ArticlesDatacide 12Datacide Issues



Why Bologna and not Berlin? Because it’s a shithole ( with interesting echo and resonance effects, thanks to the widespread arcades ). The sonic psychogeography feeds itself on mediality: the life of an average European city, of an average population, of average size; an average advanced tertiary sector, with average infrastructures; average levels of ethnic integration; and an average forecast of socio-economic development. The sound of a „tiro“ ( electric doorbell opener ) [*2] at 16:35, on May 23rd, 2011, at Santa Viola district, just past Maggiore Hospital, on the right, Drzzz Drzzz! The sound of a remote controlled opening system in Prague, on May 23rd, 1922 „Please take a seat, I understand your repeated requests to talk to an experienced professional, Doctor Kafka has indeed been at the services of the „Insurance Institute Against Work Injuries for the Bohemian Reign“ for at least 15 years, and in fact, after a brief experience at the General Insurance, he joined our company, occupying that small office at the end of the corridor. Doctor Kafka says it’s the only one in the building from which you can’t hear the noises coming from the street“. Why Bologna and not Barcelona? Because the sonic mapping doesn’t need any artistic community elaborating other systems and models of coexistence, the daily course of urban noise refrains from them, just as Franz Kafka the insurer does. The stimulus of daily routine, of banality, of averageness, there’s no need for the hype of New York, Frisco and so on, psychogeography operates just outside of Mazzini street. It doesn’t necessarily seek originality, the specific acoustic resonance of a certain territory is not a sine qua non, and it’s not about recording the echo of the Himalayas during the autumn solstice from 3.000 metres above, nor has it anything to do with art, but just with mapping and documentation. We therefore do not put under our lenses the metropolis, not a sprawl, but an average city, comfortably within our observation slide, and hence the research will maybe come to some conclusions which will then be at the grounds of the beginning of a further research, and so on. Why Bologna and not L.A.?


Right at the awakening of the ‘900s, 1913, probably the deepest intuition of the sonic potential of the urban centre took place. A composition defined as „a spiral of noise“, whose original score for intonarumori and rumorarmonio has been lost: various intonarumori together, lead by keyboards and pedals similar to harmoniums. The futuristic homage to the industrial city, to the speed of its times, to the frenziness of movements to which it forces its inhabitants, to the deafening noise of the factories, all condensed into a composition of 3 minutes and 58 seconds, amid the rollings of assembly plants, moaning sirens, combustion engines, chainsaws and assorted sounds of springs, even soundscapes sounding somehow watery (could it be a mechanical port?). The sound is cast towards the future, as stated in the title itself, photographing the moment of departing, the commencement of the working day, the „industrial breakfast“ of the city at the beginning of the century, the same intention traced by the Floyds after more than 50 years, with a much more relaxed menu, in „Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast“. The importance of Russolo and of his seminal for the history of mankind „L’Arte dei Rumori“ („The Art of Noises“), is without precedent. The text is the ultimate expression about noise of all time, and that is how it will always be, in so far as it is pointless to write others, beginning with this one, which should terminate HERE. (And everyone should be looking up the endless bibliography about „The Art of Noises“, yes, with the Anglophone title since most importantly it is edited by the University of… here and there in almost all of the most prestigious Departments in the US and almost entirely unknown in Italy, just as all the best things of „il Belpaese“ (Italy), land of immense unconsidered cultural treasures). Then, exactly 41 years after….


“It is very difficult to explain how and why it happens. It is also very difficult to surprise it, to discover it. I’m obviously yanking about that minute, or that hour, or that second, it doesn’t really matter, in which at every single new awakening in the morning the city finds itself entirely, suddenly and with surprise, covered by silence.“ With these words „Portait of a City“ opens, the narrative, the radio spectacle which intends to give back the awakening of the early light of dawn to Milan, where the action, the figurative aspect, is received through Roberto Leydi’s text. You who listens, try to imagine yourself watching all of these images on a television screen, in black and white perhaps: deserted streets at dawn, canals, courtyards, solitary peripheral osterie (pubs), fog, offices, the business world, the one of nightly desires, everything, as in 1972, Angelo Paccagnini writes, „inside the snorting and bristly electro-concrete score of Berio and Maderna it becomes clear“. More exactly gifted with a meaning, even without any need for onomatopoeic recalls, which are never lacking anyway: the uproar of a morning tram, the nightly mews of cats on the roofs and so on. Created with whatever was available inside Rai’s Milan studios, the piece belongs the to early days of the Phonology Studio which would be conceived only a year after. „Portrait of a City“ is the acoustic portrait of the Milan of 1954 which, together with Pais and Cologne, constituted the most vital stronghold of the new music. By the use of a groundbreaking sonorization utilizing concrete and electronic sounds, a prepared piano, fragments of album recordings and Cathy Berberian’s voice, „Portrait of a City“ contributed to the widening of radio’s sonic horizon and represented a meaningful example of the passage from the radio-drama world to the new world of electronic music. Despite the participation in the 1955’s Prix Italy, the work was presented only as an experimental piece outside of the competition. The main aim was to show Rai’s highranks the possibilities of the usage of technology within radio. From that moment the history of Milan’s Phonology Studio begins. „Portrait of a City“, sonic comment by Lucian Berio and Bruno Maderna, the voice of Nando Gazzolo and Ottavio Fanfani.


