Vol. 1 No. 1 (2023): Proceedings of the 'Listening Pasts, Listening Futures' 2023 World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Conference
In March 23-26, 2023 The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) hosted its 30th anniversary with an international conference, “Listening Pasts - Listening Futures” at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, Florida) located near the Canaveral National Seashore, in the unceded lands of the Seminole people. A global cohort of over one hundred artists, academics, authors, students and community engagement specialists gathered to present research, performances, installations and workshops considering how we may learn collectively from the past and imagine new futures based on a diversity of listening practices and acoustic relationships in our worlds. As the wider field of sound studies has matured, so have contributions made by acoustic ecology towards sonic scholarship and practice, including addressing the legacies of the World Soundscape Project. The convening of this community of international specialists to reflect on and re-imagine core values of the field, central approaches, methods, and key theorists of past, present, and future comes during a pivotal environmental awakening, when acoustic ecology and soundscape studies have much to offer the world. Keynotes at the conference included David George Haskell, scientist and internationally renowned author of 2013 Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen and most recently Sounds Wild and Broken; Claude Schryer, French-Canadian producer of conscient podcast; Amanda Gutiérrez, Mexican artist/academic; and Jacek Smolicki, ACA 2023 Artist in Residence.
As these proceedings demonstrate, acoustic ecology has matured and moved in critical and prescient directions along with new diversities of voices in the field. Some of the common themes to emerge from this historic edition of the WFAE conference include:
- An attention to the ethics of field recording: how to proceed in ways that are not extractivist of nature; how to be a guest within soundscape ecologies; how to seek forms of collaboration and consent from non-human inhabitants
- An infusion of feminist and queer methodology frameworks in thinking about place, sound and listening: what does it mean to listen with positionality; how does our listening practice “construct” places and soundscapes?
- New evaluative frameworks for dealing with ecologically-threatening noise; how can the study of acoustic ecology and longitudinal data in noise pollution help protect habitats?
- Pedagogical innovations in teaching with sound and fostering listening practices; toolkits and guidelines for classroom activities, organised actions, youth programs, and links to environmental initiatives.
Along with critical perspectives on sound, participants this year dealt with themes of feminist kinship, decolonization, and radical art practices. Both the scholarship, and the calibre of critical art-based interventions speaks highly of the next generation acoustic ecologists. Enjoy reading!
Milena Droumeva and Lindsey french
Conference Proceedings Co-Editors