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2.2.2 The social life of sounds

Sounds accompany most of our social life. They are by-products of actions, media of communication, not only verbal, and sometimes even an art form. It is very hard to imagine social life in total silence. To understand the relationships between sounds, landscape, listener and society I will use the concept of taskscape developed by Tim Ingold (1993).

A taskscape is an array of interrelated activities that carry forward the process of social life. A taskscape has its own temporality based on the rhythms of action and is manifested through the sounds that activities produce. The temporality of a taskscape is social, because people, in the performance of their tasks, attend to each other. People notice each other through observing and hearing sounds of activity. Such attention provides reference among individuals for patterned and sequenced forms of behaviour.

If a landscape is what we see around us, then a taskscape is what we hear (Ingold 1993, 162). All, or rather most, sounds begin their social life as a result of patterned activities in a landscape. They provide reference for other agents in a taskscape and can therefore be termed sound signals. However, most of them just fade out in the hum of everyday social life and became part of keynote sounds.

In time, some sounds become more important than others. They inform structure and organise the location and form of cultural features and choreograph practices around them. Sound patterns are created by the patterns of actions that then help to channel future action (cf. Gosden 1994).

These sounds have history in the sense that they are in a constant process of creation through the processes of social life. They can be equated with Murray Schafer's soundmarks. Soundmarks last longer than the sounds they produce; they are transformed from activities into objects or features. In the process of participation in social life we no longer hear flint being knapped, but the flintknapper's workshop. Soundmarks are both sound-mark and sound-medium for the routinised nature of social life.

Therefore the study of past soundscapes is basically a study of past change by constant construction and re-interpretation of soundscape features, above all of soundmarks.

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