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SUNY ESF Students Take a "Soundwalk" to Listen to our Part of the Planet on Earth Day

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

A small group of SUNY ESF students marked Earth Day by using their ears.  WAER tagged along with a microphone to gather what they heard during their "soundwalk."
 
The four students walked silently around campus, taking in natural and man-made sounds.  Junior Jordan C’Dealva-Lenik says it’s the final element of a semester-long project based on a sense of place…

 
"We decided to take a more unorthodox approach to this already unorthodox project to say, well, there's the idea of the soundscape  as a place, and the soundscape is sort of like the sonic equivalent to what a landscape to your eyes, at a given place at a given time."

 

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
The "brook" on the SUNY ESF campus.

  One of the first sounds that came up in their discussion afterward was the distant but persistent drone of traffic on I-81.  It’s familiar to sophomore Jake Paganakis.

 
"I actually really enjoyed it because I'm from New York City, so it's a sound that felt really homey to me.  That sound is more calming than the sound of the brook, which would be really weird to most people at this school."

Jordan C'Dealva-Lenik:

 
"A lot of people don't really realize that there's a hum that's always there from 81 no matter where you walk.  When we were doing this yesterday, we were walking through the cemetery.  It didn't matter where you were in the cemetery...all you heard was the highway, which is sort of a very sad thing because it's a very natural place and you would expect to  hear natural sounds and all you hear something that is so clearly man made."
 

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News

  Despite the hum of the freeway, the chirps of birds could be heard during the entire 15 minute walk.  That got junior Sienna McDonald thinking.

 
  "I think it would be nice if we maybe had more habitat for animals,  and then that would increase bird noises and other insect noises.  But there might be more development in the future that would cause more human-influenced noises." 

 
The soundwalk also made her appreciate her sense of hearing, and wonders what so many others might be missing.

 
"A lot of people walk around with headphones, and they're completely ignoring everything going on.  It just blocks out all the noises."  

 
Jordan C'Dealva-Lenik:

 
"It is sort of a sad thing because we have this great sense that we don't necessarily rely on as much.  We rely on our sense of sight a lot more.  When our group surveyed a bunch of people here, most people unsurprisingly said that their lives had been shaped more by their sense of sight than their sense of hearing."

 

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
This road borders Oakwood Cemetery.

  The SUNY ESF students said they expected to hear more voices during their walk, but attributed the quiet campus to students being inside for class or staying out of the cool, damp weather.  They were pleased this part of their project coincided with Earth Week, as well as International Noise Awareness Day next Wednesday.  The students hope their work not only raises awareness about noise pollution on campus, but also with anyone who might see the project.   

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.