The second part is more fun and equally thought-provoking. It's a single darkened room with a multi-channel sound installation on 10 lovely Genelec loudspeakers, which simulate the soundscape in Mariatorget, a square with busy roads at both ends in which there is a permanent sound and light installation. As usual, the sound feels much more intrusive when you can't see what's making it - much like what happens when I play clients their retail soundscapes on headphones. Our eyes acts as a kind of automatic compressor, preparing us for sounds a fraction in advance. Without the visual cues, the traffic noise in the installation is dominating, and leaving the room creates a visceral effect of peace. Whilst inside the installation, habituation occurs and the more delicate sounds of the art installation - chimes and light leaf sounds - emerge. The question Hellström's asking in this piece is: what happens when we see things we can't hear, and hear things we can't see? Does it matter? This resonates greatly with the schizophonia concept from Murray Schafer that I discussed in my TED talk and that seems to have rattled quite a few cages on the forums. It's an important question for modern living in my opinion, and one that needs to be researched.
Next visit to Stockholm I hope to swing by the University, which is home to the Soundscape Support to Health project, started by Birgitte Berglund in 1999. This is the oldest and probably the most influential scientific soundscape project in the world; Professor advises the WHO on the health effects of soundscapes, and the group, led by Östen Axelsson, is working on an ISO definition of soundscape quality. Stockholm University has just hosted a global conference on Designing Soundscape for Sustainable Urban Development, so this is the current hotspot for urban soundscape thinking. Exciting stuff, and with clarity I think will come feedback on what (and how) to improve. There is hope for our poor urban ears!