our words make worlds

Urban Soundscapes

Title: Urban Soundscapes, Memory and Language 
Session type: Workshop
Convenors: Paul Kendall, University of Westminster; Daniel Tomozeiu, University of Westminster

Our research project explores how memories emerge during the act of listening to recordings of urban soundscapes, and how these memories are translated across languages.  
The modern city inhabitant is surrounded by a dense and shifting network of auditory stimuli. Although often unacknowledged in both everyday life and mainstream academic research, this aural environment has received extensive attention from a cross-disciplinary sound studies literature, which has examined how the intensities, frequencies, timbres, and rhythms of everyday urban sounds shape–and are shaped by–contemporary cities and their inhabitants. A historical dimension has also been added to this body of literature by scholars conducting archival research on soundscapes of the past. However, there have been few attempts to link contemporary and historical soundscapes, that is, to examine how exposure to a certain sound in the present may bring forth memories of a past encounter with a similar sound.
Since 2016, we have been surveying undergraduate students at the University of Westminster in order to explores how this diverse cohort responds to recordings of urban soundscapes, with a focus on how sounds elicit memories, and how these memories are translated across languages. To date, we have gathered over fifty sets of responses to recording of ten different urban soundscapes, with participants providing their responses in both English and their first language. 
For our workshop, conference participants were asked to respond in survey form to three short recordings of urban soundscapes. This was  followed by an open session exploring the emotions and memories that have emerged during the act of listening, as well as ways in which these emotions and memories vary across languages.