Eric Leonardson's Chicago
by Micco Caporale (MA 2018)
If anyone can describe the sound of silence, it’s Eric Leonardson (MFA 1983). As founder of the Midwest Society of Acoustic Ecology and adjunct associate professor in the Sound department at SAIC, he teaches listening as a whole-body experience. In a fast-paced, technology-driven city, Leonardson consciously slows down by turning his ears to the environment. This is his Chicago.
West Ridge Nature Preserve
I went out one night in the rain to scout a site before [leading a sound walk there]. There were toads on the sidewalk. They didn’t make any sounds, just sat there like lumps of clay. But the sound of a coyote running through the grass startled me. I was surprised by that: a hidden entity, such a close encounter with a coyote. It jumped out of the grass, then ran away as I got closer.
The Shoreline in Rogers Park
The soundscape changes with the seasons. When there was ice on the edge of the lake, waves would slap against these ice mounds and send water up into the air with ice chunks. You can hear the water and ice tumbling down the edges of the mounds. When the air’s really cold, it freezes to the mounds and builds them higher. If you’re close, you can hear little bits of ice in the water tumbling down the edges like little miniature avalanches.
It’s an artist-run space in Logan Square. Artists identify a need, pool their resources, and do all those things together that you don’t learn to do in art school. The people who run it are very accessible. And there are different interests—Chicago house music converging with Chicago experimental music, jazz, electronic music. They all come together there, and people have poetry events, too. Elastic Arts has a multidisciplinary attitude that makes it special.
The North Shore Channel flows through this park on Chicago’s Northwest side, which connects to the Chicago River. There are a lot of birds there that you don’t normally see in other parts of the city. Some of those birds, like the kingfisher, you might hear over there, but you’re not going to see them in other places except along the river.