Sound of the city

Following from this week’s foray into smell and the city in Manchester, another city has been exploring a different sense, sound and the city.

David Byrne (Talking Heads) has been living in a temporary architectural installation (a sort of boat) perched on top of the South Bank Centre.
During his time in London he has been out and about collecting sounds.

Markets, overhead trains, bigots – they all feature, and all go into the overall sound collage which has enabled him to estimate the tempo of London (at 122.86 beats per minutes).

The positivists amongst you will be rolling your eyes (rather than dice) at this figure and the unscientific method behind its calculation. The sounds all came from around the Southbank. Would Piccadilly Circus have the same rhythm? And when did he collect the sounds? Cities have a type of circadian rhythm, representing their 24 cycle. Is 122.86 beats per minute the mean, if so what’s the standard deviation?

But viewed as a piece of qualitative research then those criticisms are irrelevant. The research explores something we don’t usually think about; the rhythm of place. It opens up this topic for further investigation. It helps us frame future research. The beat of London versus Buenos Aires, for example. Or even the relationship between the speed of a place’s ‘heartbeat’ and human heartbeats.

You can see a video of David Byrne’s work here


2 thoughts on “Sound of the city

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