A 24-Hour Soundscape of Found Sounds

Janek Schaefer and 99 associates layer their everyday audio for foundsoundscape.com.


Keeping track of the Scha/ef/f/ers of everyday sound can be confusing, at least in an International Spelling Bee sort of way.

There is R. Murray Schafer (one f, one e), the Canadian who gave us the concept of the soundscape. There is the late Pierre Schaeffer (two e’s, two f’s), of France, who helped give us musique concrète. And there is England-born Janek Schaefer (two e’s, one f), of Canadian and Polish parents, who is the youngest of the three, and who specializes in sound art made from everyday noise.

A culmination of the latter’s efforts has made its way online in the form of foundsoundscape.com. It is a 24-hour streaming assemblage of field recordings. Those recordings were collected in 1,000 different places by 100 different artists. In turn, (Janek) Schaefer collated and layered the source audio, so at any point the service is playing three different feeds. Make that four feeds: in addition, there is a live mic in Schaefer’s own studio, and that gets added to the audio. The resulting stream is intended to complement your own place and time. It is less a listening experience than something to be filtered into daily life. The Foundsoundscape site bears the description “live collage of foundsound places to underscore your personal spaces” and the instruction “adjust your volume to background sound.” I ran it for half a day today, and wandered by my desk to occasionally hear chanting, water flowing, and mysterious rhythmic pulses. More often than not the audio was more texture than recognizable content, like a hint of fragrance coming through an open window. In this case, the “window” is an imaginary one, a fiction constructed painstakingly by Schaefer, a window of windows.

Several generations of sonic innovators contributed material, including Taylor Deupree, Brian Eno, Chihei Hatakeyama, Charlemagne Palestine, Stephen Vitiello, Chris Watson, and Mike Weis. (For something sprawling enough to accomodate 100 contributors, it seems a little bereft of female participants.) Here is the full list:

Janek Schaefer * Chris Watson * Brian Eno * Charlemagne Palestine * Phil Niblock * British Library Sound Archive * Richard Chartier * Stephen Vitiello * Douglas Benford * Graham Dunning * William Basinski * Gino Zardo * Marc Richter * Arno Peeters * Peter van Cooten * Mike Weis * Knut Aufermann * Mary Malecka * Paul Cox * Philip Blackburn * Stephan Mathieu * Philipp Ilinskiy * Susan Martin * Jake Muir * Chris Dooks * Darren McClure * Jeremy Young * Stuart Bannister * Robin Parmar * Yui Onodera * Frans de Waard * Ben Gwilliam * Craig Johnson * Stuart Craig * Luis Fernandes * David Slater * Hiroki Sasajima * Chris Deison * Paul Whitty * Bas Mantel * Justin Bennett * Scanner * Martin Franklin * John Kannenberg * Charlotte Heffernan * Martin A. Smith * Derek Holzer * Ben Horner * Nick Fells * Taylor Dupree * Peter Cusack * Nickolas Mohanna * Ian Baxter * Bobbie-Jane Gardner * Yan Yun * Tomotsugu Nakamura * Chihei Hatakeyama * Yannick Dauby * William Yates * Chris Koelle * Simon Fisher Turner * Rod Stasick * Jonathan Palmer * Gregory Kramer * Rob Dansby * Dave the Rave * Wouter Messchendorp * Robert Svantesson * Omer Eilam * Radboud Mens * Michael J. Schumacher * Danny Lavie * Christopher Bradbury * Stephen Packe * Kevin Wienke * Mark Lyken * Michael Jennings * Kerry Ware * John Grzinich * Marc Namblard * Radovan Scasascia * FOO|OFF * Jason Domers * Craig Goods * Vijay Sekhon * Jan van den Brink * Robin Russell * Ben Minto * Bibio * Yasuhiro Morinaga * John Wynne * Wayland Iverson * Matt Wright * Cedrick Eymenier * Tony Webster * Hanetration * Javier Ucelay Urech * Philip Jeck

The site is located at foundsoundscape.com with the audio hosted at mixlr.com/foundsoundscape. More from Schaefer at his audioh.com site.

5 thoughts on “A 24-Hour Soundscape of Found Sounds

  1. You almost can add Frank Scheffer to the group, cinematographer whose work consists mainly in documentaries on composers and in particular he has documentaries on Stockhausen, Varese, Cage and other contemporary music.

    The project foundsoundscape.com seems great.

  2. This is a really poor attempt at ‘curating’ from Janek. There is no curating, except perhaps the terrible idea of taking the first 100 entires to an open call. A quick look at this list show a massive percentage of men. The lack of women must be deeply embarrassing to Janek and I’m shocked he actually went through with the project.

  3. This project is incredibly good, I’ve listened to it for more than 24 hours more than once now and I just heard about it a few days ago!

    I agree that it would be great to see more representation from women in this, but I think it could be a symptom of a larger problem, which is the fact that there just aren’t as many women active in sound art overall to choose from. When I used to curate sound art events, it was always so hard to find many women that were interested – not just in performing, but also as as audience members. I wonder what percentage of the submissions Janek received were from women, before blaming him entirely for the imbalance. I’d like to see this more as a sign that we need to actively encourage more women to participate in sound art practice and community building so that they are aware of calls like this going out to the public and that they feel welcome and encouraged to apply. Once they apply, I believe their work should be seen at face value for merit, but it is true that we have a long way to go as a society in making realms like this feel more inviting for people who have often been marginalized in this practice. The issue is larger than what one person can fix, although every bit of energy put into solving this problem does help in the long run.

  4. Caleb, that’s a dismally judgemental response. Thank goodness you weren’t the curator…. I suppose you would have dismissed everyone who was male in order to score some political points? And what about people of colour? I don’t see (many of) them represented. And what about the impaired/disabled? If I was to be as judgemental in return, I would wonder why you don’t seem to care about them. Thankfully, Janek was egalitarian instead of prescriptive. As one of the Robins included, I don’t recall any test I had to pass to be part of the ensemble. Bottom line is, I enjoy listening to it.

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