Listening to transport (and travelling with its sound)

“Transporte” is this year’s project of the work group Mapa Sonoru with LABoral Centro de Arte

Published: Nov 05, 2014

By José Luis Calderón, Nicola Mariani Arte y Sociedad

We live in an environment full of sounds, barely distinguishable: human –and non-human- voices, noise from the television, the radio or the urban and rural transportation, music of every style… sound invades our lives and we experience this barely aware of how much certain sounds impact our behaviour or mood. Sound art – which should not be confused with music, even if both disciplines are art – is a very recent artistic subject, so far little known even among experts and/or art scholars –including myself- that can attract much interest, precisely due to the ubiquity of sound in our audiovisual environment. Therefore, we should not turn a deaf ear to this question.

Since 2009, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial has supported research, production and education around sound art through different projects. As pointed out by several participants of this blog last year on several occasions, MapaSonoru, an autonomous project founded in 2009 by the phonographist Juanjo Palacios, is one of them and its main goal is fostering the listening to the sound landscape by means of the careful recording of diverse sounds within the map of Asturias (hence the name). On this occasion, my goal with these lines is to keep readers updated regarding the last activities carried out by the project MapaSonoru during 2014.


Video Mapa Sonoru at La Aventura del saber. La 2, rtve. Report. October 4, 2013

In summary, since 2011 LABoral has been supporting mapa Sonoru through a work group made up by participants in these activities and through the production of specific technical material for the recordings, such as DIY microphones or UAVs, in collaboration with fabLAB. So far, these sounds had been mainly rural, by means of visits and trips to the country, which are still going on in the project. However –and this is the main contribution of this article- this last year Mapa Sonoru has focused on exploring and recording urban sounds, and specifically, urban transportation sounds.

It is not necessary to live in a big city to note the difference and the contrast between the sounds of a rural environment compared to the fuss of a big city, where the various means of transportation may generate a certain chaos or even an accoustic polution we have become familiar with, partly because the advantages and convenience of these means of transportation have become an essential need for almost everyone. However, among means of transportation, there is a peculiar diversity of sounds in this project, as we can listen in the web site of Mapa Sonoru -, that shows a sound and text chronichle of each of these experiences.


Image of the session at the bus station of Gijón. Images: LABoral / L. Arias

One of the most captivating aspects of this project is the fact that if we listen to these recordings with other people, we would be surprised by the feelings they trigger. Hearing is, at a very similar (or sometimes even higher) level to seeing, the sense that triggers feelings most immediately. For this reason, certain sounds trigger very different feelings in each of us. It is amazing to see the accuracy, detail and care with which these groups of people take part in these outdoor visits.


Railway station of Oviedo. Image: LABoral / L. Arias

The first one was on January 2014, to the bus station of Gijon. What is particularly curious is that the chronicle of this visit emphasises that “a large number of visitors used devices to listen to music, radio, etc, thus isolating themselves from the sound environment around them, (…), a fact that makes us reflect upon the need that some people have to replace their sound environment with other sounds (…)”. The second outdoor visit, carried out in February to the scalextric track where the Cantabrico highway and the AS-1 (Mining highway) meet. It also calls my attention the concern regarding acoustic pollution. As well as the reading and listening of the session devoted to the railway station of Oviedo, that the work group carried out both inside the train and on the platforms of the station. This may be because train is a transportation means that have been in my life for many years, or due to the narration of the visit written by one of the participants, that we can read on the website of mapa Sonoru. Before I know it, I am getting personally involved. It is like if listening to the means of transportation per-se would be a way of listening to us when we travel.


Image of the session at the velodrome of “Las mestas” in Gijon. Image: Juanjo Palacios

While the April session was devoted to the Musel Port of Gijon to record the loading and unloading of containers, the May session was devoted to the velodrome of Las Mestas and, in particular, to the cyclists that were riding on the velodrome track and the noises both from the bicycles and from the conversations between cyclists. The last session carried out so far within this theme of transportation took place in July in the Airport of Asturias (Castrillón). In my opinion, airports have always been and still are places that trigger strong emotions (nerves due to the inconvenience of security controls and boarding...emotion because we are about to take a flight...). There is always a great contrast of sounds between the indoor areas of the terminal, and the outside areas, on the landing strip and runway. It feels like, without realising it, I should have made up my own movie and I should feel like joining these research groups right away. After all, the fact is that anyone who is interested can join the project mapa Sonoru.

In case we want some more, this is not all: All these recordings are generating a sound installation (“Transporte”). Its results will be showcased at the Sound LAB of LABoral starting December 12 this year.

For more information on the work groups, contact:



  • Information

  • Los Prados, 121
  • 33203 Gijón (Asturias)
  • Spain
  • Phone: +34 985 185 577
  • Contact


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