Listening, Sound Forages, and Sound Archives

What’s so important about listening?

Listening is at the heart of everything we do at Music for Connection: giving our attention and open ears to where sounds become music, responding to a person communicating in a session whether or not they are using words, and everything in between.

If our eyes are closed for any length of time we experience a different world. The pavement under our feet resonates with a succession of footsteps tapping on concrete, splashing through puddles, muffled in mud, crunching through leaves or paper, silent at traffic lights. Around us on the roads we hear the rhythms of tyres, the squeal of brakes. In the air is the breath of the wind as it whistles through trees, the calls of birds, the far-off echo of a child’s voice. An Interactive Listening Walk is an experiential journey into the world of sound and rhythm and its interface with music.

In our Interactive Listening Walks, we tune in to the sounds around us and how they change as we move through different places. Will they be different at other times of year, or in the future? Can we listen without judging or thinking about the sounds? How do the sounds make us feel?


What is an Interactive Listening Walk (ILW)?

These are in-person creative workshops that uniquely combine structured listening, exploration, and sound foraging. Starting with listening, we explore sounds around us, often using these to create group pieces.

We were first commissioned to run these sessions with British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH)’s southeast hub at The Keep in Brighton (2019-2020).

Since then we have:

  • run a nine-session project for Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC)’s Heritage Lottery Funded Stanmer Park Restoration Project (2021-22)
  • offered Interactive Listening Walks, soundmapping workshops, and related activities as part of The Ecomusicology Project at Stanmer Organics
  • delivered Economic & Social Research Council & BHCC -funded ILWs 

    Upcoming projects: 
  • ILWs as a means to explore seaside gentrification at three locations in Sussex, as part of Dr Bethan Prosser’s post-doctoral research (to February ’25)
  • an exciting soon-to-be-announced project…

What is a Sound Forage?

It’s an interesting and absorbing thing to reconsider an object from its sound/s, rather than its looks or function. Pick up an object near you – what sounds does it make? How many sounds can you get from it? Can you play it like an instrument? Our Sound Forages invite you to explore and organise these found sounds in our environment, creating new sonic landscapes.

Why are they beneficial?

When we experience our environment through listening, we focus on the here and now. Listening encourages space and pause, invites us to be curious, and requires us to be fully present. Being fully active in listening allows us to attune to the moment, and can be revitalising. We can do it at any time – try it!: when you get to the end of this sentence, stop and open your ears for a few seconds. What did you hear? How did it feel?

Creating soundpieces together has a high feelgood factor – no musical experience is required, and it’s fun to make something as a group.often


Background to these activities

We first developed our Interactive Listening Walks and Sound Forage activities in Autumn 2019, when we worked on Sounds To Keep with British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’s southeast hub (at The Keep, Brighton, with project lead Esther Gill) and our University of Brighton PhD graduate Dr Bethan Prosser. Please see below for more details.

We further developed these sessions as Activity Partners in the Heritage Lottery -funded Stanmer Park Restoration Project: twelve-month programme Stanmer Sounds (2021-22) was an innovative and exciting sound and listening sessions involving a range of community groups and individuals from all over the city. More details here:

Sounds To Keep was a creative community engagement project to bring the local community to The Keep, to work with newly-digitised sounds from the sound archive.

Sounds To Keep comprised two listening walks (from Coldean and Bevendean: two locations on Brighton’s urban fringe) and a sound forage, where participants foraged for objects for soundmaking in the local environment and brought them into The Keep’s reading room, where participants explored each, and used them as a basis for underscoring (playing a live soundtrack to) clips from the sound archive.

During the pandemic, we ran Sound Mosaics, exciting new sessions for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage online: listening, sound foraging, and sound archives combined. 

In Winter 2020-21, we ran eight online Sound Mosaics sessions in partnership with UOSH.

Evaluation report

Download the Sound Mosaics Evaluation Report (April 2021).  


How can I get involved?

Email us for details of our 2024-5 sessions and projects.

We also run these sessions for teambuilding and staff engagement – they’re fun and inspiring, encouraging teamwork and creative thinking.