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Cities and Memory review of the year 2020

Review of the year 2020

Tempting as it is to just summarise 2020 with the đź’© emoji and leave it at that, it’s been nice to look back at some of the things we’ve done this year, with amazing contributions from artists, musicians and field recordists all over the world.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to the hundreds of people all over the world who have contributed to Cities and Memory this year, and especially to everyone who helped us document the sounds of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Hearing all the sounds and reading all the stories from across the world has been an inspiring highlight in a very difficult year for us all.

March: Sounds for Lifting Hearts

As the world began to head into a very strange place in March with the global lockdowns, we released Sounds for Lifting Hearts ❤️, a compilation of some the most beautiful field recordings from Cities and Memory, from Sri Lanka and Chile to Italy and Israel, selected with raising the spirits in mind.

April: #StayHomeSounds

During April, we launched our biggest project of the year – or perhaps ever – with #StayHomeSounds, documenting the sounds of the Covid-19 lockdowns all over the world.

The project was something of a global phenomenon, with a full-page article in The Guardian newspaper, and coverage as far afield as Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Corriere della Sera (Italy), El Mundo (Spain), NBC News (USA) and The Week (India).

The project is still running now and open for submissions, and currently has more than 600 sounds submitted by hundreds of people from all walks of life, all over the world.

#StayHomeSounds in The Guardian, 1 April 2020
#StayHomeSounds in The Guardian, 1 April 2020

June: The "Sounds from..." series

Over the summer, we compiled some of the best reimagined pieces from some of our most “popular” countries, releasing an album every week covering fantastic sounds from Japan, Germany, the USA and France – you can check them all our in our free-to-download Bandcamp album series.

June: Smithsonian Treasures

In June, we went off the map and into the world of museums, as artists explored how items from the Smithsonian Museums’ vast (and free-to-access) digital archive inspired them with an interactive gallery of sonic artefacts like no other – you can explore what they came up with on the project page.

October: Future Cities

In October we launched one of our widest-ranging projects, Future Cities – originally due to be released in March before the sounds of our cities changed completely through the coronavirus pandemic, the delayed project showcased the changing sounds of the world’s cities, covering a mighty 81 countries.

The project shone a light on the role sound plays in our urban lives, and some of the issues created by sound in city spaces – and the highlights were available on two separate albums, one for reimagined compositions, and the second for fascinating urban field recordings.

November: Inferno

November saw our second “literary” project (the first being based on Thomas More’s Utopia). To mark the 700th anniversary of The Divine Comedy, we recreated Dante’s vision of Hell in sound in our Inferno project.

Along with an interactive map of Dante’s Hell, in which you can explore sonic compositions based on the different circles of Hell (kind of appropriate for 2020, no?), the project also saw our first ever film soundtrack, as we edited together submissions to bring to life the 1911 Italian silent film classic L’Inferno.

December: summing up the year

In December, we were delighted to feature in The New York Times Christmas gift guide as one of the best gifts for the traveller in your life.

What’s more, in 2020 we now officially cover more than half of the world, with Cities and Memory sounds from 101 different countries and territories.

What better gift to round off the year, then, than the free-to-download album Sounds of the Year 2020, a compilation of some of the finest reimagined sounds from across the Cities and Memory project more broadly this year.

And for 2021? We’re already planning our first two projects of the new year to start January with a bang – so stay tuned!