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The Sounding City


Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Disclaimer: due to the coronavirus pandemic, this course description might be subject to changes.

Topics: Role of sound, sound design and sound art in public spaces. Creation of sounding art
Disciplines: Sociology, urbanism, political science, economy, philosophy, media technology, sound art
Skills: Academic writing, recording, editing, composing, reflection

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


Sound surrounds and envelops us, whether we are indoors or outside, at work or at play, in cities or in the country. We hear voices, vehicles, birds, wind in trees, machinery, footsteps, raindrops, telephones, the hum and beeps of our electronics, dogs barking, street musicians. Sound is always present, and our ears are always switched on, even when we are asleep.

Sound is one of the most significant, yet least-discussed aspects of public spaces in urban environments. Architects, engineers, and urban planners invariably stress the visual and tactile aspects of urban environments but often pay less or no attention to the aural consequences of their interventions; sound is often considered to be an inevitable by-product.

With the Honours Academy course The Sounding City we aim to increase the attention to the role of sound, sound design, and sounding art in urban spaces. We consider sound both as an epistemological tool and as an aesthetical instrument. First, through sound we can learn a lot about the social, political, ethical, and economic forces that are operative in a certain space: who/what is producing the sound? Who is controlling it? Which sounds are dominant? Through sound spaces are claimed and occupied but also challenged and contested. Second, sonic interventions - e.g. by sound artists - can make these forces visible but also transform them, for example to improve the overall quality and ambiance of a space.

From its start the course will combine a strong theoretical and a challenging practical track. The content is a hybrid of knowledge transmission, critical reflection, and the development of practical skills challenging students to create sounding art themselves.

Course objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students:

  • have awareness regarding the role and creation of sound, sound design and sounding art in public spaces;

  • have knowlegde on how sounds in general and sounding art in particular contribute to the general atmosphere of a public urban space: what is the social, political, and ethical role sound plays in public spaces;

  • have knowlegde on the influence of sound, how it changes our behaviour and transforms the function of a space;

  • have developed a critical discourse towards, and reflections on, everyday urban soundscapes - their features as well as the way they are used and experienced;

  • have a basic understanding of what sound is and can be;

  • have developed a hands-on relationship with sound in public space, both by recording, editing, and composing sound.

UPDATE 07-12-2020
Programme and timetable:

The sessions will take place on Wednesdays from 17:30-19:30 hrs.

Session 1: April 7 - Introduction on Soundscapes and Acoustic Environments
Session 2: April 14 - On Soundmapping and Field Recordings
Session 3: April 21 - Recomposing the City (guest lecture)
Session 4: April 28 - On Sonic Ambiences
Session 5: May 5 - On Sound and the Social (guest lecture)
Session 6: May 12 - On Soundwalks
Session 7: May 19 - On Sonic Interventions
Session 8: May 26 - Practical Work
Session 9: June 2 - On Sounds and the Historical City
Session 10: June 9 - Practical Work


The sessions will take place in Leiden, if possible, otherwise online.

Reading list:

  • Murray Schafer, R. (1977). The Soundscape

  • LaBelle, B. (2006). Background Noise

  • Kang, J. and B. Schulte-Fortkamp (2016). Soundscape and the Built Environment

  • Lacey, J. (2016). Sonic Rupture

Other possible literature will be announced in class or via Brightspace.

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 ECTS, which means the total course load equals 140 hours:

  • 10 lectures/seminars of 2 hours (attendance is mandatory)

  • Practical work (field recordings, postproduction): 40 hours

  • Soundwalk: 3 hours

  • Prep work for lectures/seminars: 4 hours per week

  • Assignments: 3 hours per week

Assessment methods:

  • Seminar Assignments (weekly): 40%

  • Field recordings, composition: 25%

  • Sonic Diary: 25%

  • Performance in class: 10%

Students can only pass this course after successful completion of all partial exams.

The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the class.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Students can register for the Brightspace module one week prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Registration process:

UPDATE 29-10
Registration will be possible from Monday 9 November 2020 up to and including Thursday 19 November 2020 23:59 through the registration link on the student website of the Honours Academy.

Edwin van der Heide: