(Raffaele Pe, 2014)

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Transformation techniques of sound material for the configuration of urban spaces

This research investigates the meaning of the musical term “agogic” in relation to the experience and the construction of the place. Agogic accents in music represent a rhythmical practice for which the relationships between the interpreter and the score are coordinated in order to produce variation and expression within the extent of a regular rhythm. The agogic mutation of a homogeneous pulse into an irregular pattern grants the emergence of governable degrees of expressivity in phrasing musical sentences on the basis of poetic meaning or rhetorical instructions. The space, as a cognitive means to measure the distance between our body and the external reality, is endemically constituted by moving and instable elements which are as relevant as the stationary physical references to orient the movement. Urban spaces in particular present today landscapes which are not able to manifest their meaning and their function with clarity due to a weakness of their linguistic and syntactical equipment. Moving and stationary elements both contribute to the shaping of the image of the city, which is often a most effective cognitive instrument to memorize its articulation and the quality of its inhabitable spaces. On one hand the image of the city embodies the lineaments of its built environment, on the other it retains the elusive traces of recurrent spatial behaviors. Architecture and city design should embody more advanced forms of mapping to frame the unstable quality of the unfolding landscape of contemporary urban settlements. Spatial design should always be able to communicate the ambivalence of its immutable and yet fleeting character. If city design can be addressed as a temporal art, but it cannot be treated like music, as it is not a form of art which does not deal with fixed objects, a new epistemological balance should be found in the construction of our mental and physical image of the space in the way that the pace and the dynamics of our movements can become necessary variables to disclose the deep reasons of the morphology of the place. Agogic thinking allow to conceive the invariable metrics of spatial models according to the perceptive transformations generated by the motion of the body. Spatial behaviors in anthropic landscapes are influenced by anthropological habits as well as by environmental features. The agogic implied within spontaneous spatial movements and habits is interdependent with the formal quality of the space in which movements take place. The current diffusion of communication technologies and locative media to ease the navigation within anthropic landscapes have significantly augmented our perceptive modes in space and time. They have transformed our environment in a collaborative and acoustic laboratory. The acoustic space admits a participation in information where interactions between bodies materialize according to vibrations at a variable frequency. The research propose the development of urban maps which exploit sonic signals to build open learning framework on the external environment. Sound maps are not nominal nor descriptive. They replace the projective tool of the two-dimensional cartography with a generative model, screenplay of complementary layers of urban data, which is multi-dimensional and it reconsider the map as a performing tool synchronized with the breath of the city. Agogic maps guide the percolation of their users toward accessible territories in relation to topographic emergencies and anthropological qualities of the settlement. They translate the contents of sonic cartography into a new type of writing of the space, with a medium which is experimental, intuitive and ideographic. Agogic maps foster the awareness of the place adopting spatial expressivity as a means for orientation and recognition. While it assists individuals in territorial immersion, the map records the variations of the size of spatial objects in relation to the speed of motion, reporting an augmented configuration of the perceived space. This work presents a case study which focuses on the informal settlements of the city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania as an example of a shifting urban territory which demands for new mapping tools to organize effectively its spatial development. This city is nowadays one of the fastest growing in Africa and all over the world. With a population of more than four million inhabitants (2010) it is proved that more that 80% of the population lives in informal settlements with few or no basic services. Dar es Salaam is here considered a paradigm of urbanism “in motion” according to the rhythm of the spontaneous movements and building actions of its inhabitants. Dar es Salaam is an original tale of environmental transformation in relation to the natural development of a landscape. It represents every city before becoming a city in a “modern” sense, which means before disconnecting its physical configuration from environmental and vernacular criticalities. Modern infrastructures in Dar es Salaam do not seem able to improve nor to envision the sustainability of its future development acknowledging its geographical and topographic location as an asset. The agogic map intends to mark this condition, conceiving the formal reconfiguration of this urban scenario using tactile and expressive outlining tools. The experiment included in this research aims in fact to demonstrate the relevance of an interactive mapping model that illustrates the scope of a techno-ecological landscape as a possible future scenario for the recovery of such degraded and neglected territory. The employment of immaterial technologies to trigger spatial reconfiguration considers agogic maps as a communication device to disclose the essence of a “landscape of the third-type”, not only physical, nor mental, but that implies the emergence of new spatial awareness and knowledge among its sharers. The cognitive patterns produced by the map are informed according to several theoretical contributions taken from the fields of epistemology, psychoacoustics, choreography, musical composition and landscape urbanism. In particular the works of Adolphe Appia and Émile Jaques-Dalcroze are examined from the point of view of the construction of a viable scenario for the coordination of spontaneous movements. The theoretical offerings of composer Franco Donatoni, with special attention to his books Questo (1970) and Antecedente X (1980), are remapped into an extensive exposition which designates “agogic” as potentially one of the most fertile and profitable research ground for those who intend to deepen the relationships between movement, perception, and topography. Envisaging and coordinating spatial movements within the city, urban territories are qualified in their rank. The tuning between motion and pace is disclosed and enhanced through proximity maps and agogic patterns.

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Author(s): Alessandro Musetta, Stefano Bovio