For an hour this Sunday, the Burrard Bridge will become a musical instrument.
Starting at 2 p.m., artists from the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective and the Soundscape Show will lead a procession down each walkway of the bridge while a chain of “bridge players” uses everyday objects to play the iron railings.
The event, known as a Soundwalk Sunday, is part of an international effort by the UK’s Museum of Walking aimed at “opening ears and consciousness to the complex orchestration that the environment is composing at all times,” according to the event’s press release.
A “soundwalk” is usually a silent group walk along a planned route, designed to focus the participants’ attention on the rhythms and melodies of their environment. The concept of active listening is vital to the process, premised as the walk is on our common failure to absorb the melodies around us.
“Silence is considered a serious thing,” event organizer Helena Krobath told the Courier. “People think something bad must have happened for 20 people to be walking in silence.”
But for Krobath, the reality is much more pleasant.
“Sound walking is a pretty moving experience,” she said. “It’s really meditative. It’s not like a rave or a party — though those are great things, too.”
For the Burrard Bridge soundwalk, organizers will be encouraging participants who want to join in the musical creation to do so regardless of their musical experience. The artists will provide a few objects to the crowd, such as maple stems and spoons, and participants are invited to bring their own. Those who just want to listen are welcome, too.
Ahead of each outing, Krobath and other soundwalking organizers do “recons” through the areas they are planning on visiting, determining what times and routes create the best sonic environments.
“A lot of soundwalks will focus on urban experience,” Krobath said. “I focus a lot on infrastructure. I like heavy sound. I like to do places like ports and other industry.”
Sometimes, the sounds of an area will catch organizers off guard, as was the case with the Burrard Bridge, which was not the original site of the soundwalk planned for this Sunday. The idea to walk down the bridge came on another soundwalk that just happened to cross it.
“The bridge wasn’t a focal point of the soundwalk. We were just trying to get from one side to the other,” she said. “Two of the participants, Matthew and Julie, just started tapping at the railings as we were walking, just interacting with it. And I was behind them, so the sounds that they were creating were reaching me from down the way. And I was like, ‘This is incredible.’”
Sunday’s soundwalk will take place rain or shine, and those attending should wear appropriate footwear and clothing, as there are chances of scattered showers. Along with soundwalks happening in other cities, the Vancouver soundwalk will also be streamed around the world as part of Sound Walk Sunday.
Those interesting in attending are asked to meet at 999 Beach Ave. (Green Streets Community Garden, located under the Burrard Bridge), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2 p.m. More info at newmusic.org/vancouversoundwalkcollective.
Note: This story has been updated since first published.