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The Sounds of Cities: Three Aural Vignettes

Monocle's The Urbanist podcast explores urban acoustic ecology to unveil the sonic signature of the coronavirus pandemic, the Greek island of Corfu, and Vienna streetscapes.
August 25, 2020, 12pm PDT | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Close your eyes and listen to a city street. 

Depending on the setting, you may hear a lush acoustic environment or the everpresent lulling hum of resting infrastructure. Each city soundscape is a unique, capricious aural footprint.

A recent episode of Monocle's The Urbanist podcast looks at soundscapes in the built environment, exploring what there is to learn from the sounds of cities.

John Levack Drever, professor of acoustic ecology and sound art at Goldsmiths, University of London, is interested in drawing insight from city soundscapes and understanding the effects of urban sound on living beings both inside and outside of cities. Drever considers acoustic ecology and the study of soundscapes to be more holistic than the study of acoustics, allowing for a more qualitative understanding of sounds and sound-makers.  

"Disciplines like acoustics are very focused on sound pressure levels and issues of noise. Acoustic ecology is interested in the quality of sounds, what they mean, all the sounds in a space, and also the hearers—all the people who are listening and sound-making," explains Drever.

Listen to the podcast to hear a series of recordings from the same location in London's Beauchamp Place from 1928 as well as before and after the coronavirus lockdown. Also featured are sounds from Erimitis on the Greek island of Corfu, "a 500 acre biodiverse spot of land with its own sound identity," and Vienna's shifting soundscape.

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Published on Thursday, August 20, 2020 in Monocle/The Urbanist
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