Mapping the sounds of protest

An interactive sonic map lets you hear dissent around the world
Stuart Fowkes recording in Burano, Italy (Giulia Biasibetti)

This segment first aired in October, 2017.

What does the world sound like to you? And what places do those sounds represent?

The Cities and Memory project explores the answers to those questions through audio. The online project gathers and plots submissions from field recordists, sound artists, musicians -- anyone anywhere with an interest in exploring sound.

"Fundamentally it's a sound map," says Stuart Fowkes, the creator of the Cities and Memory project, "Every location on the sound map you'll hear two sounds.
Stuart Fowkes (Giulia Biasibetti)

"The first one will be the field recording of what that place actually sounded like at that time, and then the second is a reimagined or remixed version of that field recording where an artist has taken some kind of inspiration from that recording and created a new composition from it."  

The project has explored a variety of themes from sacred spaces to prison songs. Their latest project brings together the sounds of dissent. Protest and Politics maps the sounds of protest around the globe and includes some of the world's best-known protests of recent years.

The project is a great example of the power of platforms and crowds, that lets people from all over the world participate.

"It spans 27 countries," says Stuart, "so we've got everything from Indigenous peoples' protests in Yellowknife, Canada, down to workers' protests in Bolivia and Peru, all the way over to student protests in Taipei City, Taiwan.

"It really spans not just a wide range of countries but a wide range of topics."

Stuart believes that the sounds of protest are the sounds that "define the world we're living in at the moment."

The resulting interactive sound map generated by the project was produced by field recordists and artists who have lived and experienced protest and political activism first-hand.

"What these sounds tell us about the nature of protest is that every protest has its own defining emotion. For me I think it's a real expression of when people feel like their lives are out of control."