Sounds of our Cities – Roeselare, BE

In the Spring of 2020 I was selected to participate in the Sounds of our Cities project. Due to the pandemic the residency was twice postponed, but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a week in Roeselare, Belgium during the closing exhibition week, October 22nd-31st 2021, to carry out my project “Listening in Context“. This work is based on an earlier version of the project but was adapted to the current context and situation.

SOUNDS OF OUR CITIES is a European project of cultural cooperation based upon research and the transfer of knowledge among the spheres of art, technology and social space. It is led by the City of Roeselare, Idensitat, Dear Hunter and Aalborg Universitet. The project focuses on two local contexts (Krottegem in Roeselare and Sant Andreu in Barcelona), as a critical reflection upon cultural identity in relation to the concepts of community and silence.

project website

In this project I continue to use creative methods for understanding and interpreting how listening to everyday sounds and soundscapes function as sources or triggers for the imagination*. This involves investigating the roles sound and listening play in visualisation through associative, emotional and memory responses as cognitive functions. In particular, my interest is in understanding how the qualities of these functions change as we age and what can be done to exercise our imagination. In the context of Sounds of our Cities we could sum this up in a few basic questions… one, what happens to our active childhood imaginations as we get older? Two, how do the sounds of Krottegem in Roeselare contribute to how people imagine their neighbourhood? And three, can this method be used for citizens and planners in imagining new ways to understand their city space?

*It has been said that the inability for people in the various ‘sectors’ of society (public, private, civil) to adequately respond to the number of large crisis facing humanity, particularly the complex climate and environmental crisis unfolding on multiple fronts, is not so much a question of will, rational policy or technical ability, but has more to do with a ‘crisis of imagination’ (Amitav Ghosh, Max Haiven et al.).

With the exception of the first two recordings, the piece above is a soundscape composition made entirely from sounds of the Krottegem neighbourhood in Roeselare. This part of the city represents a diverse mix of uses, cultures and historical layers within a relatively small area. Large industrial facilities such as grain processing and a brewery, exist side by side with residential streets, shops, schools, churches and recreational sporting grounds. While my impression is that this remains a relatively ‘healthy’ neighbourhood, the area is being confronted with some social issues related to the ageing population and the influx of immigrant communities in recent years. There is also a need for more “green” public park areas, which I understand is currently be addressed by the surrounding community and the city.

After making the soundscape composition above, I gave a workshop with several groups of people from the Krottegem neighbourhood. The premise of the workshop was simple, to talk about sounds we like and dislike and to get people to listen to the mix of sounds and draw freely based on whatever they felt while listening. To get a sense of the ‘state’ of the imagination, I requested to work with different age groups. We were fortunate to get two groups at short notice, a handful of older residents and a large group of 8 year old school kids. The above gallery of drawings are just a few of the examples of what came out. Apart from the drawings themselves, the overall response to the workshop was positive. Some of the residents from the initial workshop group even have gone on to organize a second ‘sound drawing’ session on their own. I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.

The drawings on display in the closing exhibition ‘What’s Behind That Silence?’

Below are some impressions of Roeselare and the Krottegem neighbourhood in particular. I also created a ‘sound map’ with the individual sound recordings on Radio Aporee Maps.

Special thanks to the Idensitat and Sounds of our Cities team: Laurent, Gino, Irati, Dear Hunter and Cumhur for their organizational efforts and support in this challenging time.

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