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Hearing what we are: A reflection on our intangible heritage

The sounds have always worked - for all living beings and in particular for man - as elements of bonding, difference, harmony or chaos; endowing each reality with its own identity and giving its members a unique network of meanings derived from the sounds that are characteristic of the elements that compose it; in this way a bird can know which flock it belongs to or a man his nationality. It is in this relationship that "useful" and "residual" noises are amalgamated to allow the existence of what we call "consciousness of belonging," which uses as an argument and reason for being the shared interpretation that people make of a certain place or event; that something called intangible heritage.

In this context it is worth asking ourselves how conscious we are about how we relate to our sound environment. If we ask ourselves - for instance - what place of our region would we recommend to visit? the most certain thing would be that while we were enumerating the places, in our head, instantaneous images would appear, like a postcard of the site that does not allow second interpretations. It is in this arbitrary dynamism, subjugated in the first instance to the visual, where Soundscape: Valuing the Sound Landscape of Atacama seeks to make the sonorities become part of the social imaginary; Having said that, it is necessary to recover and claim the importance of sound in a daily basis, in the intimate level and in the social articulations around the sonorous spectrum of the landscapes.

In this vein, and according to the perspective of Canadian composer and pioneer in sound landscape, Murray Schafer, it is urgent to start a discussion about the relationship between people and societies with their sonic environment. The problem is that we do not have adequate methods to measure these situations, apart from the tools developed to evaluate certain negative effects of noise such as noise pollution; for that reason the main pending issue is to define exactly the value perceived by a community with respect to their sound environment and how it influences their quality of life, reason for which rescue, registration and diffusion are determining variables for the beginning of the work that leads to understanding the influence of sound on the development of our lives.

micrófono Neumann KU100

In short, it is clear that recording and disseminating our sound landscapes will help identify, recognize and value our intangible heritage; in addition the elaboration of the first sonorous map of Atacama will allow us to know which are the attributes of representativeness that emanate of these landscapes, facilitating the understanding on how we understand and we relate with our audible environment; without forgetting that it will be a future input of consultation for areas as diverse as scientific research, education, cultural studies or tourism and - why not - the first step to enter the world of ethnography, studying and comparing the transformations of our customs, parties and traditions, as well as the sonorous trajectory of natural landscapes over time. A small stop in space and in the becoming of times to hear what we are.

Mauro Lamas | Project Director "Soundscape: Valuing the Sound Landscape of Atacama"