“Milan doesn’t sound like Tokyo or New York, nor does Lagos or Shanghai. It doesn’t even sound like London, Dublin or Barcelona: a short visit, a stroll or even just a taxi or bus ride through these cities, is enough to understand that. Some differences are quite and immediately clear: the acoustic signals used by each town to regulate itself and communicate, such as the sirens of emergency and police vehicles, the crosswalks device beeping at the traffic lights, the electronic advertisment, the audio signals on the public transport. Likewise, each town is distinguished by peculiar sounds reverberating from some of its particular and unique places. In Tokyo and in many Japanese cities it could be the streets ringing from millions of steel marbles roaring in the Patchinko halls, punctuated by the automatic doors opening and closing; in Italy, even in Milan and despite the traffic noise, it could be for instance the constant and loud bawling of women in streets markets, drowned only by the pedlars’ shout. In Shanghai it could be the sound of the cricket markets, which you can still come across in the older districts, withstanding the forced acceleration of the urban development, far from tourists and businessmen routes; in Lagos, it’s the low and constant chaos of voices, yells and music of street trade, which you definitely can’t mistake for a street or a cricket market“. „It is however much more difficult to become aware of other differences; maybe of the firm low traffic noise, which is anyway everywhere to be found, which does have its own intensity, but also a tone and rhythm diverse from city to city (depending on the different traffic density? On the different rhythm of its flow? Different car fleets?); likewise, there must be something different in the hum of people talking in the streets, in the different composition of language overlapping which constitutes that mélange, shouted or barely whispered depending on the situation“. „On the other hand, if we’d just listen a little more carefully, we’d notice that even Milan itself doesn’t sound all the same: there’s a difference between the centre, between the porches surrounding the Duomo and its wide square and the small towns that constitute its peripeheral belt and are currently being absorbed in the urban fabric- how will their sound change when they’ll be part of the conurbation? The shopping streets sound different from the nightlife and entertainment functionally specialized districts, from the town logistics junctions, from the business districts. Each of these sonic environments is linked to the others that surround it in a most particular way: sometimes you can hear them cross-fading into each other, some othe time it’s enough to take a sideway street to experience a sharp change in the sound landscape“. [*3]


“Asger, over, the wind is now blowing really strong here in Stedlike plaza, out“.

“I know, Constant, we had expected a rising of the northern wind towards the Baltic in the night, right at the centre, moving to Dredike are, where we are adrift, out“.

“Over, we are proceeding at measured pace with eyes slightly tilted up, out“.

“The perception of space is actually more unitary, isn’t it? A significative growth in attention to detail, out“.

“Over Mr. Jorn, indeed at the centre of the field of view the architecture, the road levee left at the lower edge of sight, we proceed strained as if it were the first time we came across these urban spaces, out“.

“Ok, keep following the signal, and not what you know of the city, but what you see and hear, out“.

“Over, we’re following the tinkling of what seemed to be a domestic animal collar. We’ve arrived here from Marionetten Theater at the Waag’s, right behind Neuw Markt, Oude Zijde quarters, out“.

“Constant, we’ve stopped in front of Centraal Station, muffled, waiting for the wind blow to strike on us. Let me hear that tinkling sound through walkie-talkie, out“.

“Over, DRING DRING DRING hey, the gust has resumed, we’re taking Zeedjk straight ahead. Rattled as it is now you should be able to hear the collar loud and clear DRING DRING DRING, we’re stepping up pace to follow it passing through Mollenstrasse, next is Vredenburgerstrasse, out“.

“I can hear it clearly, the wind has come here as well, we’re lining up in hexagonal formation, hair spiked from the storm, the tinkling is coming through the walkie-talkie, a sonic madeleine bringing me back to my Danish childhood in the Vejrum village, in Jutland’s North-Eastern edge, it sounds like the main church bell, around which a whole day, from waking to slumber, would be centered, an acoustic calendar marking each festivity, births, deaths, weddings, fires, revolts, and sonically defining the community in an extremely concrete way…“.

“Over Asger, you mean the Christian community you hated, your fundamentalist father’s one? Out“.

“My father’s death when I was the age of 12, my first admission to the sanatorium on the West coast of Jutland, the events marked by that centripetal sound, drawing to itself and socially unifying the community, establishing a bond between man and that God I hate, out“.

“Over DRIN DRIN DRIN in the meantime we left Warmoestrasse crossing and in fact, here we are in front of St. Nicholas Kerk bell tower, speaking of sonic monolithic impressions laying their mark on an entire community (in this case, the Amsterdamian one), out“.

“Yes Constant, consecrated noise: since the ancient times, intense sounds have inspired fear and respect and have appeared as an expression of the divine power. This power has passed from natural sounds (thunder, eruptions, tempests) to the noises produced by the church bell and the pipe-organ, the religious noise in short. The parish too had its own acoustic dimension, and it was defined by the range of its own bells. The parish would finish where its bells would not be heard. Even today we call Cockneydom that area in East-London where St. Mary Le Bow’s bells ( the Bow Bells ) are within earshot. The practice of this community-defining system is to be found int the East as well. In the Middle East in fact, it is the area in which the muezzin’s voice, when calling to prayer from the high minaret, is audible…“.

“Over, but besides religion, Plato too in its Republic model… had specifically fixed the dimension of the ideal community to 5040 people, that is the auditorium which a single orator could conveniently address (this and the one before are quotes from Schafer pg. 298 ). Sure, there are plenty of examples of the creation of a community through sound, other than religion, the factory’s siren for example…“.

“Over, the increasingly strong wind is beating the bells’ clapper towards Amstel river DRIN DRIN, out“.

“We are exactly on the other side where there’s the sign with historical information about the river, Amstel, from the old Dutch term „acme stele“, which means the area abundant with water, out“.

“Over. We passed the brewery, which produces the traditional Amstel beer, made with the river’s water, we are now on the river bridge DRINNNNNNNNNNNNNN, out“.

“We’ll meet you on the right side of the bridge, leaving behind Centraal Station, out“.

“Over, the wind is getting stronger and stronger at your direction, we’re running like idiots after that tinkle, out“.

“Now I see you far from the other side of the bridge, we’re starting to run too, out, against the Northern wind blowing, it’s not easy, out“.

“Over, DRIN DRIN DRIN now we see you too, out“. „DRIN DRIN the tinkling is either via walkie-talkie or the real sound, I’m panting running, out“.

>Over, it’s the real sound DRRRRRRRRRRRIN out“.

“I hear it now, out“.

“Over, noooooo the tinkle has hit a lamppost, out, diverting trajectory towards…“.

“I can no longer hear any sound, out“.


“Over Asger, it ended in the water, out“.


“Where early modern technologies extended and amplified the powers of ear and eye, contemporary technologies offer the prospect of sensory recombination and transformation as well. The digitalization and consequent universal convertibility of information may make the synestesias dreamt of by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a common actuality, creating new aggregations of the visual, auditory, haptic, and olfactory senses”. [*4]

“In 99.9% of cases, criticism of cyberculture has complained about the de-embodiment of the human at the hands of technology. But machines do not create distance from emotions, it is in fact quite the opposite! Audio technologies allow you to feel with a stronger intensity, along an emotional spectrum wider than it was possible in the 20th century. From a sonic point of view, the post-human age is not that of the de-embodiement, but that of its opposite: that of the hypercorporalization throughout the….”. [*5] Zoom HD audio recorder! The audio equivalent to a digital photocamera „frame and shoot“. „The H2 is an incredibly strong and easy-to-use device: a button to record, the gain control on the side and an extremely intuitive user display, allows you to record anytime you want. Set levels and push rec: that’s all it takes! The Auto Start and Auto Gain functions allow accurate recordings at the right level. In case you’d need to quickly set the levels, this has been made simple thanks to the gain control buttons on the front panel. It is also possible to re-listen to your recordings on your home stereo system through the 1/8“ stereo output or through the headphones output. Through H2’s USB output you can move your recordings directly on your PC or Mac to listen, modify or share them. The H2 weights only 90 grams and is easy to carry in your pocket. 2 standard AA alkaline batteries offer 4 hours of uninterrupted use and the back-lit display guarantees usage in every environment.


The microphone pattern W-XY with 4 microphonic capsules and signal processing allows frontal 90° cardioid recordings, 120° back cardioid, and at 360°.

Integrated USB 2.0 interface to save data and audio interface.

Recordings in 16-bit or 24-bit WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz, 320kbps MP3 and in VBR format.

Time Stamp function and Track Marker in Broadcast WAV (BWF) format.

512 MB SD card included.

Able to handle SD cards up to 4GB.

Auto Start function makes recording always ready.

Low-cut filter to eliminate wind noise.

Integrated chromatic tuner for both guitar and bass.

H2 Handy Recorder: Controls and Functions”. [*6]


The process of „sonic sprawling“, meaning that of a hyperexponential multiplication of acousmatic sources derived from the Industrial Revolution onwards, has dramatically mutated and complicated the sonic landscape and its traditional perception. Nature’s Hi-Fi, without any psychoacoustic mastering, had almost been wiped out by the ceaseless Lo-Fi noise of the assembly line before, and then by the „tentacular cable broadcast 24/7“ of the: city > metropolis > megalopolis ( in rigorous order of urban development ). This socio-anthropologic mutation of the acoustic sphere, this overabundance of sounds in the contemporary world, has made a new grammar necessary, a new language able to describe or just name the new U.A.O. (Unidentified Audio Objects), the audio happenings overlooking our days and our nights in the post-urbanoid sprawl. Fallen to a stage of sonic pre-puberty, like children of an asylum of elementary frequencies (20-20.000 hertz), we sit at our wooden desks, our bobs well combed, in our sweet school uniforms, and listen to a hoary Mr Raymond, our teacher, in his late 70s, standing at the blackboard. To be more precise, this is Raymond Murray Schafer, from Canada, who since 1977 [year of the release of the seminal „The Tuning Of The World (The Soundscape)“, then just reedited as „The Soundscape“ in 1994] has been drawing in color chalk on the blackboard (the one for important things!) the following, in no alphabetical order, concepts, at the intersection between the acoustics of sound, sociology, environmentalism, musicology and literature:

KEYNOTE SOUND: In music, keynote identifies the key or tonality of a particular composition. It provides the fundamental tone around which the composition may modulate but from which other tonalities take on a special relationship. In soundscape studies, keynote sounds are those which are heard by a particular society continuously or frequently enough to form a background against which other sounds are perceived. Examples might be the sounds of the sea for a maritime community or the sound of internal combustion engine in the modern city. Often keynote sounds are not consciously perceived, but they act as conditioning agents in the perception of the other sound signals. They have accordingly been likened to the ground in the figure-ground grouping of visual perception.

SACRED NOISE: Any prodigious sound (noise) which is exempt from social proscription. Originally Sacred Noise referred to natural phenomena such as thunder, volcanic eruptions, storms, etc., as these were believed to represent divine combats or divine displeasure with man. By analogy the expression may be extended to social noises which, at least during certain periods, have escaped the attention of noise abatement legislators, e.g., church bells, industrial noise, amplified pop music, etc.

SCHIZOPHONIA: (Greek: schizo = split and phone = voice, sounds): I first employed this term in “The New Soundscape” to refer to the split between an original sound and its electroacoustic reproduction. Original sounds are tied to the mechanisms that produce them. Electroacoustically reproduced sounds are copies and they may be restated at other times or places. I employ this “nervous” word in order to dramatize the aberrational effect of this twentieth –century development.

SOUND EVENT: Dictionary definition of event: „Something that occurs in a certain place during a particular interval of time“. This suggests that the event is not abstractable from the time-and-space continuum which gives its definition. The sound event, like the SOUND OBJECT, is defined by the human ear as the smallest self-contained particle of a SOUNDSCAPE. It differs from the sound object in that the latter is an abstract acoustical object for study, while the sound event is a symbolic, semantic or structural object for study, and is therefore a nonabstractable point of reference, related to a whole greater magnitude than itself.

SOUNDMARK: The term is derived from landmark to refer to a community sound which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded or noticed by the people in that community. [*7]

SOUND OBJECT: Pierre Schaeffer, the inventor of this term (“l’object sonore”), describes it as an acoustical “object for human perception and not a mathematical or electroacoustical object for synthesis”. The sound object is then defined by the human ear as the smallest self-contained particle of a SOUNDSCAPE, and is analyzable by the characteristics of its envelope. Though the sound object may be referential (i.e., a bell, a drum, etc.), it is to be considered primarily as a phenomenological sound formation, independently of its referential qualities as a sound event.

SOUND SIGNAL: Any sound to which the attention is particularly directed. In soundscape studies sound signals are contrasted by KEYNOTE SOUNDS, in much the same way as figure and ground are contrasted in visual perception.

AUDIOANALGESIA: “that is,the use of sound as as a painkiller, a distraction to dispel distractions. The use audioanalgesia extends in modern life from its original use in the dental chair to wired background music in hotels, offices, restaurants and many other public and private places. Air-conditioners, which produce a continuous band of pink noise, are also instruments of audioanalgesia. It is importante in this repsct to realize that such masking sounds are not intended to be listened to consciously”.

