Reykjavík’s First Soundwalk: Listening To The Sounds Of The City

Reykjavík’s First Soundwalk: Listening To The Sounds Of The City

Photos by
Alexander Magnússon

The wind blows, the sea hisses. Cars putter and splash. The sounds of Reykjavík are all around you and, if you’re like most, the ambient noise goes largely unnoticed as you navigate through your day. But what if it were brought into the forefront for just an hour? Would your perception of the city change?

With a set path that directs the listener through the city on a one-hour stroll, Soundwalk Reykjavík strives to give locals and tourists a new aural experience of a familiar little city.

“I think in these times when everything is about selling and catering to tourists, people are looking for a different experience, something more artistic. They will enjoy this.”

While teaching in the spring of 2013 at the Icelandic Academy of Art, French composer, vocalist, and sound artist Marie Guilleray proposed a collaborative project to her students: creating Reykjavík’s first ever soundwalk.

“It’s really a different way to experience the city,” Marie explains. “I think in these times when everything is about selling and catering to tourists, people are looking for a different experience, something more artistic. They will enjoy this.”

Though the compositions that make up the soundtrack were created in the spring, the soundwalk can be embarked upon at any time and the experience will vary depending on what time of day or year it is undertaken.

“It’s important to use open headphones during the walk, not anything that cancels out the sounds around you,” urge Marie. “In addition to safety, the reason is that it’s ideal that you can still hear your surroundings. It’s important to be able to hear what is going on around you in addition to the composition in your headphones. Sometimes the two sounds will blend together, and sometimes they won’t, so as the listener you have to create your own narrative based on the two soundtracks—the real and the recorded surroundings—and that, I’ve found, is really good for the imagination.”

It is important to note that Soundwalk Reykjavík is not an audioguide. You won’t be told where to turn and be provided trivia about local sites and monuments as you navigate from Hallgrímskirkja to the waterfront, past Harpa, and then wind your way back through the city alongside Tjörnin. Instead you’ll be inspired to ascribe your own meanings and emotions to all that you are seeing, and hearing—to experience Reykjavík in a way that you may never have previously.

Marie and her partner and collaborator Bjarni Gunnarsson are in the midst of creating additional soundwalk compositions in the greater Reykjavík area: one focusing on the harbour, and others directing listeners through Seltjarnarnes and Viðey.

Soundwalk Reykjavík is available to download free of charge here.

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