The AUB neighborhood celebrates the Week of Sound

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem <sa256@aub.edu.lb> Office of Communications​​​​​

A series of events and interventions around Ras Beirut and Ain El Mreisseh, were organized by the AUB Neighborhood Initiative to celebrate the first Week of Sound (La Semaine du Son) in Beirut. The aim was to activate public space in the Ras Beirut area and to engage the community around the theme of sound.

The Week of Sound in Beirut was co-organized by AUB, the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, La Semaine du Son association, École Supérieure des Affaires (ESA), and Saint Joseph University.  The Week of Sound was held under the patronage of the Minister of Culture Mohammad Daoud Daoud, in collaboration with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and with the support of the Municipality of Beirut.

After being presented at UNESCO, the Sound Week Charter, which sets objectives in five major areas of sound (health, sound environment, techniques for recording and sound reinforcement, sound and picture relationship, and musical expression and practice) resulted in the UNESCO Resolution 39C/49 in 2017. This sheds light on the importance of realizing that sound is a fundamental element of personal balance in a person's relationship to others and to the world, in its different dimensions, such as economic, environmental, social, medical, industrial, and cultural, as mentioned in the introduction of the charter.

Director of the AUB Neighborhood Initiative Mona Hallak explained that the events were curated to “reactivate the Ain El Mreisseh stairs as a public space in Ras Beirut, while paying tribute to the fishermen community and reviving the collective memory of the sea whose view is now totally blocked by high rise buildings all along the corniche." Hallak added, “On another level, we wanted to shed light on the importance of sound in the urban environment not only in music as a cultural expression, but also as a way of communication, even play, and to spread awareness about its impact on health in the midst of the noise pollution that our city suffers from."

Sound events and interventions
The week was launched with an opening ceremony at ESA on Wednesday, May 8. Awareness sessions around the health impact of sound were given in public and private schools around AUB. These sessions were organized by Medical Audiology Sciences Program students led by Professor Jaime Leigh from the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB.

The Le Souffleur acoustic installation, designed by district d, was placed on the Ain El Mreisseh stairs between May 8 and 17, with the aim to reactivate the Ain El Mreisseh stairs as a public space in the city. The project was inspired from Ibrahim Najem's story, the fisherman who yearned to bring the stories of the sea to Ras Beirut by collecting throughout the years submarine wreckage and sea marvels and showing them in his house. Le Souffleur manifested itself through two main schemes. The first was a replica of Ibrahim Najem's gramophone with a sound composition, created by Nadim Mishlawi and Professor Budhaditya Chattopadhyay from the Center for Arts and Humanities at AUB. The composition included live streaming of the sound of the waves from the Ain El Mreisseh port and underwater recordings, aiming to reconnect this part of the city to the sea through sound. The second was a network of tele-pipelines that people and especially children can use to talk to each other, bridging sound along different levels, connecting people while adding an element of play and a sensory dimension to the Ain El Mreisseh stairs.

The Ode to the Sea open-air live concert took place on the night of May 10 at Ras Beirut's Van Dyck stairs. The listening and viewing of the sea, an integral part of Beirut's history, legend, and urban life, have been restricted due to the multistoried building constructions across the corniche areas. This concert aimed to relive the sea and invite the audience to experience its imaginary presence through sound. Ode to the Sea was curated by Professor Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, and featured musical performances by artists Safar, Liliane Chlela, Fadi Tabbal, Jad Atoui, Nadim Mishlawi, and Sharif Sehnaoui in addition to Chattopadhyay.​

The Sea Alphabet walk and workshop with Dar Onboz was held on May 11, between the Ain El Mreisseh fishermen's port and the Ain El Mreisseh stairs.​

The Silent Room installation by scenographer Nathalie Harb was placed on Bliss Street between May 11 and 17. It proposed a space, available to all, where the quantity of information, that is over-present in the city, would be radically reduced. It was designed to be a functional part of the city, existing alongside shops, market places, office buildings, construction sites, and traffic, offering an experience that contrasts with its surroundings and responds to the emotional conditions produced by them. This reiteration of the Silent Room was installed in the landmark site of Al Afran Al Wataniya (The National Bakeries) on Bliss Street in Ras Beirut, experimenting further with the possibility of integrating the project in an existing urban fabric.