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Overview | Background | Transects


Transects is a sound art project investigating ways of sampling sounds along a path through a particular space or place. The desired end result is to promote immersive narrative collages of sounds that represent that place or space, all best experienced through listening.


My practice of creating transects draws on the features and affordances of soundscapes, soundwalks, and sound maps. Soundscapes are the multiple, overlapping, sounds one might hear at a particular location. Soundwalks promote listening to a soundscape by walking to sound sources. Sound maps plot sound sources at specific locations and promote listening to targeted sounds within a soundscape. Transects sample particular or characteristic sounds along a path through a space or place, which, when combined, provide a mix or collage of the soundscape. Learn more about soundscapes, soundwalks, and sound maps.


Transects are lines drawn across some area along which counts are made, generally of plant or animal life. I am indebted to Belfast sound artist Kate Carr for adapting transects to provide access to soundscapes. See for example, framework:afield #536 (6 December 2015).

In my practice, I use transects for recording interaction with soundscapes. But, rather than record everything, I sample sounds along the transect as ear witness to the site and journey. I use the transect to investigate sonic flows and mixing, changes in the soundscape, and to document particular or characteristic sounds, all with an ear to the narratives they may promote. The resulting sound collages are worthy of close listening.

Transect: London

John F. Barber
2017, London, England

00:00 Charing Cross Station announcements
00:54 Fakto singing in Westminster underground entrance tunnel
02:12 New Gate rail station ambience
03:43 Goldsmiths University soundscape
03:56 Tiny Sounds performance, Goldsmiths University
07:43 Steelyard Passage sound installation, Southwark Bridge, Thames River
08:28 Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich
09:17 Pageantry at Buckingham Palace
11:19 Hyde Park soundscape
11:43 Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park
15:06 Abbey Road crossing soundscape
15:43 Prime Meridian, Greenwich, soundscape
16:33 London Underground toward and arriving at Victoria Station
18:03 Southbank soundwalk
24:00 Now Play This computer art exhibition, Somerset House
34:17 Concert, St. Martin's in the Fields
36:15 Sunday morning machine noise outside hotel
37:04 Southbank soundwalk
37:40 Now Play This computer art exhibition, Somerset House
47:20 Violin tuning in the distance
47:36 Ubiquitous black helicopter
48:34 Horse Guard, Buckingham Palace
50:18 Millenium Bridge, underneath
54:22 Millenium Bridge, walking across, north to south and back, meeting Vera Chok, soon to be famous actress
54:22 Prime Meridian, Greenwich
56:48 Pub bell, last call

Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts

Framework:afield #583
(juried broadcast)
framework radio
Tartu, Estonia
29 January-4 February 2017
Curated by international sound, performance, and radio artist Patrick McGinley (aka murmer).

Framework Framework Radio focuses on field recording of sonic sources and their use in compositions. Featuring juried work by international sound artists, Framework Radio's goal is to present not only the extremely diverse sound environments of our world, but also the extremely diverse work that is being produced by the artists who choose to use these environments as their sonic sources. The research and creative question behind Framework Radio programming asks, "Is field recording a style or genre, or rather an uncontrollable and undefinable tool as any, that may be interpreted, manipulated, and appropriated by anyone with a microphone and idea?" Works produced in response to this question are the answer, the definition, not vice versa. Based in Tartu, Estonia, Framework Radio began broadcasting in June 2002 on Resonance 104.4 FM in London. Episodes are now broadcast on radio stations around the world.

My radio art works broadcast by Framework Radio
#623 In Progress December 2017
#583 Transect: London January-February 2017
#542 Water, Waves, Dreams February 2016
#433 Between Sleep and Dreams September 2013
#405 Ambient Pulsations February 2013
#389 Tell Me A Story about Meditation September 2012
#386 Meditation September 2012
#381 Contact July 2012

Transect: 9/11 Air Traffic Control

John F. Barber
This transect follows civilian and military air traffic control the morning of 11 September 2001 as four airplanes were hijacked and turned into terrorist weapons. As you listen, note how unprepared everyone was for this event and how the air traffic control system struggled to deal with the challenges. A full transcript is provided by Rutgers University Law Review. Learn more.

Transect: Airport

John F. Barber
2015, Multiple airports
This transect follows a line through a collage of international airports, from arrival via light rail, through the concourse, through security, and to the waiting area for a departing flight.

Transect: Asheville

John F. Barber
October 2014, Asheville, North Carolina
This transect follows a line through the center of downtown Asheville, North Carolina, sampling the Bascilica of Saint Lawrence clock, Scott Knickerbocker, in town for an ethnomusic conference, playing banjo in front of the Flat Iron sculpture, the violin loops and drums of To All My Dear Friends, the jugband sounds of The Carolina Catskins, the Asheville Gay Pride Festival, street buskers, and the spontaneous drum circle in Pritchard Park.

Transect: Copenhagen

John F. Barber
August 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark
Walking through Copenhagen. Playing with a set of automatic doors and a corrugated cardboard wall covering, with a broken alarm in the background. Wheeled suitcases on cobblestone streets. A street crossing alarm. Automobile and horse carriage traffic. Metro announcements. Pedestrian ambiance around the Vor Frue Plads fountain, street sounds, a marching band and squad of soldiers passing on their way to a guard changing ceremony at the Odd Fellows Palace, the tinkling of a bicycle bell.

Transect: Jardin du Luxembourg

John F. Barber
August 2013, Paris, France
Created beginning in 1612 by Marie dé Medici, Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden), Paris, France, features statuary, fountains, terraces, gardens, tree-lined pathways, tennis and basketball courts, brasseries, bands, and boles. All can be heard in this transect.

Transect: Maker Faire

John F. Barber
September 2014, Portland, Oregon
This transect of the Portland Mini Maker Faire includes a railroad line, a two-deck flyover for Interstate Highway 5, and sounds created by the various makers and their artifacts.

Transect: Milwaukee

John F. Barber
June 2014, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A rhythmic escalator in the Boston Store, a bridge lifting over the Milwaukee River, and a thunder and lightening storm with rain on my hotel window.

Transect: Paris

John F. Barber
August 2013, Paris, France
This transect follows a line from inside Cathédral Notre Dame de Paris to a neighborhood bordering the Panthéon.