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The Sounding City


Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

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.

Key words:

Skills: Academic writing, recording, editing, composing, reflection.

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.


Sound surrounds and envelops us, whether we are indoors or out, 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, streets 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.

Programme and timetable:

Session 1: Introduction on Soundscapes and Acoustic Environments , 8 April 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 2: On Soundmapping and Field Recordings, 15 April 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 3: Recomposing the City (Guest Lecture), 22 April 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 4: On Sonic Ambiences , 29 April 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 5: On Sound and the Social (Guest Lecture), 6 May 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 6: On Soundwalks, 13 May 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 7: On Sonic Interventions, 20 May 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 8: Practical Work, 27 May 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 9: On Sounds and the Historical City, 3 June 2020 (17:00 – 19:00h)
Session 10: Practical Work, 10 June 2020 (17:00 – 21:00h)


Old Observatory, Leiden. Room c005.

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 Blackboard.

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:

The assessment methods will look as follows:
The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the Class

  • Seminar Assignments (weekly) 40%

  • Field recordings, composition 25%

  • Sonic Diary 25%

  • Performance in class 10%

Students could 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.


Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard page one weeks prior to the start of the course.

Registration process:

Enrolling in this course is possible from 4 November up to and including 14 November until 23:59 hrs through the Honours Academy. The registration link will be posted on the student website of the Honours Academy.

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


Edwin van der Heide: