Mouth Closed, Ears Open on Vancouver Soundwalks

Vancouver Soundwalk Collective's walking tours transform the clamour of the city into a symphony of sound.

Credit: Rebekah Hammond

Jenni Schine, a Spring Soundwalks organizer, trades her headphones for the sounds of the city.


Vancouver Soundwalk Collective’s guided walking tours transform the clamour of the city into a symphony of improvised sound


Silence isn’t the norm on walking tours, but a different kind of trek is starting. Strangers meeting for the first time exchange welcoming smiles, but remain silent.


The guide asks participants to walk without talking, and to begin really listening to their surroundings. Suddenly, there’s a shift; a whole new world opens up as a cacophony of street sounds enters their ears—they are on a soundwalk.


Spring Soundwalks

Presented by Vancouver New Music


April 10, 17 & May 1, 8, 15, 2011


Various locations, Vancouver


Free and open to the public



Vancouver offers walking tours of many flavours, but few are held in silence and focus on exploring the city’s sounds. The annual Spring Soundwalks, organized by the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective and supported by Vancouver New Music, always promises to be a unique experience.


Busy cities are noisy places. Throughout the five free soundwalking tours scheduled for April and May, the Soundwalk Collective hopes to show people how to connect with their city differently, approaching sound environments with discernment.


“The point of the soundwalks isn’t to say sound is bad or that we should remove ourselves from noise, the purpose is to realize that any sound [we hear] affects us on many levels,” says Jenni Schine, a SFU graduate student doing her masters in soundscape research and one of this year’s soundwalk organizers.


She says sound can affect us psychologically, physically and emotionally.


“What happens when you shift and have an active listening stance is you can decide what sounds are meaningful enough for us [to pay attention to] and which sounds are not,” she said.


Schine discovered soundwalking while looking for a different way to experience Vancouver. Her first soundwalk took her through Vancouver’s Granville Island Market. It was a profound experience for Schine and became the first of many.


Walking Vancouver Downtown

The Vancouver soundwalks open your senses to the energy of the city and can turn every day sounds into something beautiful to be appreciated. (Image: Flickr / Jon Rawlinson)


Getting the most out of your Vancouver soundwalk

So what’s the best way to prepare yourself for a soundwalk? Schine has a few tips.


First you open up your ears, and try to enter a meditative state. Let go of inner thoughts and allow yourself to take in the soundscape. Sometimes it happens right away, other times it takes several minutes, but eventually there’s a shift.


“Sometimes you start to focus on how the environment may sound musically,” Schine says. “Or you start playing with listening and putting things into the foreground or background. Is it a wash of sound or do you pick out minute details of the soundscape? Do sounds become really ugly or do ugly sounds become very beautiful?”



Kits beach soundwalk an aural meditation

Debriefing is important, too.


“It’s a chance to explore what happened in that experience and to not feel alone—it’s a time to connect,” Schine says. “People will experience really similar things and very different things.”


“Because we’re so visually dominated, when we shift a perception—like sound—other senses may become heightened,” Schine says.


Because it’s not an everyday practice, people can feel tired after an hour of conscious listening, while others may feel rejuvenated, she says.


Free public soundwalks throughout April and May via Vancouver New Music

If you’re looking for a new way to explore Vancouver, visit Vancouver New Music for more information about soundwalks being offered.


Soundwalk locations include Queen Elizabeth Park, Waterfront Station, Whyte Lake, Creekside Community Centre and downtown’s Holy Rosary Cathedral.


The Spring Soundwalks walking tours are free and open to the public, running April 10, 17 and May 1, 8 and 15, 2011.


If attending, Schine reminds people to wear weather-appropriate footwear and clothing—walks happen rain or shine—but most importantly, show up with listening ears.