What will our cities sound like in the future?

What will our cities sound like in the future?

What will our cities sound like in the future?

Machinery, traffic and other people make our existence loud as hell – but can we use technology to retune the urban world?

I have heard the future, and it sounds like dog food sliding slowly out of a can. In Terminator 2, that’s the sound the film-makers used when the liquid T-1000 walked straight through the bars of a prison cell.

Should you live long enough to get your own Tie fighter, you will (according to Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt) be tooling around emitting the sound of a “drastically altered elephant bellow”. Perhaps more than any other professionals – well, certainly more than those who don’t spend their office hours pulling chickens apart in front of a microphone – these designers have considered what cities might sound like in years to come.

Privately, we sound-design our lives more and more. City streets are like silent discos, with everyone lost in their own headphone-driven mix. But beyond that lies the shared urban environment – a neglected mashup that also needs designing. In a world where we are increasingly given the chance to customise our output, how do you orchestrate a planet where a Gangnam ringtone collides with the sound of a 1970s camera shutter from a smartphone, in a tube station resonating with Vivaldi to deter loitering, while the guy next to you shout-announces to some remotely interested party that he is “About to get on the tube! I said The! Tube! … “? What is the future sound of cities?


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