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Sounds of the City

Year: 2012
Authors: Aonghus Mcevoy, Matilde Meireles, Pedro Rebelo and Rui Chaves
“Sounds of the City” was a large-scale community project and exhibition commissioned by the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) and led by artists from the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC), Queen’s University Belfast. Over a four-month period, the artists worked together with two intergenerational groups in Belfast with the aim of addressing specific sound qualities of places, events and stories. Themes that surfaced from this process constitute the basis for the exhibition which promotes listening as a form of intersecting daily life, identity and memory.

The Walk Home
The sound of footsteps made by thousands of shipyard workers returning home evokes memories of Belfast’s industrial heritage. As the visitor entred the exhibition room, the sound of own footsteps becomes part of that iconic aspect of Belfast’s aural identity. The basis for this section of the exhibition was provided through interviews with elderly members of both communities, while younger participants reconstructed some of the audio material presented here.

Work / Home / Play
Hear the sound of Belfast through voices that describe personal experiences of work, home and play. Talking about sound reveals fragments of memories and histories filtered by personal experience and community life, bringing together personal experiences and common themes which emerged from the process. This was presented through a mixed media installation incorporating text and multichannel sound. Sound and text came together to display a wide range of experiences, from public to private, past to present.

Call for Work
The sounds of factory horns marked the life of workers in the numerous mills, factories and shipyards that dominated Belfast’s industry. As a ubiquitous element of Belfast’s soundscape, these sounds were a daily cue for the lives of communities across the city.

The horns were re-created in this exhibition and could be heard as a marking of time that resonates throughout the building. Elderly members of both communities, through interviews and listening exercises, guided the identification and reconstruction of this sound experience. This sound memory was common to all participants interviewed about Belfast city’s past; a defining soundmark of that time.

Five Places
The experience of place through sound engages communities in identifying locations that shape their everyday life. This led to an aural exploration in which the recording process reframed what a site means to an individual.

This was articulated in the exhibition through personal accounts, sound recordings and photography. Participants were invited to write and make audio recordings in order to supply material for this installation. The artists documented why participants chose each place, the experience of being and recording there, and gave a sense of the importance of each place to both the individual and their community.

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