Sonic Art

Sounding Royal Park

Supported by The City of Melbourne Covid-19 Arts Grants

Ponding audio(9min)

around the Trin Warren Tam Boore wetlands. This looks wheelchair friendly.

North South Meander audio(10min)

Start at Park Street, cross the sports fields and roughly follow Upfield Line to the wetlands. Then skirt White's skink country, cross the railway line safely at Parkville West,  follow Flemington Road towards the city- keeping away from the road itself - and finish near the Childrens Hospital. 

Zoo and Grassland Circle audio(10min)

Start at Park Street, near the tennis courts, continue to the Zoo,then follow the 58 tram past the Netball Centre. Cross Elliot Avenue and head towards the Native Grassland Circle. Bisect or circumnavigate the circle, cross MacArthur street, and meander around the sports fields ending up at Park street or anywhere else!

The sonic qualities of a landscape are mostly neglected in favour of the visual. My favourite walks through Royal Park reveal its aural complexity and beauty, created by the interplay of four distinct sonic elements.

The first and dominant element is bird song; it is constant and dense yet varies by location; I haven't found a spot where bird song is absent. Many of the birds are well hidden, their songs revealing location and identity only to the trained and patient ear. (For a comprehensive listing of birds and useful information see Friends of Royal Park )

The second element is traffic. Royal Park is circled by major roads .Upfield line trains and No. 58 trams cross the park noisily at short intervals. Helicopters circle the hospitals. The quietest place is in the middle of the Native Grass Circle where traffic sounds drift like clouds across the landscape and even  insects can be heard in the grass.

Humans are the third element; bikers, walkers, chatterers, joggers, twitchers, the occasional homeless person and meandering flaneur. The COVID-19 restrictions have encouraged a flood of visitors to the park, contributing to its sound as well as the collective health and sanity. Only the Zoo animals remain silent;  winter ? lack of visitors?

The fourth element is weather.The three walks were recorded in June and July 2020, and there was plenty of weather; wild winds and rain and the gurgling of a little creek that crosses the bike path to Flemington Bridge.

The sonic landscapes you hear are montages, distilled from many hours of recording along these walks and nearby. I hope they will inspire individual perambulations and discoveries.

Mim Whiting's hand-drawn map is to help orient and locate in an approximate way, without smartphone/GPS. After heading off in a general direction I'll often follow a particular sound and go where the mood takes me.

There are many well maintained paths. There are also open fields, woodland tracks and desire lines. If you leave a path tread lightly and with respect. Royal Park is a precious and rare inner city resource.

Photos and map painting by Mim Whiting. Find more images along the walks by Mim on Instagram . For more information check out the City of Melbourne Parks site. The tree register is also a great way to locate and identify some of the spectacular trees. 

You can also listen to these three tracks on Soundcloud.

Extracts from these  soundscapes are currently featured in Astra's Quarter Hour Concert series and Sophie Cunningham's Royal Park walk in ACCA's Six Walks.