Listening carefully is more important than making sounds.
…Seen and not heard? Not in this project!
Sound walks! transpirations is a transdisciplinary project of informal education which studies people’s acoustic environment, together with its complete psycho-geographical and social context. The activities centred around field-recording and were based on individual field research which took place in selected towns, as well as during creative workshops aimed at the youngest inhabitants of small villages in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship in Poland. The classes were conducted by professional musicians, sound engineers, and audio-experimentators. Their task was to introduce the participants to sound processing and to make them more sensitive to the music of their surroundings. Due to the area’s specificity, it was water that was the theme of the workshops: its aesthetics and possibilities, within the context of sound anthropology and a creatively understood hydro-acoustics. While tracing the soundscape hybrids of Warmia and Masuria – the sounds of industry and tourism; we were interested in creating a sound hydropolis: the sound-map of the Polish Lakeland.
Soundscape is our acoustic environment, including its context: perceptional, geographical,social. According to R.M. Schafer, our acoustic environment is contaminated and the Western culture’s permission for the primacy of visual perception impedes our sensitivity to sound. In the light of this, the Canadian musician and intellectual proposes the process of ‘ear cleaning’ as a set of practical exercises: going for a walk while focusing on listening and excluding sight, repeating the sounds heard, or keeping an audio diary; these are only some of the techniques advocated. Employing such practices should aid in developing our hearing culture and improving our sensibility to the auditory aesthetics of the places we stay in. So, the place of a passive perceptron, which we are getting accustomed to by ‘muzak’, the advertising background music, should be taken by an active and conscious listening. Sound walks! hydroacoustic channels is based on the propagation of such an activity, with a simultaneous recording of the ‘found compositions’, the preservation of the sound ambience of the ‘here and now’ of the given areas – all with the use of new media, contemporary techniques and technologies, while remaining fully respectful of the tradition and identity of the places visited.
landscape – to experience through sight (the eye)
soundscape – to experience through hearing (the ear)
THE GREAT LAKE DISTRICT
The name Masuria was introduced by the Prussian authorities in the 19th century. The noun ‘Masur’ (Polish: Mazur) comes from the prefix ‘maz-‘ (to make something dirty, to smear, to soil); the Polish word ‘maź’ denoted tar and wood-tar and comes from the tar-makers living in the region. In the older version of the Polish language a Masur is the inhabitant of the Mazovia region (Mazowsze), and this should be understood as the root of the word Masuria (Mazury). Mazovia was the homeland of many settlers who came to the area; however, there also came numerous repatriates from the lands beyond rivers Neman (Niemen) and Bug, the dwellers of Podlachia (Podlasie) region, and the Ukrainian people forced to migrate during the 1947 Operation Vistula (Akcja Wisła). Today, there remains about 5,000 indigenous Masurs.
The characteristic features of Masurian landscapes were shaped during the last glacial period, which took place around 14,000-15,000 years ago. The lands are hilly with many lakes, channels, and rivers. About 30% of Masuria’s surface is covered by forests and around 20% by lakes.
Masuria is called the Land of Thousand Lakes, but it is worth knowing that, in fact, the actual number of such bodies of water is more than twice that!
The Great Lake District – the middle part of the vast Masurian Lake District, found at the crossroads of several cultures and geographical regions, for many people, constitutes the essence of Masuria. The area, spanning almost 1,700 square kilometers, contains numerous post-glaciational bodies of water, typical for the early-glacial period, including the two largest lakes in Poland: Śniardwy and Mamry.
This is the biggest lake complex, joined by a system of channels. In the north lies the Mamry lake, below there is the Niegocin lake, which is transformed into ribbon lakes: Ryńskie, Tałty, Mikołajskie, Bełdany and Nidzkie. East of the Mikołajskie lake, one can find the largest Polish lake – Śniardwy. The landscape of The Great Lake District was shaped during the Pomeranian phase of the last glacial period. The Great Masurian Lakes constitute a deep, crosswise depression in an elevated, lake-remnant prominence of the land. During the subsequent stops, the receding glacier formed moraine hills, made of gravel, clay and huge amounts of boulders brought by the glacier itself. The hills of the terminal moraine form parallel rows which run side by side. In the hollows between the terminal moraine’s hills, the glacier left huge blocks of dead ice which, after melting, filled with their waters the melting basins and the postglacial channels. The receding glacier also left ground moraine’s basins, where peat bogs, swamps, and shallow lakes were additionally formed.
This was the way in which the great lake complex was created. The lakes are linked by a system of channels and have a balanced level of water, measuring 116 m. The waters outflow from the lakes in two directions: through Węgorapa, which flows from the Mamry lake, to Pregoła, and through Pisa, flowing out of the lake Roś, to the Vistula river. Since times immemorial, the system of natural waterways in these regions dictated the shape of the main communication routes. Their meaning was strengthened owing to several construction works, for example: digging 5 channels between Tałty and Mamry lakes (1764-65) and commencing the construction of the Masurian Channel (1911), which was to link the Great Masurian Lakes with the Baltic Sea. Today, the Masurian waterways constitute attractive, scenic routes for sailors, hikers, or kayaking aficionados.