Shadowgraph Topophony

The piece is composed of three 12 inch by 12 inch cyanotypes printed on paper.
The sound of the peninsula of Portland, Maine is shown during the morning, night and noon.
This project was done in collaboration with Johnathan Cook.


The work Shadowgraph Topophony seeks to lend form to the evanescent voice of our built environment. Inspired by the nascent field of soundscape ecology, which diagnoses the health of any given ecosystem through analyzing the spectral dispersal of background noise, the project presents the city itself as a kind of organism. This point is underscored by the use of cyanotype, a Victorian invention first employed to “photograph” botanic samples, then later for architectural diagrams or blueprints.

Tracing the major traffic arteries of the city via GPS and combining this data with the ambient sound recorded along the way, Shadowgraph Topophony combines three-dimensional space with the fourth-dimensional, time-based nature of harmonics. However, in this case the orchestra is comprised of the geophony, biophony and anthropophony respectively. Playing together as one, these forces shape each print as they read west to east and morning to night.

This piece expands upon ideas and techniques explored in Sound Surface - Congress St..


This piece was composed with data collected using a customized GPS device. Each GPS reading also included an average sound level at that point. Data was collected at three different times along a set walking route. Data was collated in Processing and then exported to digital image files. These files were then printed on transparencies which in turn were used to produce the cyanotypes. The final images were positioned to maximize clarity of peaks and valleys.

Overlaying the images gives another view of the changing soundscape throughout the day.

Here are the original source images: morning, night and noon.


The program created for this project can be found here on GitHub. Specifically, the StaticSoundSurface module was used when creating these pieces.

ToPoPhilia: Portland and Ways of Knowing Place

This piece was presented at zero station, an independent art gallery in East Bayside in Portland, Maine. It was part of ToPoPhilia: Portland and Ways of Knowing Place, which showcased local interpretations of Portland, Maine as seen through mapping. The show ran for two months, from May to July in 2016.

A panel discussion about the show was held at the Osher Map Library at University of Southern Maine on June 9th. The panel included presentations by the artists and a discussion with a city planner about the importance of these alternative maps. OML Director Ian Fowler facilitated the show and provided moderation.

In the Jungle of Cities

This piece was also presented at In the Jungle of Cities at the Glasgow International gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. Each print was shown separately at this show over a series of weeks in April 2016.