The project

Soundscape of Laguna de Rocha (Rocha, Uruguay)

Soundscape of Laguna de Rocha (Rocha Lagoon) is a project carried out by Lucía Campugiani and Lucía Chamorro, students from the University School of Music (Montevideo, Uruguay). It was supported by the Studio of Electroacoustic Music, the PAIE (a program to support student research) and professors Martín Rocamora and Camila Gianotti.

Laguna de Rocha is part of the SNAP (National System of Protected Areas), in the category “Protected Scape”. In this area we found three different communities: La Riviera, Puerto de los Botes and La Barra.

Main goals:

Finding out which are the characteristic sounds of the place and how is the relationship between the inhabitants and their soundscape

Generating a sound archive and contribute to the World Soundscape Project and the Uruguay Soundscape Project.

Creating awareness about the importance of soundscape as a cultural and inmaterial heritage of a community and about the problems related to some human and industrial activities from a listening perspective, claiming the soundscape as a healthy acoustic environment, favouring communication between different species and promoting care.

Gaining experience in soundscapes design from the composition area, understanding the compositor as an acoustic designer not only of musical pieces, but also as an acoustic designer of daily life. Demonstrating that sound can be designed as are the cities, buildings and objects.

To achieve some of these goals,  interviews were conducted with local people. They also were asked to draw sound maps. Sound recordings were made, according to the information gained.

In a new instance reactivated listening sessions were used, to know how inhabitants perceive and understand their soundscape. It consisted in showing recording excerpts to the interviewees and asking them about what they heard.

Several results were obtained about the relationship of the local population from each community with their soundscape. In general, the sound of birds was the most mentioned. The “silence” was also mentioned.

The value of silence

Many interviewees from La Riviera, pointed the silence as a great value of the place. Although silence as absence of sound doesn’t exist, they create a concept of silence compared to their previous places of residence, all of them at cities. This concept is the absence of urban noise, mainly of engines and “disturbing noises generated by people’s presence”. The sounds of nature also take part of the silence. This meaning of silence doesn’t exist in La Barra, because their inhabitants always lived there or since many years ago.

Quote of a ranger from the area talking about the influence of sound in his everyday life: “…We rely a lot on sound. Part of our job is to learn to understand the different sounds (…) In what has to do with controlling and custody, the sound helps a lot (…). It’s very useful to understand the birds singing: how the “chajá” sings when it is in danger…”

The sound influence the work of La Barra’s fishermen. For example, the herons scream when there’re fishes around. Fishermen use the sound of the sea to know if they go fishing or not. Also when there is a thick fog and they are fishing, they use frog sounds as a guide to know where the coast is.

Missing sounds

In La Riviera some interviewees said there are less bird sounds, and they think the reason is the increase of human population in the area.

In “La Barra”, the characteristic drumming sound of the black croaker heard 40 years ago, has disappeared. This is an example of how sound can be an indicator of a drastic change in a species.

Nice sounds

People from La Barra mention the sounds of water and sea, and in La Riviera and Puerto de los Botes, the sounds of birds. Interestingly, the interviewees named sounds of nature as sounds they like the most.

Ugly sounds

The sounds people dislike are the engines and loud music.

General conclusions:

The soundscape has influence in one of the most  identifying activities of the area: fishing.

Human health: the interviewees noted the effect of the natural sounds in their daily life: tranquility, peace and harmony have influence in an emotional, mental and physical level.

The soundscape can indicate how is the health of an ecosystem.