The Future was Yesterday
In view of the possibility for a new campus in LCC (London College of Communication), our class embarked on an ethnographic soundscaping activity as a method of research to ‘preserve’ a fragment of our school. How should we remember this building in 10 years, if we were to only remember it through our hearing? Which fragment of this future remnant do we want to preserve? In pairs, we began scurrying around our campus to capture what we thought was worth before it all turned into ruin.
We decided to preserve this fragment of our school on the basis that it is currently the most visited printing studio amongst the rest. Originally known as London College of Printing (LCP), our college had always found pride in its wide spectrum of print facilities and technical profession. The reprographics printing studio is not only the busiest, but also the epitome of the digital-analogue hybridity that led to our new identity 15 years ago as London College of Communication (LCC). On this ground, we recorded a short sound clip to contain the memory of this space.
In future, revisiting these ruins would transports us back in time and brings us into our desired past. In a sense, we are all that time traveller: today is yesterday’s future. Yesterday was last Tuesday’s future. last Tuesday was 1987’s future. 1987 was Mesozoic’s future. (Berger, 2014) This play on sentiment and memory reflects on our human relationships between time, place, and sound; in view of the activity conducted above. When our timescape, landscape and soundscape of a certain memory converges, it evokes an almost-immediate re-experience of that particular scene – just like rewinding your favourite play.
Waterman (2002), an ethnomusicologist professor in California, noted on the absurdity of trying to contain anything as sensuous and ephemeral as sound. But however absurd it may be, she goes on justifying how the ‘sonic phenomena have a way of leaking across borders: they are not containable by their textural, oral, aural or pictorial representations.’ (Waterman, 2002, p.9) It was an unconventional way of preserving the past in a way that no litery text or glossy photograph could do. In this case, the sound of this laser printer had the potential to reveal the state of technology in our school at this point of time, the environment in which it was situated in, and even the type of paper that was put through. Ten years down the road, we could map a fragment of our past through this piece of ephemeral.
Sound is omnipresent, but its pervasiveness may cause it to be often overlooked and conveniently ignored. However ordinary it may seem, there are actually no two the same. Like a fingerprint, it is not possible to ‘hear the same sound twice’ (Stockfelt, 1994), even if the two are from the exact same source. With beauty like this, we should at times be a little more conscious, and a little more aware, to stop and listen. After some time we may learn how to better use our ears to preserve a desired moment. For memory works at the present, shaping the past even so that it is useful for the future.
References Berger, R. (2014) ‘The Future Was’, All Posisble Futures. London: Bedford Press. Stockfelt, Ola (1994) “Cars, Buildings and Soundscapes.” In Helmi Jarviluoma (ed.) Soundscapes: essays on vroom and moo. Tampere: Depth of Folk Tradition, 119 and Institute of Rhythm Music A2. Waterman, E. (2002) Sonic Geography: Imagined and Remembered. Canada: Penumbra Press.