PhD Defense in Digital Media: ”Acoustic ecology in artistic creation: re-discovering underwater soundscapes”

Francisca Santos Silva Rocha Gonçalves

Date, time and place
22nd September, 10h00, Sala de Atos FEUP

President of the Jury
António Fernando Vasconcelos Cunha Castro Coelho, PhD, Associate Professor with Habilitation at Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

Angus Carlyle, PhD, Professor at University of Arts London, UK;
Isabel Maria Antunes Pires, PhD, Invited Assistant Professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa;
Raquel Maria Lemos e Castro, PhD, Researcher at Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias;
Rui Luís Nogueira Penha, PhD, Assistant Professor at Instituto Politécnico do Porto (Supervisor);
Gilberto Bernardes de Almeida, PhD, Assistant Professor at Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto.


The aim of this thesis is to connect people with underwater environments while creating awareness for the problem of anthropogenic noise pollution through artistic creation. This dissertation addresses the lack of information on underwater noise discourse, especially on the vibrational aspect of underwater sound. By asking how to convey the experience of underwater soundscapes and their human disruption, it proposes two major directions that inform and complement each other. First, several underwater soundscape recordings were realised. They provide an understanding of the ambience of places and allow attunement with the natural world. Second, six practice-based research artworks based on the soundscape recordings and methods from acoustic ecology and ecoacoustics, focusing on anthropogenic sounds aimed at improving inclusion with nature while creating awareness of the noise pollution problem. The revised strategies and concepts included place attachment, emotional affinity, nature-connectedness and ecology of æffect. These artworks provide the setting for challenging audiences to bond with underwater environments by listening to their soundscapes while revealing a particular aspect of underwater sound. Moreover, they explore creative strategies for developing sonic experiences with the introduction, experience and performance of underwater sounds in artistic creation. Additionally, the artworks introduce and approach a natural phenomenon related to underwater sound (Luciferina – bioluminescence; SINØ III – cymatics; #switchoffandlisten – noise awareness campaign; DIS_turbation – bioturbation; Munda – cavitation; 2182kHz – auditory masking). The insights from the artistic experiences proved critical to continue producing innovative contributions and to create knowledge while influencing the communities. The significance of this study is that it informs the theoretical understanding of noise pollution impacts on aquatic fauna and underwater acoustics by introducing a focus on the vibrational aspect of underwater sound: particle motion. In addition, it informs the empirical understanding of the practice-based research on developing the proposed artworks. The novelty lies in addressing biological phenomena as a creative resource to intervene in underwater noise dialogue, reveal hidden qualities of vibroscape ecology (such as particle motion) and translate them in a more grasping way through the artistic artworks. As underwater soundscapes are increasingly a topic of concern globally, they become crucial to fostering an emotional affinity between people and natural environments, promoting inclusion with nature.

Keywords: ecological sound art, acoustic ecology, underwater soundscapes, anthropogenic noise, vibroscape ecology, nature-connectedness, ecology of æffect.

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