Listening to Urban Space 2019

Exploring how aural portraits of urban spaces are perceived, altered, interpreted through the listening process, this paper draws on the discourse between sound and body through the space/time rhythm of urban spaces. In 2017, sound recordings were made at seven everyday sites - café, church, market, station, public transport, high street and shopping centre, in four cities which were, in order of visiting, Leicester, UK; Athens, Greece; Saskatoon, Canada and Cagliari, Sardinia in a methodology that included making alien sound interventions in the field and layering recordings in the studio. 

This set of recordings, Urban Flows and Non Flows, form the basis of this paper which focuses on the act of listening, both for artist and  subsequent listener. Digital media enables us to listen to sound in our own private spaces, both alone and in public. This brings forth the question of does this create a different listening experience from a shared listening and does this affect its potential meaning? This has an impact on how urban space is heard in the first instance and in later hearings from recordings. The original sites were sites of sonic exchange where one’s own presence (due to recording method) is immanent. Does this mean that subsequent listeners of recordings becomes participants and have to reconcile their presence within that hearing or accept that it is inherent within it? Does the territoriality that the original soundscape itself creates be said to be reproduced in the listening process? This practice-led research which takes an artist perspective and draws on a wide-ranging set of influences such as Henri Lefebvre, Murray Schafer, Cláudia Martinho, Brendan LaBelle and Pauline Oliveros. 

Presented at EVA conference, London 2019