SONIC SOUVENIR: The unique soundmark deserves to make history as surely as a Beethoven symphony. Its memory cannot be erased by months or years. Some soundmarks are monolithic, inscribing their signatures over the whole community. ”Whatever one may think of such soundmarks, they reflect a community character. Every community will have its own soundmarks…” Let me mention a few originals from my own memory: -the scraping of the heavy metal chairs on the tile floors of Parisian coffeehouse; – the sound of the leather straps on the tram in Melbourne, Australia; – the virtuoso drumming of the Austrian bureaucrats with their long handled- rubber stamps: ta-te-te-daa-ta-te-daa: – the high-pitched brilliant bells of the horse-drawn taxis in Konya, the last to be heard in any major town in Turkey.” “The world is full of uncounterfeiting and uncounterfeitable sound souvenirs such as these, indelible memories for the aurally sensitive tourist, and always in need of protection against replacement..” –

DRINNNN, the bell again, the Sonic Landscape class is finished!


Schafer’s theory on sonic landscape has established itself as a fundamental reference for any analysis of the sonic experience within a given context, as to justify the provocative image of the „primeval alphabetization“ staged in the previous paragraph. Yet, since the ‘70s many other theoretical devices have been sharpened, mostly by „resonating“ with the concepts of „The Soundscape“, through an updating/ sharpening in consideration of the developments coming from the single disciplines constituting the crosscutting corpus of the studies on sonic landscape, but at times even in open cognitive dissonance, or, by playing with the title of the text under discussion, in open „Sonic Guerrilla“ with them. Of all of this Schaferian pars destruens which we cannot fully treat here, one of the most penetrating contributions comes in fact right from the blessed essay on sound, on the interactions with human perception and on the ecology of fear, precisely entitled „Sonic Warfare“ by Steve Goodman. In paragraph 8, „Sonic Effects“, Goodman widely focuses on Jean-Francois Augoyard and Henri Torgue’s work in the field of urban ecology of sonic effects. On the premise that any sonic perception bears within itself a surplus of emotional factors (from the ability of creating amazement and wonder, to of course terror and physical shock at last), the two French-Canadian theorists proceed to a „vibrational“ analysis of the experience of the city: „as a sound exists on a physical level, it makes a physical space vibrate“ [*8]. According to them, the fixed categories of the sonic object, meant as a minimum perceptive unit of the auditory experience, and the sonic landscape as a macro-category descriptive of the totality of the auditory vibration, are both inadequate. On the contrary, Goodman theorizes the „sonic effect“ as an open concept, a new paradigm on an analysis that places itself between the cause and the sonic event: „The effect is not an object itself. Just think about how neither the noise nor the sound change on a physical level in the Doppler effect; it is the relationship between the observer and the emitting object that changes, when one of these two elements moves at a sufficient speed… thus the effect doesn’t just indicate a cause, but it is the actual mark of a sound… the context following the object and its own appearance… the perceptible effect is directly connected to a circumstantial cause“ [*9]. Augoyard and Torgue are basically plunging the sonic event in an ocean of vibrational effects, from which the duality of subject and object emerges, and in fact „the sonic effect, at times measurable, and generally linked to the physical characteristics of a specific context, couldn’t be simplified neither on a objective nor on a subjective level. The concept of sonic effect seems to describe this interaction between the physical sonic environment, the audio milieu of a sociocultural community and every individual’s interior sonic landscape“ [*10]. Ultimately, a radical revision of Schafer’s concept of the sonic city „as a musical instrument“ „possessing passive acoustic properties“, but rather „a sonic instrumentarium of urban environments“ [*11]: playing the city through the relationship between its architecture and our inner self, modulating its vibrational aspects. The effect within an experience of pure audio, rather than within a sonic object, will consist of a relational experience between what we experience, the context in which we experience it, and our experiential self, and at last the body, in a multieffect unit which functions as a vibrational transducer of urban sonic experiences, opposed to the Schaferian listening subject who is instead antithetical to the context in which it places itself and isolated from its own sonic objects.


World Sound Project 2.0 is an international research group established by Schafer at the end of the 60s, with its operation base at Simon Fraser University, where he would hold a course in „sonic pollution“. The activity of WSP was structured on different levels and forms: recording and cataloguing of sonic landscapes from around the world, with careful attention on the preservation of sonic landmarks and endangered sounds, interdisciplinary didactics, an intense conference activity, publishing of books, periodical bulletins and phonographic and digital recordings in which environmental sounds are overlapped with spoken parts explaining the fundamental concepts of this new discipline [*12]. Behind this practice laid a strong environmentalist ideological dimension, in order „to find solutions to an environmentally balanced sonic landscape, in which interactions between the human community and the environment are in harmony” [*13], which set the grounds for the modern Acoustic Ecology. Besides Schafer, Howard Broomfield, Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp and Adam Woog were part of the group since its early days. The WSP was financed by Unesco and by other Canadian institutions, both public and private, and this maybe explains why the first sonic mappings were so densely concentrated on Vancouver’s area. The group’s activity had been intense until the end of the 70s, and after a slower period, resumed at the end of the 80s with new vigor and energy. After the first group’s break up, the distribution of WSP’s publications, as well as the conservation and expansion of its archives, was carried on thanks to Truax and Westerkamp’s interest, who themselves edited essays and recordings and continued the Acoustic Ecology didactics at Simon Fraser University. Gradually, and partly by following Schafer’s continuous conferential activity, interest around the sonic landscapes’ issues started to spread internationally within circles of sound physicists, architects, sociologists, philosophers and artists, also due to a globally renovated interest in environmentalism. Consolidation of this transnational and transdisciplinary network was 1991’s “The Soundscape Newsletter”, the group’s last official publication. However the global technological situation was about to dramatically change with the rise of the Internet, such a definitive natural habitat for Murray Schafer’s theories that it curiously makes us wonder, now in a time of the web’s widespread presence, about how the sonic landscape had to some extent imply such a future technological development. Through the possibility of online sound sharing, Googlemap’s geolocalization, the indexation through the use of soundmarks, and cataloging in databases, the sonic landscape has found online its most appropriate and suitable site, and is developing in a decentralized, rhizomatic and multi-centralized way, just as the web on which it is supported does. Let’s see how in detail.


-How did FreeSound Project start?

