Jason Murphy walks out of his house in the small village Myrtleville, located on Ireland's southern seashore of the Atlantic ocean. He usually does not take a phone during walks and pays attention to every bit of sound surrounding him. Jason quickly notices that it is a windy morning by hearing waves crashing against cliffs in the distance.
“I can hear one or two people screaming down at the beach because they are swimming even in the wintertime. And I can also tell, even though I can’t see, that the waves are quite big today, so it’s a little windy.”
Wearing a bright yellow windbreaker and a bushy hairstyle, he looks nothing like a 40-years-old university professor even though that is his current occupation. Jason is a professional audiographer, passionate about location storytelling and sound walking.
“We rely on our sight a little more than on our hearing. But that wasn’t always the case! When we were developing in the wombs, we couldn’t see, but we could hear the outside world. So, actually, our first most important sense is really hearing. Sound walking sort of redirects the balance, getting people tuned to the acoustic world again.”
Barking interrupts Jason. His snow-white dog Rudolf starts running in front of him, leading this morning stroll to one of the owner’s favorite paths. Carrying people further away from the beach, a green walking road winds through the grass fields and farms’ hedges.
“The place is all covered in old footpaths. It used to be a popular destination for holidays, back in the last century. It’s full of laneways, and they are really interesting, weird, and mysterious. There are no people. So, there is no interference of the 21st century."
Jason stops near the abandoned building. He remembers that this old ruined house was a place where he produced his first audio story many years ago. But the audiographer keeps recording here again and again. For Jason, the sound is never the same but always fascinating. While explaining this, he climbes one of the ruined walls to capture a richer mix of noises.
“I love the sound of the wind. It’s weird because the wind is actually silent. What we hear is the interaction of the air with different things it passes through. Today though, it’s a sound of branches moving.”
Not only the location’s acoustic beauty attracts Jason. While walking around the abandoned house, he looks inside the rooms through broken windows and finally stops near the chimney.
“I find old places to be intriguing. I think about the idea of decay, the idea of ‘once upon a time,’ the idea of a family living here. This kind of talks about the temporary nature of life.”
As the audiographer steps on the paved path again, all his senses absorb the surrounding nature. Everything around always stays green, as autumn never comes to Myrtleville. Jason thinks that both climate and lifestyle there are very balanced. He does not feel the same about Blagoevgrad, a city in Bulgaria where he has to stay while working at the university.
“When I’m in Blagoevgrad, I like it and everything, but it’s very confined. When I look out of my window, all I see is the tower blocks. Life there feels closed. But when I get back here – it’s completely open! There’s all this space for your head. And I am a different person here.”
Jason whistles loudly as Rudolf had disappeared for a while, probably looking for a friend in the woods. Reunited, they sat down in the middle of the field, enjoying their time, carefully listening to the sounds of the grass, leaves, insects and the distinct sound of waves at the beach. Jason explains that he does not want to be taken out of such moments in life.
“I can hear all these things going around me. And it never stops. People from the city think, ‘Oh my God, how do you live here? It’s so boring.’ But for me, all of these small things are all incredibly exciting. So, when I’m walking through the city, looking at the people going for coffee or to the mall, I think, ‘Wow! This is so boring. How do you live here?’”
Jason stands up. An old post office building turned into a shop on the side of a never-ending evergreen path is the final stop for this morning walk. Before going inside to meet his friend, Jason shares an observation he had witnessed through ages.
“People here might seem a little bit lazy because they are so happy. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. Maybe that’s a bad thing? My mother thinks that’s a bad thing, like people lack motivation, all this sort of stuff. I’m not saying that she’s wrong, but I’m just not so sure.”
He smiles and waves with his hand, heading to the entrance door.
“Happiness, I guess, is different for everybody, isn’t it?”
. . .
The "Jason Murphy | A Stroll with an Audio Storyteller" article is part of the "Dare to Share" JMC competition, organized by AUBG Daily. The piece was written by the AUBG student, Viktor Kharyton, who managed to secure the second place in the written pieces category. The aim of the competition is to expose the brilliant works of talented AUBG students and expand the realm of the university newspaper, AUBG Daily.
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