The Sound of Leicester's Cultural Quarter

Posted: Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:51 by Amy Barnes

The Sound of Leicester's Cultural Quarter

By Dr Andrew Hill

Sounds are all around us, but we very rarely stop and listen to what we can hear. Sounds can tell us the story of what's going on in an area:

  • How much is going on?
  • What type of activities are taking place?
  • How do these activities change over time (for example: how do the sounds change over the course of a day?).

Sounds leave us with a visceral impression of human activities, the 'goings on' in a certain place at a particular point in time.

What are we doing?

We're digging back through the archives to try and work out what the Cultural Quarter would have sounded like between 1950 – 1990. And, with your help, we're seeking to create a contemporary archive of the sounds of the Cultural Quarter today.

What sounds do you hear when you:

  • Come to work in the Cultural Quarter?
  • Come home?
  • Visit the theatre or cinema?
  • Pop out for some shopping?
  • Grab a drink at the bars?
  • Have dinner in one of the restaurants?
  • Take part in one of the street festivals / events?

We're looking for the sounds that most stick in your mind and those that are most important to you. What sounds are iconic to this area? Help us build an archive that people will be able to look back on in 50 years time and compare with their future soundscape.

Why are we so interested in sound?

Photographs and maps provide physical evidence of the past, but these can only tell us what things looked like at a specific snapshot in time, often from the outside. Sounds can give us a much richer understanding of an area, telling us what is happening out of sight (around corners or within buildings) and what happens over a period of time.

But sounds are also ephemeral. They exist only while the action causing them lasts and then they fade away. So many of the past sounds of the Cultural Quarter have been lost forever.

But with help from participants and members of the public coming forward to share their experiences of the Cultural Quarter, we have begun to build up a picture of what the Cultural Quarter would have once sounded like.

What will be the end result?

We've been visiting museums and factories to collect the sounds of machinery, of buses, of sirens and we are bringing all of these sounds together into an interactive mapping application.

We're going to reconstruct the sounds of the Cultural Quarter as it would have been prior to regeneration, shedding new light on the activities that took place there. And creating an interactive experience that will allow users to explore the sounds of the Cultural Quarter (past and present) to discover something new about this diverse and ever evolving sector of the town.

Get Involved

If you work, rest or play in the Cultural Quarter today, why not use your phone (or other gadget) to send us an audio recording of any sounds that you find interesting?

If you have experience of the area in the past (when it was known as St Georges) then please get in touch with us and let us know of any interesting sounds / experiences that you remember in the area.

Contact: Colin Hyde, University of Leicester, tel: 0116 2525065, website: www.le.ac.uk/emoha/

More information – for more information on soundscapes you might find this TED talk interesting. Bernie Krause talks about the sounds of nature Biophony (though of course in this project we're interested in the sounds of humans – Anthrophony).

For information about recording (equipment and ideas) check out this great page from the organisation Sound and Music:

Tags: Leicester, Cultural Quarter, stories, soundscapes, St Georges, sounds, archive

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