It started in 2005 as an excuse to make something for the Sound and Music computing conference we organized in University Pompeu Fabra here in Barcelona. We wanted to do something special, to have a theme for the conference and something that would be related to it. That was the time of the beginning of creative commons, free software was already around, and we were involved with a number of initiatives related to it, so we decided that the theme of the topic would gonna be “freesound”. We were doing research that needed sound and music and often we had a number of composer here, so it was always a big issue the licence of sounds used and the possibility to share them among researchers. So I said, let’s make a database of sounds in which people can upload and share sounds. I hired Bram de Jong for organising the conference and making the website. He got really involved with the project and shaped the project in his own way, and in a few months we released the website, before the conference would start. And then we commissioned one piece, an installation, that would take advantage of freesound and be shown at the SMC.

-Tell me about the Sons De Barcelona and workshop you’re giving.

When we added the idea of geotag…

-Was it an idea you had from the beginning?

“No, it was a suggestion from one of the users. And that was a very important part: we’ve always wanted to involve the community, so that free sound is not our site, it belongs to the community that can make suggestions and discuss about possible improvements of the website. So, it was at the beginning that it was possible to use google maps for geotagging, the application was very successful but I noticed that in Barcelona there were very few geotags, few sound recorded here. It was an initiative created here, developed here, but very few people from our community were adding sounds… so the issue was why? And what can we do to change that? One of the main problem was the language, being an English site, and the other was a cultural one.

People in some culture (ours is one of them) are not that active in contributing on internet initiatives. They are very active to download things but not to upload things. I remember going for making talks and present frreesound and would ask how many people use sounds from the website, yeah, everyone is very enthusiastic about it, but when I ask how many of you have uploaded theirs sounds to freesound? Very few or none. And some of these are sound recording people, they have sounds, they are just not uploading them.

We won a prize from the BMW foundation and we were supposed to do something for the city. So we’ve seen in it the opportunity to make the project that became Sons De Barcelona. An educational initiative that tried to promote the idea behind freesound. We organized workshops in schools, bringing recording devices there and a number of people from the university would teach students how to use them. Then there is the matter of tagging so that was something we were teaching too: how to describe properly a sound, how to verbalize different aspects of it, so that everybody can easily find what you need in their search. Another thing we were teaching was how to reuse the sounds they were recording, how to edit and arrange them in meaningful way. So they could produce an installation, a piece of music…Now Sons De Barcelona it’s a project in its own, people that started doing that are continuing giving workshops. We also had the idea of gathering an artistic community around it, but that haven’t been so successful.

-Why do you thing is important, from an educational point of view, to make people aware of sounds?

Every workshop, the teacher would adapt the lessons, the topics taught or discussed depending to the contest and the grade of the students. One of these topics, very important, is of course sonic awareness. So being aware of the soundscape you’re living in, paying attention to sound that surrounds you, and listening analytically. This already starts when you put your headphones on and go out for recording. Immediately you begin to listen in a completely different way, start to notice different sonic aspects of the environment that you were ignoring and can be able to appreciate the sound itself.

-Do you think that internet and freesound itself helped with the topic of sonic awareness?

It surely did, although I couldn’t say exactly how much freesound directly helped, since then many similar initiatives came out and many people have got into recording. This was not expected, our target was music and research, and later on one of the community that evolved was made of people that when travel would go with their hand-held recorder an record things, in the same way people take pictures. More and more people just got into recording, without any particular interest in reusing those sounds. This is a very big community in free sound, and have been growing a lotso that many more hand-held recorders have been sold and I think freesound have contributed to that.

-New prospectives of Freesound project?

Many, many things. First of all we’ve just made a new version of Freesound. We never expected it to grow so much. Now more the 2 million people are in the community, so we had to adapt the website. One of the main things is that, it has been done in a way that now it’s easy to make new functionality. Our goal is not freesound as a static thing but as a powerful tool with which you can do other things then just upload and share sounds.

Then there is also our research around Freesound, it is now is mainly around 2 topics. Automatic description of sound, and the concept of communities. In the latter we want to identify different groups of interests that use the platform and find what can be developed for the usage of each group. It’s clear that for meeting each different needs Freesound cannot have a single unifying technology, it has to be personalized for each different community.


Reticon: How did you come up with the idea for the aporee maps?

Udo Noll: The idea was born in November 2006, out of a dissatisfaction. I’ve always been a fan of the radio and had experimented with sounds. For a long time I was thinking about how to bring the immediate environment somehow to speak. So I just built the aporee maps in January 2007. After it lay idle for a while, I told friends about it. They were thrilled and began to send sounds. Right away aporee had displayed a life-changing effect: They bought microphones and planned a good part of their day for recording and listening to the recordings.

Reticon: Moreover radio aporee ::: maps surely changed the perspective. You go with a different way of looking, or with a different ear into the world.

Udo Noll: Definitely. You can hear that also in the different acoustic perspectives on the maps. I find fascinating the unknown, unheard, or IN THIS WAY unheard things. Like this there are recordings on the map such as the one by a user from Taipeh. He recorded the malfunction of a fluorescent lamp. Such a small, clickering, brizzling noise. Awesome! You can imagine it vividly: It’s 3am, you can’t sleep, have some things in your head and hear all the time that electrical disturbance. A sound you would otherwise never have heard. And this is one of the main reasons why I do this: The focused listening, the curiosity, a kind of “unfolding of living spaces” and of course playing with the map.

Reticon: How large is the project?

Udo Noll: We are slightly ahead of the 5,000th Recording. The speed at which the project is growing, I can cope very well with. Currently, there are about 300 Aporisti who upload their recordings. I have been in contact at least once with all of them. In some cases really good working relationships came out of it.

Reticon: What are the prospects on a technical or conceptual level?

Udo Noll: I think that in the next few years, Internet and GPS in mobile phones will be as normal as cameras are today. I asked a year ago at a store for GPS phones. There were only five models. Recently I inquired in the same shop, and now there are 130! Here it’s getting interesting because with GPS mobiles so called “location based services” become possible. I find that it is worthwhile to do basic research playfully in these hybrid spaces before they are occupied and populated by marketing, advertising, startups and product ideas. For me it’s about maintaining these spaces of play as free spaces, and with it the little utopia that in new spaces you have and maintain – a freedom of action and movement – and that not everything is always blocked by predefined forms of usage and interaction.


