Ayaka Yamashita


Composing Soundscapes for Social Integration: Psychogeography of Bhutanese Refugee Elders in Worcester, Massachusetts

Advised by Gareth Doherty

Sound can transcend the boundaries of time and space. This thesis leverages the potential of sound to capture a sense of place and reinterpret space by transplanting it to new environments. Working with the Bhutanese refugees of Worcester, Massachusetts, this thesis explores how soundscapes of home can be used to address the social isolation of refugees in resettlement communities. Even within progressive communities, host residents can be indifferent to refugees even though they share the same space. By facilitating social integration and community well-being, this work seeks to move places from multicultural to intercultural societies where social interactions among people from different backgrounds move beyond mere coexistence. Interviews and observations are compiled to gain insights into how refugee elders navigate the resettlement environment. Soundscape compositions that demonstrate their psychogeographical understanding of resettlement experiences are produced based on the sounds collected from places elders spend most of their time, such as living rooms, kitchens, gardens, and craft spaces. By introducing the composition and a notation in new environments, boundaries between refugees and nonrefugees are physically and mentally blurred, culminating with the proposed design intervention.

An outline map of the United States, a small shape to mark Nepal, and Bhutan, and a line drawing of a three-story porched house lie behind an open slice of red chli pepper. Labels for items on the image include: Bhutan,” “Nepal,” “USA,” “Refugee’s house,” and “Sound of crushing chili peppers”. Images of red chili peppers, pieces, paste, seeds, and reddish stains pepper the background

Line drawing of a three-story residential house that is color coded to show different locations or sound types, including: Living room, Kitchen, Craft Space, Garden, Digital devices, Rituals, and Chanting. At the bottom are outlines of the USA , Bhutan, and Nepal.
This video is the graphic notation of my soundscape composition. It represents Bhutanese refugee elders’ resettlement experiences. The sounds were collected through field recording and carefully laid out to illustrate how refugees create a sense of place.

Diagram about Psychogeography and Soundscape which references ideas of “strategies for soundscape composition” and “soundscape composition as a tool for social change.”
The thesis developed a new methodology or concept for soundscape by incorporating the field of psychogeography. The image shows the big picture of the method. This research utilizes the idea of psychogeography as a way to re-imagine space by exploring how space is connected to the past, future, and different places psychologically.