The Emancipation of Urban Noise: John Cage’s Music as Acoustic Ecology
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The built environment frequently under-emphasizes the role of auditory perceptions in shaping experience. In an urban planning context, this disregard can impact the whole of society. Raymond Murray Schafer proposed psychoacoustic ecology as a framework for shaping the large-scale urban acoustic environment. He defined it as the "study of the relationship between humans and sounds in a given environment," and stated that the holistic acoustic environment, or “soundscape,” is a “musical composition to which we necessarily contribute and must take responsibility.” My research applies this comparison to critique the idea of absolute silence and its repercussions on urban populations. I apply the theories of mid-century music composer John Cage as an extension of Schafer’s similitude, and through combining it with the theories of several prominent figures in the urban planning community, I propose a framework for creating urban acoustic ecologies that encourage egalitarian, cooperative, and inclusive urban spaces.