Life in the post-urban sprawl pushes our perfection to an acoustic routine as well. The cycle of work, free time, public transportation, causal occurrences, and the boundless range of events orchestrated by the pulsating material and immaterial general intellect causes in fact a series of actions with specific „resonance“ qualities, which constitute our daily sonic landscape. It could similarly be objected that the same happens for the rural life, whose day, as the proverb says, commences with the rooster’s crowing and ends with the crickets’ chirping. The most obvious difference is that in the case of the Lo-FI reproduction of the tentacular 24/7 cable-broadcasting, the level of the psychoacoustic masking is at immeasurably higher levels than that of the natural Hi-Fi’s purity. Now, I ask myself if the concept of sonic fiction could be taken into account in order to describe the succession of artificial sonic events constituting our daily life. This conceptechnics, or better, paraphernalia of conceptechnics, owes its birth to the Afro American conceptual engineer Kowdo Eshun, who, in his work “More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures In Sonic Fiction”, refers to it on several occasions, the most effective of which might be in the „Motion Capture“ interview, in which he explains: „But the main point is that I’m trying to bring out what I call the Sonic Fiction of records, which is the entire series of things which swing into action as you have music with no words. As soon as you have music with no words, then everything else becomes more crucial: the label, the sleeve, the picture on the cover, the picture on the back, the titles. All these become jump-off points for your route through the music, or for the way the music captures you and abducts you into its world. So all these things become really important. So a lot of the sources of the More Brilliant are from Sleevenotes, they’re the main thing. A lot of the book talks about Sleevenote artists. It talks about the guys who did the cover for those Miles Davis records, this guy Mati Klarwein, another guy Robert Springett, who did the cover for Herbie Hancock’s early 70’s album. There’s different interfaces between different Sonic Fictions, between the title and the music. Hendrix would say: „What I’m doing is painting a sound.” And you can say reversely with the Sleevenotes. The reason the Sleevenote pictures capture you is because there’re a sounding in paint. If you listen to them, you imagine them as weird visions conjured up through the music. It’s really strange”.[*15] Before this, referring to Underground Resistance, inside the book itself: „In UR, a constantly proliferating series of sonic scenarios take the place of lyrics. Sonic Fictions, Phonofictions, generate a landscape extending out into possibility space. These give the overwhelming impression that the record is an object from the world it releases. This interface between Sonic Fiction and track, between concept and music, isn’t one of fiction vsreality or truth vs falsity. Sonic Fiction is the packaging which works by sensation transference from outside to inside. The front sleeve, the back sleeve, the gatefold, the inside of the gatefold, the record sleeve itself, the label, the cd cover, Sleevenotes, the cd itself; all these are surfaces for concepts, texture-platforms from PhonoFictions. Concepts feed back into sensation, acting as a subjectivity engine, a machine of subjectivity that peoples the world with audio hallucinations.” [*16] “The Latin etymon fictio, fictionis, as per „imagination“, translates well the idea of this literary/visual world, parallel and at the same time an integration to the music as aforementioned, but by translating it into the Sonic Fiction or Phonofiction concept, whatever you may think of it, I feel that it provides a strong reference to the succession of events as well as to a plot, just as narrative has taught us to appreciate (even in its times of strongest avantguardist protest, and here I’m thinking about Robbe-Grillet and Perec, authors of provokingly eventless novels): in short, to fiction, as an unraveling of events. By bringing back this idea to the discussion on audio, and to be more precise, by applying it not as much as to music and discography as done by Kodwo Eshun, but to the sonic landscape, I wonder if a conceptechnics like sonic fiction could be useful to the identification and analyzation of the audio routine to which everyone is subjected in the context of a post-urban agglomeration: the production day ( and that of the abstenstion from production too ) of contemporary societies is in fact characterized by a precise signage of artificial jingles from digital alarm clocks, the Iphone’s switch on, the elevator’s ignition, the sonic macrocosm of the metro, etc… Everyday we experience such a ritual iteration of given sonic events, at given times, exactly specular to the routine of events imposed on us by work ( but by abstention from it too ), that we can consider this succession of phono-particles as the unravelling of a fiction, a sonic fiction to be more precise, which substances our daily audio-perception and which, by interconnecting itself in moments of social interaction to other individuals’ perception, contributes to the creation of the sonic landscape of a given community, in a given place. The sonic landscape therefore is the result of the total unravelling of the countless sonic fictions in existence in the post-urban agglomerate. In this way, could it be useful to add the concept of Phonofiction to the previously introduced blackboard in R.M. SCHAFER LECTURING: PAY ATTENTION!?


