A Casual Sound Walk at Kawazu Seven Waterfalls in Izu

During my stay in Izu, I made time for the stunning Kawazu Seven Waterfalls (河津七滝). Located in the mountains above the onsen town Kawazu, the site was of natural scenic beauty. But this time it was more than a feast for the eyes; it was also one for the ears. I was taking a soundwalk along the 1 km long trail past the waterfalls.

A soundwalk is a walk one takes focusing on the sounds of the surroundings. As different from what we usually do, in a soundwalk we pay more attention to what we hear, experiencing the environment through sounds rather than sight. And how a scene sounds like is known as a soundscape. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also released standards on the measurement and management of soundscape. So this time, I was feeling the soundscape of the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls with what I heard. It was a nice and relaxing walk. When I closed my eyes and listened: it was a symphony of water splashing, gurgling, rushing, gliding through and hurtling against rocks.

Along the trail, we also came across statues from the story of The Izu Dancer by Kawabata Yasunari, Japanese sculptures, a suspension bridge… All made pleasant additions to the walk. If you visit Izu, the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls is a must-go!


日本伊豆之行(下)︰在河津七滝聲音漫步

這次伊豆之行我特意抽時間遊歷美麗的河津七滝,慕名而至,滿載而歸。七滝即七瀑布,位於温泉之鄉河津附近的山上。瀑布與瀑布之間是一條約一公里長的小徑,沿途風景迷人,讓人心曠神怡,但這次不止是一場視覺盛宴,更是聽覺享受,因為此行我不單是郊遊看風景,而是聲音漫步(soundwalk)。

平日我們習慣以視覺來感受外界,甚少依賴聽覺來感受,但視象與聲音都是組成我們記憶和感覺的部分,很難分割開來,聲音漫步讓我們專注聆聽周圍,以聲音感受環境。透過聲音來感受和描述的環境被稱為聲景(Soundscape),國際標準化組織(International Organization for Standardization)近年亦為量度和管理聲景訂立國際標準,可見聲景研究和設計漸趨重要。這次七滝中連接瀑布與瀑布間的小徑是很好的聲音步行路線,沿途有不同特色的聲景。把七滝風光盡收眼底,閉起眼,又是另一番感受︰一場水流的交響樂遠遠近近響起,是水或濺起,或潺潺流動,或穿過或激打石頭的聲音……

沿途還遇見「伊豆的舞娘」裏主角的雕像、日式傳統雕塑、吊橋等等,為途人增添不少驚喜,留下美好回憶。假如你到河津,七滝之景絕對不可錯過!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

This says a lot about people’s subjective perceptions. And it doesn’t only happen in scenic beauty, but also in music, food, smell and so on. Everyone is different and they have their own takes on good food and good music. My “sweet” is different from your “sweet” and my “soft” may be a bit “rough” to you. Is there a way to transfer subjective feelings directly to others apart from communicating in words?

I was making a presentation in US with a theme crafted with the above illustration.  In addition to using questionnaire and a rating system, I think it is important to allow the others to be immersed in the same environment in acquiring the specific information you need. My speech is to introduce a mobile app that enables users to create their own ideal soundscapes while experimenting with different sources of sound. This differs from the traditional approach of surveying the public through a soundwalk. Can a survey transfer to the mind of the soundscape designer the respondent’s specific ideas of “a good soundscape”, “vague music” and “pleasant experience”? The designers with their own personal perceptions will read the words in their own ways. After all they are reading words rather than minds.

I related the idea of soundscape designing to creating recipes and making food. I put French fries in my presentation not only to draw attention, but also to explain the idea of subjectivity. The icon of fries is a feature in the app too.

Do you think the fries connect my audience to me and the app?


情人眼裏出西施 — 主觀性對聲景評價的影響

俗語有云「情人眼裏出西施」,道出了人對美的主觀性,事實上主觀不止於視覺上對美的感受,還有聽覺、味覺、嗅覺等的好壞也極具主觀性。每個人都不一樣,對「美食」、「好聽」的音樂也有不同取態,例如不同人看待「甜」的程度不一,對於觸感的感受也不一。所以單憑言語上的溝通很難準確表達主觀感受。

最近我在美國進行了關於聲景(Soundscape)評價的匯報,用了上面的薯條圖片來說明主觀感受在聲景評價工作上的影響。聲景評價指受訪者為特定一個聲音環境評估打分,表達他們對該聲景的感受,從而了解人們如何感受聲環境,意見可用於聲景設計或城市規劃。聲景評價多使用問卷和評分,但在此之上我認為有必要讓受訪者沉浸於同一環境中,我們團隊特別為此開發了一個聲景評價軟件,讓用戶設計自己喜歡的聲景,然後在軟件中感受效果。軟件使用三維虛擬畫面和聲效,讓用戶感受像真度極高的體驗,再反映自己感受。讓用戶自訂聲景可以讓其準確表達自己的喜好,而不是使用「好的聲景」、「微弱的聲音」或「舒適的體驗」等字眼,避免了不同人對此的主觀演繹。

這跟薯條有甚麼關係呢?我在匯報中把聲景設計比喻為自訂菜單和做菜,例如薯條也有不同種類和做法,長短粗幼不一,有人愛吃鹹的、香脆的、軟熟的,或加蕃茄醬或用調味粉,每人口味各異,十分主觀,如果有人說太鹹,別人也不知道要下多少鹽才剛好,就像聲景評價的回饋般,讓聲景設計師無所適從。匯報中我就以此來解釋主觀演繹對聲景評估的影響。

我們的軟件讓用戶和聲景設計師在同一平台中溝通,用戶明白聲景設計的基礎,其設計亦準確回饋予設計師,促進更好的交流,推動有效的聲景評價。