Sounding the City


Sounding the City is a two part event taking place in Bristol, and funded by the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC). The project comprises a field recording workshop and resulting exhibition at The Edwardian Cloakroom, both events seek to address the diverse sensory experiences of urban walks, and offer some provocations about the role of different mediums in their attempts to document these.

Given recent developments which have emerged in curating sound and sound art across a diverse range of artistic and academic fields, ‘Sounding the City’ seeks to explore issues of developing, experiencing and curating sound art, whilst hoping to facilitate a broader discussion about the role of experimental and artistic methodologies more broadly, as well as the process of mediating these.

You can follow the progress of Sounding the City below, or please get in touch with any questions:

The Workshop


On June 24th the first part of Sounding the City was held at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol. The eight collaborators brought an exciting range of skill sets,  a profile about each of them and their work is provided below.

We spent the morning of the workshop discussing different ‘Ways of Sounding’, looking at examples from art, music and academia, as well as each of our own approaches to, or interest in, sonic fields. One interesting point of discussion was about the ethics of material engagement and editing, through which we questioned the expectation for a ‘truth’ in the work we present as artists or researchers. We also considered how our hearing and sonic associations are conditioned in certain ways – did you know frogs rarely go, ‘ribbit’ outside of Hollywood!

In the afternoon we walked through central parts of Bristol, whilst using the Zoom H4N to record different sounds encountered on route.  Some other interesting tools for field recording were also brought along to the session, including a pair of binaural microphones – often used to record audio walks because of the uncanny resemblance to human hearing they produce when listened back through headphones, as well as a folding, polyester laundry basket which provided a unique and effective wind shield – although not the most discrete.


Sara Bowler, artist. The sonic world around us is often overlooked, intruding as noise, or inaudible above the general cacophony of modern life. Yet sound conjures memories and feelings as powerfully as any smell or visual stimulus. I am a visual artist working with found, spoken and sung sound in the creation of audio tours and soundscapes, reflecting and referencing the history of selected locations; I am interested in how the past continues to manifest in the present. The material composition, physical structures and uses of place are distinctive and unique, creating auditory fingerprints.  Fabricating experiential environments through sound enables me to provoke participants’ memories and imaginations, carrying them into different worlds where the visual is not the dominant sense. Working with Nina and the participants of the Sounding the City workshop has generated an auditory landscape reflecting a particular day in the life of Bristol, a day that can be revisited indefinitely through aural media.

Kris Darby is a Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in Drama at Liverpool Hope University who is interested in the relationship between walking and performance. His work with sound is principally through binaural technologies, seeking to give a set of ears to the city and to record what it hears. He is a member of the AHRC funded Walking Artists Network, as well as its research group, Footwork. He is also on the board of directors for C&T Applied Theatre Company, based at the University of Worcester.’

Katherine Jones MA, MSc is a Research Associate on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Towards Hydrocitizenship project ( The project aims to use Participatory Action Research methods and artistic and cultural interventions to engage with how people imagine and practice their relationships with water in the city of Bristol. She loves walking along the river Frome and has developed an interest in recording sound clips along her walks to capture the experience in new sensory ways.

Mikyoung Jun Pearce, visual and performance artist.

Sophia Maalsen is a post-doctoral researcher on the ERC funded the Programmable City project, exploring how discourses of city practices are translated into code. She is interested in the interaction between the human and nonhuman and the way they shape cities, and is also interested in geographies of music and sound. As part of her research she wishes to combine both visual and auditory analyses of cities to understand how the sensory experience of cities are regulated by city governance and thus understand how the ‘smart city’ is manifest visually and aurally.

Dave Morgan-Davies is a Bristol-based artist working to challenge our perception of landscape through photography and film. Captured with a ‘less is more’ approach that hints at human activity; it invites contemplation. Dave describes this as ‘quiet photography’; an approach that is slow, thoughtful and considered. Regardless of climate or time or day the work expresses a connection to his surroundings; to get lost in its vastness and yet see the detail; exploring the margins between what is and isn’t there. Dave’s work deliberately contains no figurative element; yet hints at human activity.

Chloe Scholefield works with communities to capture memories of past landscapes. Working with disused outdoor spaces to curate and create exhibitions, new happenings and artist interventions, these landscapes are bought back to life, acknowledging what they were and what they might become. Chloe uses archived material and personal histories with the aim of inspiring today’s creativity and regeneration.
Through her work Chloe questions such things as;
How do landscape and memory begin to inter react?
What does a sense of place mean?
Is landscape a cultural object?
Why and how do we curate the landscape?
What part do decay, deterioration and regeneration play within our landscapes in society and culture?

Rachel Turner, design consultant.   I moved to Bristol earlier this year to join the design and innovation company Wood for Trees.  While ethnographic research and storytelling are often part of my day job, this is usually through photography, text and moving image.  Working with Nina and Sounding the City crew has given me a chance to explore the interaction between people, objects and spaces through audio, and discover what an evocative medium sound can be.   It’s been a fantastic opportunity to get to know beautiful Bristol a little better, too.


The Exhibition

I was delighted with how the Sounding the City exhibition went, in just a few hours and with some invaluable helpers, the Edwardian Cloakroom became immersed with the sounds of the city outside. The result of transmitting the collective listening experience of the workshop produced a cacophony of sound, but it also, I feel, provoked the senses. And as I gather from some of the feedback, generated both an uneasy and at once harmonic reverie of Bristol. It was also wonderful to house the work in a visually and acoustically unique space, but one that provides much intrigue, whether used for creative purposes or not. See below for some sounds and images from the exhibition.

In the gentlemen’s cloakroom five speakers emitted different aspects of Bristol’s soundscape, and yet the audio recordings escaped into and modified their new location, creating a new soundscape altogether. Maps were presented to reflect the dogmatic nature of many forms of representation, whilst the photographs were chosen to highlight some of the more transient aspects of the cityscape.





The ladies’ side of The Edwardian Cloakroom included artefacts, which documented the ‘Sounding the city’ workshop. The three toilet cubicles contained photographs and audio recordings of encounters in some of the locations visited during the workshop. The powder room presented a selection of mid 20th century maps and aerial photographs depicting regions of the city, from Bristol University’s geographical sciences collection.



SONY DSCThank you so much to all involved and to those who came along.

2 thoughts on “Sounding the City

  1. Pingback: Sounding The City | acuriouscollector

  2. Pingback: Qualitative research at WOMAD | Bristol Society and Space

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