2021 has been many things, but unexpectedly it’s also been one of the busiest and most exciting years since Cities and Memory launched six years ago. We’ve released seven global sound projects, ten albums (including two physical releases for the first time), presented the project at the Sorbonne and even found time to release a book(!). Here’s a quick look back at our year.
The big thing to say is a massive and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who’s contributed a field recording or composition to the project – Cities and Memory literally would not exist without this incredible global community of artists.
We collaborated with Foals percussionist Kit Monteith on a project called Audio-Cartographic Experiments, in which Kit transformed the sounds of being on a world tour into a beautiful, compelling full-length album, and a sound map on Cities and Memory.
February saw the delayed release of Sedimento, a sonic reimagining of the city of Venice. Originally commissioned as an audiovisual live performance for the Audiograft festival (cancelled due to Covid-19), we released the piece as our first multimedia video work (with video produced by Dave Balch).
The piece takes us on a journey through the sounds of Venice, filtered through the prism of Pauline Oliveiros’ statement from Deep Listening: “we are always gathering sediment, it seems”.
In March it was time to explore The Orange Garden, in which we answered the question “what would happen if you gave 50 different artists the same source material as inspiration?”
Artists from around the world came together to offer very different interpretations of the same field recording taken from The Orange Garden in Rome, making for one of the most diverse and artistically-fascinating projects we’ve ever undertaken.
2021 saw Venice – the spiritual home of Cities and Memory – celebrate its 1,600th birthday. To mark this incredible milestone, we collected together our own sonic explorations of the city into Venezia 1600, a project celebrating the sonic heritage of this most unique of cities, including a new album, Sounds from Venice.
Until We Travel is the biggest ever showcase of the sounds of travel – remixed and reimagined to reflect how the world of travel has changed in a global pandemic. Probably our single biggest project of the year and months in the making, this was launched during May, along with two accompanying albums.
Our first ever physical album release! Fernweh is a collection of reimagined compositions by Cities and Memory, released as a limited-run CD by Wormhole World. The physical edition is long since sold out, but you can still get the digital version.
In more prosaic but equally exciting news for us, we also completely changed Cities and Memory’s website hosting in June, making for a site that loaded much faster, ran better and didn’t crash every few weeks. Result.
Our summer project was a collaboration with light ‘n’ sound gurus Ithaca Studio on an installation appearing across festivals in the UK called 5,000 Miles. We gathered field recordings from locations approximately 5,000 miles from the UK in Thailand and Taiwan, and they were used for an immersive real-world festival installation.
In September we released our first “themed” album by type of sound, The Chimes – a compilation of pieces built entirely from the wonderful sound of bells. There were some beautiful pieces on the album, which really captured the imagination of listeners, and we’ll be looking to explore more themed albums in the coming year.
Something quite different in October, as Cities and Memory founder Stuart Fowkes released his first volume of poetry. Titled Chartless/demagnetised, it represents poetry written over the eight-year period from 2013 to 2021, and developing the book was a major part of our year. You can read a selection of the poems and buy the book at the link below.
Our challenge to artists over the late summer was to reimagine sounds from across Italy, as we’d been collecting plenty during lockdowns over the previous year.
The result was Sounds from Italy, our first formal country-based project, collecting hundreds of compositions from across the bel paese, released in November along with two accompanying albums.
We headed off to Paris in December to present our Inferno project, and screen our soundtrack to L’Inferno, at the Sorbonne University as part of Dante, Le Langue, Les Arts, a fantastic event celebrating 700 years since the death of Dante.
A great way to round off the year, and there was still time for one final release – At Night, an EP built around the sounds of nighttime, working with long-time collaborator Karhide.
What an incredible year – and with our Shortwave Transmissions project already set to launch in January, 2022 is shaping up nicely too!