Soundwalk Collective — founded by Stephan Crasneanscki and including Dug Winningham, Simone Merli, Kamran Sadeghi, and Jake Harper — is an international art collective based in New York City. Since 2000 they have traveled from Bessarabia to the Rub’ al-Khali desert to the strait of Gibraltar, exploring and documenting the world around us through its sounds. The collective then abstracts and recomposes these sound fragments of reality to create audible journeys — soundwalks.
These creations can be presented over the radio, or in installation spaces, or in live performance, using a combination of custom-cut vinyl records with multiple turntables, laptops, and various FX-processing pedals and mixers, along with video projection specific to each performance piece. Installations may use custom-made turntables that are programmed to move automatically based on a musical score.
Stephan Crasneanscki made his initial reputation by producing cutting-edge audio guides to particular cities, combining fiction and nonfiction to create a poetic discovery of the city — as he puts it, on the bridge between a Baudelairian stroll and cinematic experience. Among other awards, he won the Audie Award in 2004 for a tour of the Bronx with Jazzy Jay and Afrika Bambaataa, and the 2005 Dalton Pen Award for his Ground Zero Sonic Memorial with Paul Auster.
The Soundwalk Collective has also created soundwalks not of places but of journeys, retracing Ulysses’s journey on the Mediterranean, and the journey of Jason and the Argonauts on the Black Sea. The audio composition Medea is based on fragments of sound recorded by Soundwalk Collective during a two-month crossing in a sailboat specially equipped with scanners, microphones, and antennas, sailing to Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Crimea, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania.
In May 2012, Stephan Crasneanscki and a small crew traveled to Peru to record the icaros of Shipibo shamans Victor Nieto and Ushamano Walter Martinez. The result is Ayahuasqueros, a mixture of jungle sounds, textual narration, and ayahuasca songs, with a text by anthropologist Jeremy Narby, that soundwalks us through the ayahuasca experience. The entire 55-minute soundscape is here:
And this is what its creators say about it:
In their visions, ayahuasca shamans say they see the essences that animate living beings, the first property of which is to emit melodies. These essences are considered powerful beings, and ayahuasqueros learn their melodies by singing along. Singing like powerful beings, they learn to see like them, and this gives them knowledge. The melodies that shamans bring back from their visions are called “icaros”; they help navigate the space of ayahuasca consciousness, and can also serve as lifelines when overwhelmed by visions. Grab onto the icaros: these songs are made of knowledge.
In addition to the soundwalk, Crasneanscki produced this short promotional film based on his work with the Shipibo icaros: