Tag Archive: Cities and Memory

Cities and Memory explores Dante’s Inferno

This image from the Metropolitan Museum is in the public domain

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Artists depicted the plague in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in both paintings and literature. Pieter Breugel The Elder’s The Triumph of Death is one example, and Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron is another.

The year 2020 has been a hellish year, even for those who have remained healthy, haven’t lost a loved one to COVID-19, and have been able to work from home while watching the stock market rise. But for far too many Americans, there were empty places at the Thanksgiving table, they haven’t been able to work from home if they still have a job, and they don’t own assets. No person is an island, and even if one is healthy and financially secure, one can’t travel, can’t go to a movie or a restaurant or the theater, and much of the enjoyment in life is gone.

To mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Cities and Memory asked, “What could be a more appropriate project to end 2020 than creating the sounds of Hell itself?” They asked more than 80 artists from all over the world to bring Dante’s vision of Hell to life through sound.

The interactive map of Dante’s Hell with carefully created sounds is well worth spending at least a few minutes on.

I enjoyed it, and I hope you do, too.

And I think everyone will join me in hoping for a better year in 2021.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

The sound of cities before and during the pandemic

Photo credit: Jonathan licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Stuart Fowkes, a UK based artist, has been mapping out the sounds of cities since 2014. I would guess that he never imagined that a worldwide pandemic would provide him with the opportunity to hear “lost” sounds in a city that had been overtaken by increasing noise pollution. He comments about the return of the sounds of birds, insects, and other sounds of nature. His recordings of sounds during the past six years from cities around the world has resulted in a map featuring a wide variety of sounds. His recording project titled “Future Cities” features the sounds of several years ago but now includes the sounds during the pandemic.

In writing about the sounds of cities, Fowkes recognizes that the increased traffic and noise from construction sites, as well as the activities associated with tall buildings, has resulted in environmental stress which can adversely affect health. Furthermore, according to Fowkes, noise has also drowned out certain sounds that defined specific cities. For example, the sounds of the bells ringing at Westerkerk church in Amsterdam at one time played an important role in helping “people mark out kind of where they need to be at any given time.” He fears that these sounds that characterized specific cities will be lost after the pandemic passes.

Fowkes hopes that his project will bring attention to the important role auditory elements play in defining cities and as a result lead to noise reduction becoming a significant goal in future urban policy decisions. With noise having drowned out sounds that at one time were identified with specific cities, I wonder how many people can remember what these sounds were.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

How to occupy your time while self-isolating

Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cities and Memory, a global, collaborative sound project, has launched an intriguing project that will record sounds from the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled #StayHomeSounds:

We’re inviting anyone around the world to send us a sound recording from wherever YOU are, and tell us a little about how things are wherever you live. 

We’ll publish the results on a global sound map, so we can all share a little of our world as we go through these strange and unsettling times.

If you would like to participate, click on the second or third links above to learn more about the project and how you can become involved.

Cities and Memory launches NYC sound map

Photo credit: Lukas Kloeppel from Pexels

Cities and Memory has launched an interactive New York Sound Map. The map is sprinkled with markers that provide the original New York City sound recording for each site “accompanied by a reimagined version, in which an artist has remixed and recomposed the original recording to present a new perspective on the city.” Be prepared to spend some time wandering around the city.

Cities and Memory also offers sonic tourism guides to a dozen cities, including New York City.  Be sure to bookmark the site and sign up for their mailing list so you can be the first to learn about future projects.

Enjoy the natural world in sound

Cities and Memory has launched another fabulous project. This time they explore the natural world in Sounding Nature, “the biggest ever global exploration of the beautiful sounds of nature.” Artists from around the globe have reimagined 500 sounds from 55 countries.

Click the second link to listen to the captured natural sounds and the reimagined sounds they inspired.

Visit any place on Earth from your desktop

and listen to local sounds.  Thomas McMullan, Alphr.com interviews Stuart Fowkes, the founder of Cities and Memory, “a sound recording project with global ambitions.” What will you find at the Cities and Memory site? McMullan writes that:

[Y]ou’ll find a map, busy with pins. They cover Tokyo, Paris, LA, London, Oslo, Hawaii, Havana and hundreds of other locations. Click on one of these pointers, any of these pointers, and you’ll find two sounds: “city” and “memory”.

Fowkes notes that every place has two sounds.  One, City, is a field recording of a time and place, while the other, Memory, takes the field recording and “creates something new, according to the artistic response, memory, and reaction of whoever is creating the recomposed or reimagined sound.”

It’s a fascinating site and project, and is well worth a visit.