Sound Map invites participants to listen to the most widely spoken languages across the globe, and consider how they arrived at their current state of dominance. This series of audio works form sonic postcards — snapshots of each language, as they are spoken today across the globe.
In looking at the world map, we see the spread of language by colonialism, military and economic power. How has linguistic imperialism ensured that these most spoken languages still prevail, over time coercively replacing or marginalizing the languages of existing cultures in each region? If globalisation were to go into reverse, would we retrieve lost languages, under threat of extinction, or even generate new ones?
Collecting speech and song from online radio stations, news channels and live web cams, we’ve sought to capture each language in a two-minute mix. We aim to mark the current position of dominant languages, to show their constant flux and swell over time.
During installations, we invite listeners to contribute by writing/drawing a response on a postcard and attaching it beside the language map, considering the questions:
What did you hear? Tell us about your experience of listening - what do you recognise? What do you assume? Can you hear patterns or distinct qualities in some of the works? Do you understand words, sentences or meaning; and if not, what do you hear? Can you hear opinions, emotions, memories, histories?
In making this work, we aim to celebrate language through a sound-led forum and investigate constructs of communication, understanding and ultimately borders.
Sound Map was a collaboration between sound artists Hannah Kemp-Welch and Lisa Hall, premiered at #TateLates at Tate Modern on 30th June 2017, and later displayed at October Gallery Education's pop-up exhibition Timelines in December 2017. Extracts were also broadcast from Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts during Radiophrenia 2019.
Pictures from participatory installations: