Can place inform our understanding of primary historical material?
Times in Sound, Letters of War is an arts creation research project exploring the power of sound and place. Can place inform and enhance our understanding of history? Recordings of fragments of letters written by WWI soldiers and their families from the region of Southwestern Ontario are layered into a sound collage, mapped, and geo-located. The text of the letters serves as both lyric and note.
The sound work has been composed as a simulated binaural soundscape into which sounds have been mapped and located on a 360 degree plane surrounding the listener. An underlying layer of ambient 360 degree present day recordings of the local countryside bring the listener into the geolocated space. Thus the sounds are simultaneously located and mapped around the listener’s body and immediate surroundings as well as mapped and located on a Google world map and geofenced onto the geolocations of some of the letter destinations. The work begins with an ambient layer, “Quiet Night,” the sound of a million insects and frogs singing through the deep of the night, even in the heart of this small city, in Southwestern Ontario. The ambient layer then progresses through day, and night, and day unto evening with the sounds of birds, squirrels, woods and farmland weaving through the voices reading the text of the letters.
The letters for this project were drawn from the magnificent database created by Dr. Stephen Davies of Vancouver Island University, The Canadian Letters and Images Project.
Mapping the Letters
The collections of letters and fragments from the letters have been plotted on the map to show the letter origin and letter destination. Place and sound are inextricably intertwined. I have drawn upon place through mapping and by locating the sounds of the words, the text, within sounds of the natural environment of this region. It is my hope that connections and patterns will be illuminated through the layering and juxtaposing of the words and phrases of the letters, that the common themes among the individual threads — the interweaving of the individual voices within the collective chorus will be revealed, framed within the importance of place as a necessary layer for meaning and understanding of historical material.
How to Interact with the Map
- Tap on a Flag symbol — Letter Origin
This will open the card with the details of the fragment and letter that have been sent from this location.
- Tap on a House symbol — Letter Destination
to see the details of the fragment and letter that have been sent to this location.
- Each colour represents one of the broad overarching themes.
Dark blue symbols hold information about all the letters from the Southwestern Ontario region, within a 150 kms radius of London, Ontario.
Deep red symbols will open the details of letter fragments which tell about the day to day reality for the men.
Green symbols will open the details of letter fragments which tell about the day to day reality for the women.
Gold symbols will open the details of letter fragments which speak about the future.
Purple symbols will open the details of letter fragments which speak about the war using idealistic language.
- Tap on the Open Tab Icon
To access all the information cards and the individual mapped points, tap on the open tab icon in the top left of the map. (Box with arrow pointing to the Right)
Close the tab by tapping again on the symbol.
Times in Sound, Letters of War is primarily a sound work which has been geolocated to the mapped points of data. You can choose to simply listen to the sound work either as a whole or as divided into the three sections — Early Years, Middle Years and End of the War or you can watch the film below to listen and observe a typical Southwestern Ontario farm from the side of the road.
Geo-Fenced and Geo-Located
For those of you who are in Southwestern Ontario, the sound works have been geofenced and geolocated to important locations from the letters. John Scatcherd’s mother lived on Queen Street in London Ontario. The Early Years sound work, beginning with the words of John Scatcherd as a young man, eager to join the war in 1914 has been geofenced to this address. I have used Echoes, a free creator and app platform to create and access geolocated sound work and audio tours.
I am deeply grateful to Dr. Stephen Davies for creating The Canadian Letters and Images Project from which I have drawn this project database.
I cannot adequately express my thanks to the many people who gave their time and their voices to this project. It quite literally couldn’t have been created without them. The participatory aspect of the project added an incredible depth and rich texture to the project.
Grateful thanks to my supervisor for this project, Dr. Ernesto Peña, UBC, for his support, guidance and assistance, encouragement and wonderful humour.
Erin Anderson Joe Attard Maureen Bennett Natasha Boskic Margaret Brady Megan Brady Maria Coates Flynn Cuthbert Len Cuthbert Stephen Davies Taylor Davis Pamela Dietrich Dan Ebbs Edd Edmondson Mike Ely Tyler Feucht Lenni Frohman Nathan Gardiner Barb Gracey Kieran Grant Jeremy Gilmer Dave Howson Sharon Howson Jordanne Hutchison Trevor Hutchinson Joanna Kerr Troy MacLellan Joel McConvey Anne McDonald Audrey McDonald Kate McDonald Mary McDonald Yolanda Movsessian Kel Murdock Kari Olson Mac Pavia David Porter Corey Redekop Mark Richardson Emma Rutherford Dave Sealy Linda Street-Ely Mark Tiller Sarah Tremlett Hannah Sempsrott Marie-Lee Singoorie-Trempe Nancy Jane Small