Urban sound and the politics of memory

Beirut Networking and Exchange Visit

Can the past be heard in the acoustic ecology of a city? Do the echoes of the past resonate within musical culture, sonic art, and the sounds of public life in streets and buildings? If so, how do practitioners process memory by reshaping the sounds of the city into new forms?

During this week long visit we facilitated opportunities for exchange between practitioners and researchers from Lebanon and the UK, to share understanding of the ways sound art imagines and is shaped by histories inscribed into the fabric of the city. We assembled a small group of musicians, sound artists, urbanists, architects and scholars that worked together to exchange knowledge and practice through a series of activities over 3 days.


Listening Party: Participants were invited to bring a piece of music or sound art (their own or otherwise) that in some way makes the city’s past events, conditions, or experiences audible. We shared these throughout the evening as we got to know one another and discuss the issues they raised.


Works-in-progress: In order to understand more about each other’s practices, we asked participants to introduce an unfinished work in 5 minutes (musical, architectural, written, or otherwise) or an unanswered question in their practice. After all the introductions we discussed shared issues and potential links.

Reading Group: In advance of the workshop, everyone was invited to share a short excerpt of text addressing questions about sound and memory, and the politics of hearing (or silencing) in relation to the city. We produced a reader of texts which was the basis for a critical discussion about the ways that memory shapes both the sounds and the spaces of the city.

24/04 /2018

Working Group: Is it possible to find sonic traces of what has marked the city, or become absent? Bearing in mind all that has been seen, heard, and discussed so far, we individually explored the streets around Mansion. Paying attention to methods, politics, and aesthetics of recording, we then brought back sonic material to share and discuss.