Harvey was the source of my exposure.
In fact, I started in Media and Communications studying the Music Industry course and segued to SIAL Sound via the cross-university elective ‘Soundscape Studies’.
From here three currents in my life concatenated – education, music and environmental activism.
I now apply my musical and teaching practices to reshaping the sonic environment.
Success Begins Here: Taught within RMIT’s renowned Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, the Master of Design Innovation and Technology will prepare you to be a design leader in a rapidly changing environment.
Story: Chanel Bearder