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31 July 2007

The Australian Sound Design Project

Ros Bandt Image: Ros Bandt  

My idea to start the website for sound designs in public space was to document in text, sound, image and video the complex designs of a difficult and ephemeral genre: sound designs in the public domain. Books and paintings and sculptures are much easier to document.

But with digital media, sound designs in public space can be represented in ways which convey their properties in audible sound, the moving and still image, diagrams and video as well as the printed word.

The Australian Sound Design Project (www.sounddesign.unimelb.edu.au) is the first national website and database dedicated to researching and publishing original works and discourse relating to sound and its design in public space.

Over the past six years the original works of over 125 sound designers, artists and composers have been published in sound, text and image in the gallery. All entries can be accessed through the browser, by work, artist, place, function, organisation and events. These free and accessible research tools, the text, graphics, video, sound, two advanced search engines and multimedia refereed articles have been used by academics and the public sector to source information, and as a basis for sound courses, worldwide. The comprehensive database and cross-referenced website provides a platform for further discourse and analytical study facilitating the further development of both the language and practice of sound design.

But the future of the website is uncertain: for the last seven years I have worked on the site as an honorary fellow. Digital publishing is expensive and skilled people such as my excellent research assistants are needed for complex coding. Unlike books, the need for funding doesn’t go away with the event of the item being published. How do we sustain digital publishing? To this end I recently burned a CDR of the entire site which was launched with the Melbourne City Council at the Australian Centre, The University of Melbourne, to celebrate the new interactive map of the newly documented Melbourne sound designs they commissioned. It was subsequently launched nationally at the Australasian Computer Music Conference in Canberra in June 2007.

While the politics and funding of online publications and digital research facilities cause uncertain futures, they are more fluid, alive, temporal and audible than books. Furthermore, an online publication is free to anyone with an Internet connection, can be searched, and continuously changed and updated. And these features – that have attracted me to online publishing – naturally increase the advocacy platforms for difficult art genres such as sound design.


The author would like to thank her research assistants, Garth Paine and Iain Mott, the interstate and international Board members, the Australian Research Council, the Australia Centre, The University of Melbourne, The Australia Council, The City of Melbourne, The City of Yarra, the National Library of Australia, Canberra and Move Records for funding and support.

Subjects discussed by this article:

Ros Bandt is an internationally acclaimed sound artist, composer-performer, and installation artist. She has just completed the 2006-7 ABC composer residency for Radio National and is co-authoring a new book Hearing Places for Cambridge Scholars Publishing. She is honorary senior research fellow in Australian Sound at the Australian Centre, the University of Melbourne, where she directs the Australian Sound Design Project.


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