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Liveable Listenable Cities

Liveable Listenable Cities: human-centred planning and appraisal of applied soundscape design for an auraldiverse population. The Noise Abatement Society and Goldsmiths, University of London, invite applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award as part of the Liveable Listenable Cities project, beginning 1 October 2018.

Liveable Listenable Cities: human-centred planning and appraisal of applied soundscape design for an auraldiverse population

Advert Title:  AHRC/CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship in collaboration with Goldsmiths, University of London and the Noise Abatement Society – Liveable Listenable Cities: human-centred planning and appraisal of applied soundscape design for an auraldiverse population

Qualification type: PhD
Location: Goldsmiths, University of London
Funding for: UK Students / EU Students
Funding amount: All academic fees paid plus AHRC stipend: for academic year 2018-19 this will be [£14,777 non London / £16,777 with London weighting]
Hours: Full or Part Time
Closes: Monday 7 May 2018, 12 noon

Liveable Listenable Cities: human-centred planning and appraisal of applied soundscape design for an auraldiverse population

The Noise Abatement Society and Goldsmiths, University of London, invite applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award as part of the Liveable Listenable Cities project, beginning 1 October 2018.

Extending beyond a noise control / mitigation agenda, this highly interdisciplinary PhD is an opportunity to devise, apply and analyse place and user specific soundscape design within the built environment. The project builds on the formative work of R. Murray Schafer and the World Soundscape Project from the 1970s and the more recent flourishing of soundscape research within the field of acoustics, such as the EPSRC’s Noise Futures Network (2006) and the COST Action TD0804 Soundscape of European Cities and Landscapes (2008).  The prompt for this PhD is the ISO’s adoption of the term ‘soundscape’, defined as an ‘acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood by a person or people, in context’ (BS ISO 12913-1:2014) and the recent reference to ‘making the soundscape appropriate for the local context’ in the revision of Professional Practice Guidance on Planning and Noise, ProPG (2017). Effective and meaningful implementation of this standard and guidance requires robust and rounded approaches to measuring and assessing the human response to sound in all its diversity and its larger effects on the urban environment. This requires new interdisciplinary research in academia including sonic arts practice and urban theory, evidenced in case studies demonstrating soundscape practice and applicability in ‘real-world’ contexts – of which at present there are few. Moreover, the project acknowledges the necessity for creative and exploratory approaches to designing contextually pertinent sonic environments and sonic interventions that can contribute to our wellbeing against the backdrop of rapid urbanisation and 24/7 cultural offerings.

The studentship

The candidate will follow the PhD in Sonic Arts in the Music Department at Goldsmiths and be an active member of the Unit for Sound Practice Research’s (SPR) new Soundscape Special Interest Group. The PhD in Sonic arts embraces a wide range of sonic practices and formats. The final submission will include a portfolio of apposite documentation of the processes, presentations and realisations, and a substantial written thesis that reflects on the creative processes and methods involved in producing the practical elements of the submission.

In order to fully support this interdisciplinary PhD, the supervisory team consists of John Drever, Professor of Acoustic Ecology & Sound Art and head of SPR, Lisa Lavia, managing director of The Noise Abatement Society (NAS) and Jonathan Freeman, Professor of Psychology and managing director of i2 media research, which specialises in digital consumer research. Tuition and access to the resources of the Electronic Music Studio (EMS) and the shared Sonics Immersive Media Labs (SIML) will be made available. Through Jonathan Freeman, who is an expert in media psychology and human factors of digital media, the candidate will also have access to i2 media research’s new testing lab and research group, and be party to rigorous application of research methodologies and communicable presentation of data. In the first year of study the candidate will be required to attend the generic Graduate School Induction Programme and the course in Core Qualitative Methods.

One of NAS’ major areas of active involvement since 2009 has been the co-creation, support and conductance of research-to-practice for 'soundscape' practice to manage the effects of urban noise on human health and wellbeing.  This pioneering approach represents a paradigm shift from existing noise pollution management approaches, which are based on measuring and controlling decibel levels. Soundscape practice, researchers and practitioners recognise that these reactive and punitive methods have failed to deal with the human perception of urban noise nuisance effectively and that instead the soundscape approach brings together data on the level, quality and perceptions of sound in context. This context-responsive approach recognises that sound perceived as annoying by people in one context may be perceived as desirable in a different temporal, geographic, or user-prescribed context. While controlling noise exposure, and thus annoyance and its health impacts, may be more readily achieved in specific environments to specific subgroups, where the expected use of places can be understood, predicted and controlled (e.g. an office or school), achieving this balance in mixed-use public realms to an auraldiverse populace (Drever 2017) is more difficult (e.g. in an urban park or pedestrianised areas). The challenge is further confounded by the difficulty in assessing human subjective responses to sound using traditional participatory or self-reporting survey techniques.

In this project, the candidate will be researching urban soundscape composition on a wide range of users: its design and appraisal. It specifically builds on existing research undertaken by Lavia (NAS) and Witchel (Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex) (2012 & 13) that assessed human behavioural responses to subtle (i.e. undetectable to normal human hearing), ambient sound changes in an underground passage way in Brighton. The first stage of the PhD will be to assess the methods and findings of this pilot study and other applied soundscape projects, such as the Dark Arches in Leeds, designed by sound and light artist, Hans Peter Kuhn (2009), and related urban design and urban design consultants (e.g. Gehl). Traditionally, in soundscape analysis, the human response to sounds in context, as required by the soundscape standard (ISO 2014), has been collected using recognised self-reporting methods. These include soundwalks, questionnaire surveys, narrative interviews, and jury-based listening tests (ISO 2016). In the Brighton Beach Tunnel (i.e. West Street Tunnel), Lavia and Witchel employed a method of non-participatory observation, a method widely used by experts to capture animal behaviour. The preliminary results showed that ‘changes in human behaviour can manifest as rates of behaviour, directions of behaviour, or as entirely new behaviours, which can be measured in appropriately ethically approved non-participatory observation studies to quantify these changes.’ (Lavia et al. 2018). In sharp contrast, the study will also take account of adversarial soundscape interventions such as the commercial application of high frequency tones used to deter teenagers for loitering (i.e. Mosquito).

Consequently, the PhD will employ methods and strategies learnt from the review, as well as bringing in the candidate’s own experience as guided by the supervisory team, in the presentation of two bespoke composed soundscapes installed in contrasting locations. At this stage we cannot specify exactly what approaches will be taken, as this will be

informed by the initial review, however we anticipate the development of new hybrid methods. Furthermore, as this is a sonic arts PhD, we want to be more explorative with the actual soundscape composition, than prior studies, along a continuum from passive noise control, to classic subtle soundscape design approaches (i.e. wildlife sounds), towards more

compositional/ art intervention approaches: ‘the world of social sciences increasingly enters into resonance with the art world to contribute to a socio-aesthetic of the sonic world.’ (Thibaud 2014)

Stakeholders, both local residents and professionals, e.g. academics, local planning authority, etc., are a key element to the learning and success of this research and its impact, so at key moments, we will endeavour to engage them in the themes and approaches we are exploring, regarding all as experts.

The candidate:

While being a sound artist is not essential, applicants should have experience working in multidisciplinary environments, have creative empathy and be equally comfortable with quantitative processes, reductive reasoning and problem solving. A good working knowledge of soundscape concepts, preferably gained in a research to practice context, and demonstrable collaboration success is essential.

We are particularly interested to know how you would approach this research.

 Essential skills/attributes:

·         The applicant demonstrates understanding of appropriate research skills required for successful completion of the project.

·         Must have a minimum of a UK upper second-class honour degree (2.1) or equivalent in acoustics, sonic arts, music or related discipline and appropriate training at Master's level, the IOA’s Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control or equivalent (i.e. relevant professional experience).

·         The candidate should have a strong interest in the emerging field of soundscapes. 

·         An Interdisciplinary scholar able to apply a variety of methods.

Desirable skills/attributes:

·         Experience in field recording, sound installation, sound design and/or sonic art.

·         Experience in programming in Max/MSP, Pure Data.

·         Proficiency using digital audio workstations.

·         Prior research or industry experience.

·         Understanding of regulation and assessment of noise.

·         Experience in qualitative methods.

How to apply

Applications for this studentship must be made via the CHASE application form.
Applicants must also apply for a place of study at Goldsmiths, University of London

Terms and conditions

The studentship is subject to RCUK eligibility criteria, and will cover home or EU fees and stipend at RCUK rates for a maximum of three years full-time, or six years part-time study.

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Prof. John Drever

 Closing Date:              Monday 7 May, 2018, 12:00
Interview Date:          w/c Monday 14 May