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IM937 Listening to Urban Waters

15/20/30 CATS (7.5/10/15 ECTS)
Easter vacation: 24 March–2 April 2020
MODULE CONVENOR - Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith


Day 1: Listening to the Environment (5 hours)

  1. Lecture and seminar discussion on “The Art of Listening,” giving an overview of the role of listening and field recording as methods in ethnographic and creative practices, as well as looking at the development of acoustic ecology and the study of urban sound, and discussing some key readings and arguments on these topics
  2. Lecture and seminar discussion on “Field Recordings: Techniques, Strategies, Ethics,” critically examining specific techniques and strategies used by field recordists in different contexts and considering the ethical questions raised by these approaches with a particular focus on how field recording can be used to investigate climate and environmental change and its social impacts
  3. Workshop on “Recording the Field,” experimenting with how to make use of the recording equipment and what strategies to adopt

Day 2: Sound and Non-Human Natures (4 hours)

  1. Lecture and seminar discussion on “Listening in the Anthropocene,” looking at the role of sound and listening in studying and communicating about climate change, practices of data sonifications, and possibilities for a sonic geopolitics
  2. Lecture and seminar discussion on “Human/Non-Human Relations: Leisure, Rewilding, Biodiversity” examining the entanglement between people and non-human natures and specifically the changing interactions that take place around the city’s waterways, as well as ongoing restoration and flood management projects

Day 3: An Ear for Environmental and Social Justice (6 hours)

Field trip to London

  1. Canal soundwalk with an introduction to the city’s waterways and impacts of climate and environmental change
  2. Wetlands field trip, looking at impacts on biodiversity and the role of bioacoustics 

Day 4: Listening to Urban Waters (7 hours)

Field trip to London

  1. Independent field work
  2. Possible visit with sound artists at CRiSAP

Day 5: Composing with Sound (5 hours)

  1. Lecture and seminar discussion on “Ecopoetics,” looking at connections between sound and environmental poetics and literature
  2. Lecture and seminar discussion on “Sound Art in the City,” looking at the use of field recordings in sonic composition, as well as sound art and installations in urban spaces
  3. Workshop on “Composing with Sound and Voices,” covering the creation of audio essays and podcasts

Day 6: Communicating via Sound (4 hours)

Student presentations and concluding discussion


Back, Les. The Art of Listening. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2007.

Benson, Stephen and Will Montgomery, eds. Writing the Field Recording: Sound, Word, Environment. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

Bianchi, Frederick and V. J. Manzo, eds. Environmental Sound Artists: In Their Own Words. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Cascella, Daniella. En Abîme: Listening, Reading, Writing. Zero Books, 2012.

Cusack, Peter. Sounds from Dangerous Places (2012).

______. Berlin Sonic Places: A Brief Guide. Wolke Verlag, 2017.

Farina, Almo and Stuart H. Gage, eds. Ecoacoustics: The Ecological Role of Sounds. Oxford: Wiley, 2017.

Feld, Steven. “From Ethnomusicology to Echo-muse-ecology. Reading R. Murray Schafer in the Papua New Guinea Rainforest.” In Proceedings of the First International Conference for Sound Ecology, “The Tuning of the World,” Vol. II, 1993.

______. “Acoustemic Stratigraphies: Recent Work in Urban Phonography.” Sensate (October 2010).

Feld, Steven, interviewed by Donald Brenneis. “Doing Anthropology in Sound.” American Ethnologist 31, no. 4, (2004): 461–74.

Gandy, Mathew and BJ Nilsen, eds. The Acoustic City. Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2015.

Hirschkind, Charles. “The Ethics of Listening.” In The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics, 67–104. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Kanngieser, Anja. “Geopolitics and the Anthropocene: Five Propositions for Sound.” GeoHumanities 1 (2015): 80­–85.

Kanngieser, Anja, Rory Gibb and Paul Rekret. “In Sonic Defiance of Extinction.” Transmediale Magazine (2018): 26–30.

Kanngieser, Anja and Nicholas Beuret. “Refusing the world: Silence, Commoning, and the Anthropocene.” South Atlantic Quarterly 116, no. 2: 363–380.

Karel, Ernst. Materials Recovery Facility, Sensate (2012).

Krause, Bernie. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places. London: Profile Books, 2012.

Lane, Cathy. “Listening and Not Listening to Voices. Interrogating the Prejudicial Foundation of the Arts Canon.” Seismograf, audio paper (November 2017).

Lane, Cathy and Angus Carlyle, eds. In the Field: The Art of Field Recording. Axminster, Devon: Uniformbooks, 2013.

______. On Listening. Axminster, Devon: Uniformbooks, 2013.

McCartney, Andra. “Soundwalking Blue Montreal.” Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology 1, no. 2, (2000): 28–29.

______. “Soundwalking: Creating Moving Environmental Sound Narratives.” In Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, volume 2, edited by Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek, 212–237. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Penn Sound Archive.

Pink, Sarah. Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage, 2009.

Prior, Jonathan and Samantha Walton. “The Bristol and Bath Railway Path: An Ecopoetic Sound Collaboration.” GeoHumanities 3, no. 1 (2017): 246–49.

Schafer, R. Murray. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1994.

Springgay, Stephanie and Sarah E. Truman. Walking Methodologies in a More-Than-Human Worlds. London: Routledge, 2017.

Sound and the City. Natural History Museum (June 2014).

Voegelin, Salomé. The Political Possibility of Sound: Fragments of Listening. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Wissmann, Torsten. Geographies of Urban Sound. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014.



1 x oral presentation (formative)

1 x 20-minute audio essay (summative)

1 x 1,200-word critical reflection (summative)

 20 CATS

1 x oral presentation (formative)

1 x 20-minute audio essay (summative)

1 x 1,600-word critical reflection (summative)

 30 CATS

1 x oral presentation (formative)

1 x 20-minute audio essay (summative)

1 x 2,400-word critical reflection (summative)


By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the possibilities and challenges of listening and field recording as methods for investigating the relation between the social and the urban environment;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the tools and strategies available for studying and communicating the impacts of climate and environmental change via field recording and composition;
  • Demonstrate a grasp of the ecological and social impacts of climate change and rising sea levels on the particular city’s waterways and wetlands;
  • Demonstrate a theoretical grasp of the intersections between environmental and social justice;
  • Reflect critically on the potential and ethics of field recording in these contexts;
  • Analyse rigorously creative sonic practices, including ecopoetic, sound-art, and spoken-word compositions.


CIM Students

Please complete the optional module choice forms distributed during the induction programme and get approval from your personal tutors during the Personal Tutor Meeting. Please then submit your approved form to Gheerdhardhini (CIM PG Coordinator) in room B0.04 by Week 0: Wednesday, 25th September by 17.00 GMT.

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department – Ms Sharon Hayes – by Week 1: Wednesday, 2rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • Life Sciences – Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Thursday, 3rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Wednesday, 2nd October, 17.00 GMT.


  • Due to a restricted number of places on this module, all students, internal and external, are required to submit a short statement of c. 150 words explaining your interest in this module when submitting the optional module choice form or otherwise registering interest in the module. These statements will be used to allocate places in the event that the module is oversubscribed.
  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students. Recording equipment will be provided for this module; you will be responsible for ensuring that it is returned intact at the end of the module and for purchasing batteries as needed.
  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.
  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.
  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.
  • The CIM PG Coordinator will get back confirming your place in the module by 27th September 2019 (For CIM students), or 4th October 2019 (For Life Sciences students).
  • Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

You may not join this module after it has started and may only leave by the end of the first day.