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Sampling sounds of the future

Sampling sounds of the future: What does the future of Coventry sound like?

University of Warwick/Coventry City of Culture, 2021

Sampling Sounds of Coventry’s Future is a participatory project organised with the University of Warwick for Coventry City of Culture, with the aim of facilitating exchange between city and university. To this end, the project brings together academic researchers with artists, practitioners and publics in Coventry to address a question: what does the future of Coventry sound like? To answer it, we will be working together to create sound compositions and performances, using field recordings of the city.


Project focus

What does the future of Coventry sound like? The emergence of futures depends on many forces, elements, actors, and events, and engaging with the future demands attention to both the expected and the unexpected. In our project, we are especially interested in the role of universities and more precisely, of interactions between the city and its universities, in the making of Coventry’s futures, and what that sounds like.

What does the future of Coventry sound like? What does the future sound like in Coventry? To respond to these questions and to attune ourselves collaboratively to the city’s futures, we engage in various practices of place-based listening: field recordings, soundwalks, sonic compositions, and performances.


We will be undertaking the following activities:

  1. Kicking off a series of dialogues, the project launched on 22 March 2021 with an online opening conversation including a roundtable of academics and artists working in various media who will share sounds, images, objects, maps, or other material forms to speak to the question: What does the future of Coventry sound like? The video recording of this conversation can be viewed here, and the programme is listed here.
  2. To support the process of field recording and sound collection, on 10 May 2021, a public online training session took place to introduce participants to practices and techniques of field recording so that they can collect sounds of their own to submit using smart phones or field recorders. The video recording of this workshop can be found here and here you can find the event's description.
  3. Creative practitioners including artists, composers, sound designers, and performers, have been invited to create compositions which respond to the project's question through listening, gathering and sampling both live and found sounds of Coventry’s future. You can find out about the participating artists and commissioned works here.
  4. During May–October 2021, project participants and publics will be invited to participate in a series of soundwalks in Coventry across different locations in the city and its surroundings which have special relevance to the making of futures, as well as to the role of universities in those futures. We will make site visits to allow us to begin to hear and record what the future of and in Coventry might sound like in places as diverse as the woods, the city centre, and workplaces. A report of a walk in the park with Small Folk can be found here. A second walk along Canley Brook near the University of Warwick campus took place on June 14. A guided walk by Sarah Farmer along Coventry's Music Mile, Godivarius Lost and Found and Lost Again took place on October 17 (the report is here).
  5. The project will culminate in a public event at Common Ground in Coventry on 29 October 2021. All project participants will be invited to sample, participate, in and perform the re-sampling of sounds. This will take multiple creative forms, including performances, poetry, visual projections, as well as turntablists mixing compositions and recorded performances constructed from collected sounds, some of which will have been printed on vinyl.


The idea of call-and-response is at the centre of project: in its focus on the role of the interactions between universities and the city in the making of Coventry’s futures; in the collaborations between academics, sound artists, composers, sound designers, performers, and visual artists; and in the participatory methods used to engage the wider public in a process of dialogue and co-production.

Also key to the different stages of the project is the notion of sampling as a method across both sonic practices and research methods. Throughout the project, sounds from the present and the archived past, from different parts of the city and its surroundings, as well as by and from different publics will be collected and assembled as a way of imagining Coventry and its futures.

Responding to the question “What does the future of Coventry sound like?” we can simply not imagine a single answer, only sampled ones. What will they sound like?

Organisers: Noortje Marres (University of Warwick), Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths), Naomi Waltham Smith (University of Warwick)

Supported by: The University of Warwick Institute for Engagement and the WIE City of Culture Programme and the Warwick-Monash Alliance Catalyst Project Creating the Possible.