This essay collection and its accompanying CD have emerged from a sense that the field of sound, and our understanding of it, are undergoing a set of changes. The starting point for the idea arose from a Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence Fellowship held by BJ Nilsen in the UCL Urban Laboratory during 2012. Other points of connection include the regular Stadtklang events organized by the Urban Laboratory, and emerging intersections at UCL between architecture, acoustic ecology, and the study of urban soundscapes. Our critical engagement with sound has been facilitated through the development of interdisciplinary fields such as "acoustic ecology" and "sound studies," yet the topic is nonetheless extremely difficult to accommodate within existing approaches to the organization of knowledge. The study of sound is marked by a series of intersecting domains derived from history, physics, law, musicology, and many other areas – each bringing its own set of intellectual concerns and institutional entanglements.


The Acoustic City comprises five thematic sections: urban soundscapes with an emphasis on the distinctiveness of the urban acoustic realm; acoustic flânerie and the recording of sonic environments; sound cultures arising from specific associations between music, place, and sound; acoustic ecologies including relationships between architecture, sound, and urban design; and the politics of noise extending to different instances of anxiety or conflict over sound. In putting together this collection, we have also sought to de-centre some of the implicit assumptions underlying earlier approaches to the study of sound by including feminist insights, post-colonial threads, and other approaches that necessitate a more nuanced reflection on the sensory realms of modernity.


Financial support for the production of this book was provided by the Leverhulme Trust, the UCL Urban Laboratory, and the UCL Grand Challenges programme. At UCL, we would like to thank Ben Campkin, Andrew Harris, Kate E. Jones, Louis Moreno, James Paskins, and Ian Scott. Thanks also to Stephen Barber, Yasminah Beebeejaun, and Michael Flitner for their thoughtful comments and advice at different stages of the project. We are grateful to Inez Templeton for her careful copy editing of the text and to Knut Enderlein and René Lehmann at Loki-Found for assistance with the production of the CD. We owe special thanks to Sandra Jasper who provided extensive editorial support for the project, including original research for many of the images used in the collection. We would also like to thank Philipp Sperrle, Susanne Rösler, Franziska Fritzsche, and Jutta Bornholdt-Cassetti at jovis for their superb input to the project at every stage.