The term „earworm“ comes from the German ohrwurm, an infective acoustic factor, and literally refers to the worm, or better, to auditory worms. As Steve Goodman explains, [*17], „the earworm is the captivating tune that you just can’t get out of your head, the vocal refrain, the infective beat or the addictive riff. There’s a great variety of species of earworms, traveling at different speeds through the epidemiological field of the sonic culture.“ In the vanguard of the ethological research on these wormlike species is branding psychologist James K. Kellaris whose widely recognized contribution “Dissecting Earworms: Further Evidence on the “Song-Stuck-In-Your-Head” Phenomenon [*18] analyzes in depth the effects of an apparently harmless snatch of music sticking itself in your brain and refusing to leave. Kellaris claims that worms of the hearing cause a concrete neurological disorder which he defines as „stuck tune syndrome“, and he also deals with „mental mosquito bites“ referring to the typical viral way in which certain music genres spread. In a situation of audio ubiquity as the one defined in the concept of tentacular cable broadcast 24/7 typical of the sonic life of contemporary megalopolises, the proliferation of phono-infections is in fact extremely high. But let’s see how, according to Kellaris through Goodman [*19], the audio-viruses act: the earworm creates a „cognitive itch whose nuisance can be eased by scratching, i.e. by repeating the tune in your head. And the more the mind scratches, the worse the itch gets. In practice, pop music is obviously the quintessential source of virological engineering techniques for the abduction of the collective audio subconscious. Just to name one among endless other possibilities, Kyle Minogue’s „I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head“, released in 2001, is the epitome, both in its lyrics and in its refrain which gets stronger as the voice gets higher and higher, of this transplantical attitude of auditory worms. Yet beyond the plastic of commercial music, created in labs for infective purposes, it could be meaningful to hypothesize a circulation of earworms even within the artificial sonic landscape typical of contemporary societies. I’m not here simply referring to a fragment of the umpteenth „I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head“ bootleg remix casually heard while waiting for a street light in Miami to turn green, just before the cars sprint, with lowered windows towards the Florida coast, but also to the „Mind the Gap“ and „Stand Clear of the Door“ of the London Tube, to the rumble of Mah-Jong in Hong Kong, to the rattling of veal meat in restaurants serving schnitzel in Essen, Germany, quoted by Schafer. In addition to the sonic landmarks, beyond community characterizing sounds, are those sounds which we could define as jingles ad personam: the digital alarm clock, the audio following the iPhone’s switch, the sound coming from a given elevator system, and so on, all of these sounds are charged with their own vitality. All of these sonic universes, both the personal ones and those typical of specific communities, find in the serial iteration to which the systematic organization of our productive day subjects us, a strategic point of audio-bombardment, which is actually not so different from pop music’s advanced marketing observatory.
Of course, we don’t have to deal with catchy tunes which you can’t get out of your head, vocal refrains, infective beats or addictive riffs, but I believe that even apart from melodicity, the repetition constituting the main principle of the morphology of music and without which there would be no musical form IS the ground of the process of sonic memorization ( even unconscious ) and therefore it is through this audio-routine to which we are forced in the contemporary world, the earworms taking over our brain can pass. These worm-shaped forms of life can slightly mutate, following for example how our daily schedules and engagements ( and most of all around the corollary of audio-events connected to the latter ) carried out within a day, or can dramatically mutate when we change city, reestablishing a new seriality of sonic occurrences, according to the new different sonic landscape. This way, can the earworm’s conceptechnics be also useful within the context of the study of the (post) urban sound? Again, according to Goodman [*20], „the power of the earworm is not limited to its being contagious. When the audio viruses resonate in the host’s body, they can cause a feeling of temporal anomaly.“ Referring to the auditory worms, Goodman also claims: „They seem to possess the ability to settle themselves through a timeless ad infinitum repetition, where distinctions between the past, the present and the future are constricted and get in contact with each other. The earworm penetrates like a Trojan horse creating a temporal anomaly. „ Gobé in a chapter of his „Emotional Branding“ [*21] had already analyzed the potentiality of the audio meant as a time machine, awakening sonic memories buried in the collective or personal imagery, and teletransporting the sensorium into previously lived emotions and feelings. I’m referring to a sonic parallel of the feeling of déjà vu, which Goodman in fact defines as déjà entendu This conceptechnics too can be important within the context of sonic landscape. Once again, let’s think about the change of residency: the sounds of the urban agglomerate which have for years gone hand in hand with us, lie buried in our audio-imagination and are awakened in the twinkling of an eye ( usually together with a series of extrasonic emotions tied to a specific situation of the past ) by the first evocative sonic reference. It is the „already heard“, therefore as a Proustian phono-madelaine capable of recreating a world through a fleeting sound, stored in the cerebral cortex. Walter Benjamin probably was the first to point out the specifically auditive nature of memory, in the short chapter „A Participation of Death“ of his „Berlin Childhood„: „Much has been written on the déjà vu. But is this expression the most appropriate? Shouldn’t we talk about circumstances which hit us as an echo, whose pristine sound seems to have been emitted in some dark recess of a prior life? After all, it is a fact that the shock with which an instant presents itself to our conscience as „already experienced“ mostly hits us in the likeness of the sound. It is a word, a crackle or a vibration, upon which the power of enrapturing us in the icy tomb of the past whose vault seems to be bringing us the present back as an echo, has been bestowed“ [*22]. The human sensorial databases is thus like a sort of Jamaican school echoic chamber proceeding by delays like in dub, stretching over within the riddim: the sonic act is echoed for years and years, until a sudden repetition of itself through a sonic stimulus analogous to the original one makes a whole past world emerge in the shape of remembrance, which from the auditory limitation proper of the original agent flows into the synesthetic. In many ways, Benjamin’s childhood of exile from Nazism is a sonic childhood, as well as a Berlin one: the noises from the zoological garden (most of all the otter), the sound of his first telephone, that of Blumenshof 12 doorbell (which, further in the book, is revealed to be that of his grandmother’s house), the creaking of the playground’s merry-go-round, the banging of jams stirred inside the cupboard by his stealthy child hand, and many other paragraphs revolving around the story of the origins of the modern age through Europe’s capitals, to which Benjamin dedicated the last fifteen years of his life. „Berlin Childhood“ represents a fantastic examination of déjà entendu, indissolubly bound to the urban space, so much that it seems to be giving credit to my idea of the sonic déjà vu “ resonating” with the soundscape studies.


(„Open up that the plumber’s downstairs and bring down the trashbag…“ ) [*23]: BOLOGNA’S SOUNDMARK
Bolognoise, or Bulgnais, if you prefer its dialect version, it’s an online archive, bla, bla… STOP. Just like any other city, Bologna too sounds in its own unique way. In what its specific acoustic signature consists in is the archive’s final task to inquire along with the exponential rise of the uploads on the platform. This paragraph does thus not exist, the sounds in which the bolognoise community recognizes itself are hosted on, and describing them is of no use at all, no synesthesia is possible. It may be worth to report in this context the first information having an „acoustic implication“ which comes to my mind: the arcades for sure, characteristic element of the city’s architecture, which coil it for 38 km, and we’re just considering its historical centre, let alone San Luca’s arcades, counting 666 arches (300 from Saragozza to Meloncello and 366 from Meloncello to the church), therefore the longest in the world (almost 4 km). All of these will influence the local soundmark with plays of echoes and delays, and the „il tiro“ („the pull“)…

The wanderer about to visit the city will probably be caught a bit off guard, baffled, by the voice coming from the entry phone, answering „Ti do il tiro“ ( literally, „I’ll give you a pull“ ). The expression, typical of the area of Bologna, simply means to open the door (the main door), therefore to open the main entrance by triggering the mechanism allowing the door to open. But where does this expression come from? The centre of Bologna is famous for its arcades and old buildings, which on the ground floor were once equipped with a big door allowing the horses coming inside the inner cloister to enter. Being the apartments on the first floor, the incoming guest would either have to knock on the main entrance or ring a bell in order to announce himself, and to do so one had to physically pull a string to trigger the opening mechanism of the door below. Hence the term „dammi il tiro“, referring to the actioning of the string. In time customs have changed, but don’t be surprised if inside the hall of an apartment building you find two switches, marked as „LUCE“ (light) and „TIRO“.

