Ways of listening

George Rahi will be leading a World Listening Day
‘soundwalk’ from the Roundhouse Centre.| Photo by Seoyeon Jeoung.

Vancouver-based composer and sound artist George Rahi leads a World Listening Day ‘soundwalk’ from the Roundhouse Centre to Hadden Park/Kitsilano Beach on July 18.

The soundwalk explores the dynamics of group movement throughout and listening to the city, followed by a discussion of experiences and observations throughout the walk.

Sound and Space

George Rahi’s works span numerous installations, genres, methods and approaches to exploring sound and space. From pipe organs connected to rotary speakers and midi controllers, to gamelan music performed on salvaged bike parts, to interactive music installations throughout the city, much of Rahi’s experimental approach centres around new ways of thinking about music.

But this project is Rahi’s second soundwalk, wherein he leads the audience through a group walk, without speech, as a means of facilitating reflection and observation on one’s surroundings. Indeed, when it comes to art, Rahi finds little important distinction between sound and music.

“In the context of installation, I don’t see much of a distinction between the two in my work,” says Rahi.

For Rahi, what’s key is exploring the relationship between sound and space, whether that involves ‘music’ or not. Rahi’s first soundwalk in 2017, Slivers of pavement, took walkers through Vancouver’s downtown. With the walk being choreographed to bring the audience through publicly-owned private spaces in the downtown core, one of the goals was to explore the liminality between public and private space and what it means to assert one’s right to said space.

This time around, the trip from Roundhouse to Hadden Park is set to explore the coastal aspect of Vancouver’s False Creek, taking in the soundscape between city and water. While attendees are set to observe a different kind of liminality on Vancouver’s bustling coastline, the approach is the same: Rahi leads the group, while the listeners are guided either by themselves, or the environment, bringing new meaning to the word ‘audience.’

“The walk isn’t in search of a specific thing or experience, but is more of an exercise in non-goal oriented walking and listening in the city, and seeing what arises or shifts within a group that temporarily coordinates to observe their surroundings together,” says Rahi.

Audience and participation

At the end of the walk, Rahi’s own silence will be broken, as he facilitates an open dialogue about people’s experience with the soundwalk and shares a bit about his forthcoming installation involving bells and public space.

“One of my favourite parts about a soundwalk is the discussion afterwards,” says Rahi. “You often get some surprising details about other people’s perception, what they choose to focus on, how they interpret what they heard along the route, etc.”

Following the themes of audience involvement and the relationship between sound and space, Rahi’s upcoming project returns again to the realm of music. His newest creation, ‘bell-like metallophones that are distributed throughout a space,’ are set to be played either autonomously or by the public, once again engaging audiences in the meaning-making process of the art.

“The next installation at the Roundhouse offers to the public the chance to play them and compose short pieces that are scheduled to ring on the hour over the three weeks of the project,” says Rahi. “Part of the idea is that they become a kind of temporary tower that is directly participatory, linking the function and symbolic roles of bells in a new way.”

For more information, please visit www.roundhouse.ca/events/world-listening-day.