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The project that lets you explore cities by sound
Posted on 15/03/2017

CultureThe Netherlands

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Ever wanted to know what a city feels like before you arrive? Soundcities is an online database which allows you to explore some of the world's most visited urban spaces using your sense of sound, rather than your vision.

Exploring cities by ear

Exploring cities by ear
Setsiri Silapasuwanchai/123RF

Appearances can be deceiving, so the old saying goes. Which is why one artist wants you to use your hearing rather than your vision to discover a new city before you arrive. Online database Soundcities was created over a decade ago by artist Stanza, compiling thousands of sounds to create 'soundmaps' for cities all over the world.

You can search via a world map, by city, and even by mood, to delve deeper into the atmosphere of well over 100 urban centres. A search for Shanghai, for example, will bring up a city map filled with subway announcements, high speed trains and industrial hums, whilst Amsterdam flags up flowing canal water, passing trams and guitar playing.

"Cities all have specific identities, and found sound can give us clues to the people that inhabit these spaces, as well as provoking us and stimulating our senses in a musical way," says Stanza on his website. " I am interested in the sounds of specific places, and how the sounds reflect this identity and re-imposes characteristics back onto the location or environment."

Stanza began collecting sounds for his project back in 1995, later coming up with the term 'soundmaps' to describe the interactive city maps he was creating. The idea is that sound evokes more powerful memories than sight, and so listening to the sounds of a city's various locations can give you a far better idea of its atmosphere than photos.

"Soundcities involves field recording literally the sounds we hear as we walk out of the door," he explains. "Not just as noise (data) or as noise pollution but also as an appreciation of sound and how this not only affects the space but is the space."

He finally launched Soundcities.com in 2000 and has since opened the platform up to outside contributions, allowing people to post sounds from all over the world.

Stanza's project is available for exhibition, workshops and live performances by request, as well as just listening for your own pleasure.

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