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Sound Postcards: Prague - manual
1. 1. The map is movable and can be moved up, down, to the left and to the right looking for the point on the map.
2. Places situated higher are marked in red, those situated lower – yellow.
3. Audio recording is attached to each point – the player is on the right, and video documentation.
4. I recommend listening to this work in headphones with moderate volume.

Sound Postcards of Prague

The first acoustic impression may be the most important.
It is impossible to seize and canalise acoustic memory in the form of one, particular sound. When I stood at the entrance to the convent at Strahov, I heard a sum of sounds: downwards public transport, closer sounds of people and nature. At the same time these sounds were filtered by the wall, green belt and the courtyard. It formed a unique acoustic and multifarious mix of the surrounding sounds. It was then when I realized what the subject of my work would be.

City as an instrument
Prague is like a huge musical instrument – outspread between hills, resonating among different altitudes and the waves of Vltava below. The air carrying the sounds is a great membrane. Everything is resonating, everything is making sounds. Most often we hit the middle of the instrument. How is this to be described? My work is rather searching sounds outside the city centre. I am looking for – metaphorically speaking – an interesting resonance of this enlarged membrane outspread above the city. The subject of my work are quiet places in Prague.

About maps
Watching numerous maps, drafts, photos of the city I was particularly interested in such a big amount of green areas. Woods, parks, squares, gardens are a kind of sign – visual but also sound of Prague. Walks with map, without map, discovering new places resulted in special interest in green places. They define but also change the audio character of the city in an interesting way. On one hand, the city is situated among green areas – natural localization – but at the same time the care to make them function is easy to notice. Maybe they fulfill only illusory function, distracting our attention from the city noise?

How to read Audio Postcards?
The season of the year and the time of the day, humidity, air movement – each of these influenced the character of my recordings. It is important because that is why the map has its unique character. It is more of a visual / conventional graphic view of the city, resembling a painting rather than a map in topographical sense, with streets, buildings etc. There are no streets or city centre on this map. I don’t see a point in indicating the places I have visited, because there is no certainty that the sounds will be the same in the autumn, winter or in the year’s time.

Green areas on this map become a dominant.
Acoustic landscape is dynamic and changing at the same time. The map and the video documentation are only a visual sign, which may open imagination and help receive audio recordings. Each point on the map has the same size contrary to a usual map. There is no gradation of places into more and less important. Each acoustic environment has something peculiar, thus I do not introduce any gradation.

"Lo-fi" or "Hi-fi"?
A vital reference point of my work is Raymond Murray Schafer’s key-thought about audio landscape. In Schafer’s assumptions there two relations describing the relation between profitable and adverse signals and these are: “hi-fi” – where the relations between sounds are profitable, and “lo-fi”, where the relations between sounds are seriously disrupted. The city is frequently connected with the “lo-fi” environment. My work is an attempt to study and show the sound relations in the city, which are close to “hi-fi” description, therefore point to the sound abundance, dynamic character of the described environment and the possibility of their sound identification.

I observe the presence of nature in the city with its sound emanation. In some cases the relation between the sounds is balanced, in other situations – places we can observe a kind of battle between the city noise and the sounds of the nature. Sometimes these relations resemble musicians playing together.

The work concentrates – apart from observing green areas – on architectural places which are to isolate from the exterior sound. These are mainly courtyards, convent’s areas, tunnels, but also green areas situated in the centre, as well as places on the border, which became part of the city.

Something is in the air
The most important for me are sound interactions – birds in the centre talking with the environment, places where insects are lauder than people, places where people drown out all the environment.

Urban care in Prague is something we can envy. Green areas are important, although moving away from the centre, we can see degradation of these areas. At the same time the places neighbour railway tracks, tram tracks, main roads and if you manage to find a “quiet” place, there is an electric box or a massive ventilator working in the low band. We cannot escape the city drone. “Quiet” places operate a discreet volume, abundance of texture and colour of the sound. They are sublime in contrast to hooters, engine sounds, jangle of trams or motorbikes’ roars.

This mechanical aspect in the context of quiet places seems to be seriously limited in terms of sound, reduced to repeated and simple impulse. However, we will not avoid what in Czech can be called hluk in the city.
Beside typical city sounds, there is an alternative world, where sometimes in a few square metres there are concerts of improvising insects, brave sound interventions of birds or performances of leafy and conifer trees, which show what it means to operate “hum”. All of these in our reach, all of there close to our ears.

I did not have the ambition to show all the sound spectrum of the city, but only its part. I omitted unified sounds of shopping centres, diesel engine sounds, mobile phones, lifts, I wanted to run through all these global sounds as quickly as possible to find those appropriate – organically connected with Prague. I do not know how Prague inhabitants hear it. I do not know if they know how many worlds exist under the cover of the city noise. Maybe while listening to these postcards, they will hear something for the first time? Maybe they will remember forgotten, almost absent sounds?

John Cage in his manifest postulated the importance of all the sounds to come closer to the sound universe.

Sound postcards – Prague are the manifestation of the quiet places. It is enough to “retune your ears” into listening quiet sounds.

Marcin Dymiter aka emiter
Prague, August- September 2012


concept, field recordings and video - Marcin Dymiter
map - Ludomir Franczak
website - Marcin Barski

Sound Postcards of Prague was created during my residence at the Open Studio Program/Školská 28 Gallery, from July to September. It was supported by the Visegrad Artist Residency Program.