Listening, Walking and Languaging in the City
An Incomplete Field Guide to the Voices of the Birds of Amman
This text resides alongside a soundwalk that took place in Al-Hussein Park, Amman, Jordan at the end of the first day of the Art and the City conference at Columbia Global Centre in Amman, June 2023, coordinated by Columbia University’s Andrew Mellon Fellow Tijen Tunali. This text is not an explanatory component but an additional and complementary chorus of bird and human voices. As an art form, soundwalks take audiences out of the gallery, theatre and concert hall and connect participants to the sounds of a place, to listening at a specific site. A temporary intervention, soundwalks are a form of public art that enable audiences to engage socially and politically with place. This soundwalk was oriented to our troubled relationship with the more-than-human world, specifically the calls and songs of wild urban birds. In addition, at the end of the soundwalk a participatory component encouraged attendees to contribute to a voicing structured using experimental written scores.
This text is an informal narrative in a story-telling and inclusive writerly style, grounded in fieldwork, creativity and research. It is polyphonic: the voices of the birds occur throughout the text as do several of the participants from the soundwalk. The structure of the text drifts and spirals like a bird gliding upwards on a warm thermal. It circles around the soundwalk that is at the heart of the writing. There are pauses and diversions throughout.