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Future Cities: the sounds of Tokyo

Having launched our Future Cities project to map how the sounds of our cities are changing, we’re heading off on a tour of the world to listen in to some of its most fascinating urban spaces. What better place to start than the ultra-modern metropolis of Tokyo? Here we tune into two Tokyo sounds – field recordings of its iconic public transit systems – and two fascinating creative approaches to remixing them.

First up, here’s Keisuke Oki‘s field recording from a train on the Fukutoshin line of the Tokyo subway – tune in for station announcements, the gentle hum of the engines rising and falling as we enter and leave stations, and onboard announcements.

City version:

Julian Goldberger reimagined this sound, and describes his inspiration like this:

“Japan is my favourite country to visit and whenever I’m on a train or subway in Tokyo I often think of Japan’s most famous dog, Hachiko.

His story is incredibly moving and inspired this composition that I created with my father.”

Guitar: Julian Goldberger. Clarinet: Dr. Jacob Goldberger.

Memory version:

For the second of our Tokyo sounds, Giulia Biasibetti recorded the Shinkansen bullet train arriving into Tokyo station – we can hear the throb of the stationary train’s engines, plus announcements and the distinctive, specific melody that’s used to signify the Shinkansen’s arrival.

City version:

Audio Obscura‘s pulsating reimagined sound conveys the feeling of travel brilliantly:

“The Sound of the shinkansen pulling into a station and railway station announcements gave me a sense of movement, a feeling of either starting or ending a journey.

“Therefore I wanted my piece to feel like it had motion, so I added rhythmic beats and synths which I felt had a sense of motion. A sense of journey can also suggest departure and being alone so I tried to have an underlying melancholy to the piece in the sound design.

“The piece to also tries to capture the technological nature of Japanese cities and the shinkansen.

“I used the field recording more or less as it is, adding only a little effects on it in places and it is nearly constant throughout the track.

“I visited Japan in 2005 (before I ever made sound recordings or music) so part of this track also feels like me reminiscing about my own trips on the shinkansen and remembering my own time in various Japanese cities.”

Memory version: