Sounding Out! Podcast Mini-Series (#16): Listening to The Tuned City of Brussels, Day 1: “Noise”

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In this series of podcasts, Felicity Ford (Great Britain) and Valeria Merlini (Italy) explore the sonorities of the city during the Tuned City Brussels festival. Please click here for our podcast detailing the first night, here for our podcast exploring Day 2, “Situational Listening,” or here for our podcast that focuses on Day 3, “Ephemeral Atmospheres.”

On Friday, June 28th (Day 1), the festival’s theme was noise. Noise is a notion that generates a multiplicity of meanings. It is highly subjective, complex and difficult to define. Here, it is explored through its concrete embodiment in the area around the Botanical Gardens. This part of north-central Brussels is densely layered and manifests a special character of agglomeration and urban compression. The Botanical grounds and building, constructed in 1826, appear today as a curious patch in the city fabric. As a consequence of urban developments starting in the 1960s, the gardens have become surrounded by subway lines, the ring-tunnel traffic system, and high-rise buildings (such as the State Administrative Quarter and the recently built Financial Tower). How is urban space acoustically defined by these overlapping functionalities? What is happening within and between these structural layers? Here, Ford and Merlini navigate the vertical topography of the city, exploring the subterranean as well as outdoor reaches of a territory extending form the Gardens to the North Train Station.

The first Tuned City project was realised in Berlin in 2008, with subsequent editions in Tallinn and Nürnberg. For the current edition Q-O2 workspace for experimental music and sound art has invited Tuned City to collaboratively research the sounds of Brussels. Brussels is a dense multi-layered city characterised by abrupt shifts in urban structure, architecture and the social environment. This patchwork provides an urban modality that resists a general grasp of the city while still providing room for individual expression. The abundance these juxtapositions during the festival creates a productive resonance where the city is manifest to the passerby in its vibrant, open-ended, multiplicity. How does one grasp the nature of these oscillations and what modes of resonance give shape to the particular Brussels vibe?
 Over the course of the four day festival, Tuned City Brussels probes these urban frequencies through concerts, walks, installations and interventions, while at the same time focusing the theoretical framework around three core notions: ‘Relational Noise’ (Day 1), ‘Situational Listening’ (Day 2), and ‘Operative Ambience’ (Day 3). A different theme will be explored each day in a corresponding ‘zone’ in the city, in which the festival relocates. Several lectures, artistic presentations, residencies and workshops have led up to this four day festival. Particularly important was a collaboration with the art schools Sint Lucas Architectuur, Erasmus Hogeschool RITS/Radio, Sint Lukas Transmedia, a.pass and La Cambre (ENSAV) option Espace Urbain.

If you would like to learn more about the Tuned City Brussels Festival, please check out their program here.

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Felicity Ford (Great Britain) works across a wide variety of platforms in order to engage the public with new modes of listening. She celebrates everyday life by linking the sounds of material culture, documentary sound-recording processes and listening to their larger social contexts. Since completing her PhD in 2011 she has completed commissions on Sonic Wallpapers for the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, a film soundtrack for the Welcome Library and the British Film Institute for a 1930s antenatal care film entitled “Bathing & Dressing,” Parts 1 & 2, and a knitted sound system with accompanying composition. She co-runs the website Sound Diaries with Valeria Merlini.

Valeria Merlini (Italy) is a Berlin based sound artist, turntablist, DJ and curator. After studying architecture in Florence, Italy, she obtained a Master’s degree in Sound Studies at The Berlin University of the Arts. Her work explores everyday sounds within an urban context through an interdisciplinary and critical approach. She is a co-founder of Studio Urban Resonance, a member of the Italian record label Burp Enterprise and co-runs Staalplaat Radio. As a DJ she focuses on experimental electronic music, constantly extending the conventions of turntablism, musique concrète, free improvisation and composed music. She was the director of the 2012 Museruole Festival and has participated in numerous international events and exhibitions.

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