Can You Hear Me? Eco Sensing and Environmental Health


How healthy is Chicago? Let’s listen. Recently, The Reader published an article interviewing Eric Leonardson, founder of the Midwest Society of Acoustic Ecology entitled Learning To Love Chicago With Your Ears!.

Last month, Leonardson presented the art and science of Soundwalking or Eco Sensing the Environment at the Wild THINGS! Conference in Rosemont. He talked about the importance of close listening and or ‘tuning into’ the sonic environment for our health and for better understanding of the health of our city. He mentioned’s Sound, Sound Mapping, and Soundscape Journeys for use in K12 classrooms introducing activities to expose children to the sounds around them in meaningful ways.

He also shared The School of the Art Institute’s Eco Design Riverworks River Listening course taught in collaboration with Professor Linda Keane since 2015, in which students build hydrophones and record the sounds above, on and below the Chicago River. In the course of four classes, students mapped the Chicago River Walk, created a City of Chicago Fountain Map, and contributed recordings to the worldwide Aporee Sound map.

Dr. Antonelli Radicchio, Sound Consultant for the City of Berlin and creator of the Hush CIty App, visited the Eco Design Class last fall sharing the EU’s SOUND Policy. Students were amazed at the intelligence of the EU’s goal to identify noise in a city as cause for urban stress and even deafness and to set standards for allowable sound levels in cities. Radicchio’s Hush City App is a fun and friendly tool used to locate, record, and evaluate quiet places in the city. The EU’s Sound Policy for cities to achieve measures to reduce harmful decibels and frequencies of sound by 2030 can be found here, while Chicago’s Environmental Noise Ordinance sets standards and measures for noise from music to machinery.

Leonardson and Keane have presented on BALANCE/UNBALANCE panels with Lindsey French, Chicago Artist and Educator, Dr. Leah Barclay Founder of World Listening Day and Biosphere Reserves Listener, Norman W. Long, and Amanda Gutiérrez. Their individual and combined efforts engage and activate students and public communities in design of urban soundscapes using virtual environments, social codes of immigrant communities, river listening, soundwalking, plant communication, art-science collaborations, and new media.