Bottom line, this is more a linguistic custom referring to a sonic occurrence rather than a single proper sonic occurrence of its own. Then the peculiar phenomena of diagonal voice transmission – telearchitecture? – through the 4 corners of the vaulted ceiling of Podestà, just there by Piazza Maggiore, but this is no tourist guide, so does it really make any sense to go on with this list of places and bizarre phenomena, especially when the most comprehensive answers are there, in mp3 format, on BOLOGNOISE.ORG? This paragraph is the online platform itself.


*1 The title of maybe the most militant album by Scritti Politti, released in

the tense mood of the end of the 70s in England, where the Emilian model

was considered one of social experimentation;

*2 See last paragraph of the text, “BOLOGNA’S SOUNDMARK”;

*3 From Simone Tosoni’s contribution „Audioscan e scienze sociali“ in

Audioscan Milano“, Postmedia books, 2010;

*4 From “Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present,”

Stephen Connor ed. Roy Porter, London Routledge, 1996;

*5 From “More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures In Sonic Fiction”, Kodwo

Eshun, Quartet Books, 1998;

*6 From Rekordata Audiomusica;

*7 . The landmark is a sound characteristic of an area and it is what makes

the acoustic life of a certain community unique: the steeple of Salvador

Mundi in Salzburg, the Stadshuset Carillon in Stockholm, the Big Bang of

London but also the sound of its „Mind The Gap“ and „Stand Clear Of The

Door“ in the Tube lines. In Essen, Germany, the annoying rattling of veal

meat in restaurants serving schnitzel, in Hong Kong the roar of Mah-jong,

in Florida’s capital the battling of gastric bass coming from guerilla Hi-Fi

soundsystems of custom-built cars, windows lowered, have even given an

actual name to a genre, the Miami Bass or booty music, sort of an electro

characterized by pulsating beats, hyperkinetic rhythm, and often with

explicit sexual connotation in the lyrics, widely appreciated by listeners of

Southern (and sometimes Nothern) hip-hop;

*8 The reference text here is “Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday

Sounds, Montreal_Mcgill-Queens, University press 2005;

*9 Ibid.;

*10 Ibid.;

*11 Ibid.;

*12 WSP Bibliography / Discography:


Schafer, R. Murray. The New Soundscape (Don Mills 1969)

The Book of Noise (Vancouver 1970)

A Survey of Community Noise By-Laws in Canada (1972) (Vancouver 1972)

The Music of the Environment Series, ed R. Murray Schafer (1973-8):

1 The Music of the Environment (Vienna 1973)

2 The Vancouver Soundscape, with 2 cassettes (Vancouver 1974)

3 European Sound Diary (Vancouver 1977)

4 Five Village Soundscapes, with 5 cassettes (Vancouver 1977)

5 A Dictionary of Acoustic Ecology (Vancouver 1978)

Truax, Barry. ‘Soundscape studies, an introduction to the World

Soundscape Project,’ Numus West, 5, Spring 1974

Sound Heritage, entire issue, vol 3, no. 4, 1974

Davis, Bruce. ‘FM radio as observational access to wilderness environments,’

Alternatives, vol 4, Spring 1975

UNESCO Courier, entire issue, vol 29, Nov 1976

Schafer, R. Murray. The Tuning of the World (Toronto 1977); transl. Le

Paysage Sonore (Paris 1979)

The Soundscape Newsletter (1991-)

Authors: Helmut Kallmann, Adam P. Woog, Hildegard Westerkamp


R. Murray Schafer and Bruce Davis Okeanos. 90-minute quadraphonic tape

composition. 1971. Ber rental

Soundscapes of Canada, 10 hour-long radio broadcasts for CBC’s ‘Ideas’

series. 1974. Rental for broadcasts, World Soundscape Project

N. Ruebsaat, H. Westerkamp Inside the Soundscape. A 5-cassette series of

compositions and sound documents about the acoustic environment.

(1986). Unnumbered


Shand, Patricia. ‘The World Soundscape,’ MSc, 280, Nov-Dec 1974

Truax, Barry. ‘The soundscape and technology,’ Interface, 6, 1977

Zapf, Donna. ‘The World Soundscape Project revisited,’ Musicworks, 15,

Spring 1981Torigoe, Keiko. ‘A study of the World Soundscape Project,’ MFA

thesis, York University 1982

Truax, Barry. Acoustic Communication (Norwood, NJ 1984)

Westerkamp, Hildegard. ‘Listening and soundmaking, a study of music-asenvironment,’

MA thesis, Simon Fraser University 1988

Soundscape Newsletter

*13 „World Soundscape Project“ . The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved


U1ARTU0003743 (last visited september 2011);

*14 For the complete interview check:


*15 p.178, Kodwo Eshun “More Brilliant than the sun” Quartet books,

1998, London;

*16 p.121 Ibid.;

*17 “Sonic Warfare: sound, affect and the ecology of fear” MIT press 2010,

chapter 27 “1971: The Earworm” p.147;

*18 The essay is introduced in “Proceedings of the Society for Consumer

Psychology”, Ed. Christine Page e Steve Pasavac (New Orleans: American

Psychological Society, 2003), p. 220-222;

*19 “Sonic Warfare: sound, affect and the ecology of fear” MIT press 2010,

chapter 27 “1971: The Earworm” p.146;

*20 “Sonic Warfare: sound, affect and the ecology of fear” MIT press 2010,

chapter 28 “2025: Déjà Entendu” p.149;

*21 “Emotional Branding” E.Gobé (Oxford: Windsor books, 2003);

*22 “Berliner Kindheit un Nuenzehnhundert”, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1950,

Frankfurt am Main;

*23 Idiomatic expression in Bolognese.

Thanks to Leonardo Amico, Nicola Boari and Christoph Fringeli for translations,

interviews, etc.


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