Sound Mapping Imaginary Worlds

Curator's Note

I created the Fantasy Sound Maps site as a creative project to play with the theoretical concept of collaborative authorship of imaginary worlds. I wanted to explore how canon, headcanon, and fanon relate to each other when audiences contribute towards a shared understanding, and expression of imaginary space.

Historically, sound maps layer ambient recorded sounds of physical space on top of a graphical representation of that place (i.e., a map). These maps are crowdsourced and rely on participants to record audio on their phones or other devices (using GPS data) to link the sound, the physical location, and the map together. Soundmaps can create extraordinary archives that allow listeners to experience locations out of time and space.

What then happens when participants are not recording ambient sound, but creating soundscapes? What happens when those soundscapes are of a shared imaginary world, like Hogwarts (Harry Potter) or Silas University (Carmilla)? How do fans organize their understanding of the imaginary world’s physical space as audible space? Finally, what happens when we overlay those collective sounds over a visualization of the imaginary?

Though I’ve put together two fantasy sound maps, the brevity of this space allows me to focus only on the one of Silas University. This is a map created by fans using production notes found on Twitter and stills from various episodes of the series, Carmilla. It is entirely fanon. Mapped onto it are soundscapes created in ambient-mixer of multiple locations. Interestingly, ledameron created a soundscape for not only a particular site, but also event within the series (one that happens off camera). They developed a detailed headcanon of the event in soundscape and posted it. Following this post, other creators use their own original headcanon to add on to the world’s soundscape, while maintaining features of the original poster, a clock tower chiming. As locations are farther removed in the imagined physical space, the chimes volume and impact are also reduced in the soundscape. Without a visual cue, fans accommodate each other’s headcanons to create a (relatively) cohesive fanon of Silas University.

However, as we can see with the map of Hogwarts this cohesive fanon is only possible due to the relatively few contributors to the Silas Univeristy soundscape. When there are a plethora of contributors, the cohesive fanon becomes a heteroglossia of headcanon that the map attempts at ordering.

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