Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Constructing Urban Space with Sounds and Music

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Constructing Urban Space with Sounds and Music

Article excerpt

CONSTRUCTING URBAN SPACE WITH SOUNDS AND MUSIC. By Ricciarda Belgiojoso. vii and 126 pp. Map, diagrs., illus., index. Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate, 2014. $109.95 (cloth), ISBN 9781472424648.

As I write this review, I happen to be in Istanbul, where the afternoon call to prayer wafts from the minarets over the landscape. No better example of the role of sound in constructing urban space could exist.

Cities are noisy places. The rumble of trucks and cars, airplanes, the yammer of crowds, shouts, cries, and sobs, cell phones ringing, music and televisions blaring, the steady hammer of construction, sirens, and airplanes overhead generate a constant din. Add to that the wind, thunder, rain, barking dogs, and chirping birds, and urban space is a cacophony--or a symphony--of sounds. That geographers have largely ignored the oral, aural, and audio dimensions of urban life is an unfortunate oversight.

This slim volume, which can be read in less than two hours--the chapters are rarely more than six pages--strives to fill this gap in the literature. Unfortunately, it does not succeed. The goal is laudable: to sketch out urban soundscapes, which the author notes are dynamic and rapidly dissipate. But the volume's title is misleading: indeed, it is much more about how cities generate music than vice versa. The focus is essentially on the role of urban public spaces in the creation of novel forms of avant-garde music. Thus, from the Futurists of the 1910s to John Cage to contemporary musical experimenters, urban noise has long been a source of inspiration for musical composition. The book represents this series of events as an artistic appropriation of public spaces. Some of the more interesting examples include symphonies in Paris "written for five sirens, a tugboat, two trains, the Church of Notre Dame's bells, trumpet, and percussions" (p. …

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