It’s been another huge year for Cities and Memory, as the project continues to grow in terms of sounds, countries covered and most importantly artists getting involved. 

This is our review of 2023, but the first and most important thing to say is a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has got involved this year, from composing artists and field recordists through to everyone who’s listened to our sounds and had kind words to say. The project wouldn’t exist without you all, and it’s hugely appreciated.

The year in numbers

  • Two new sound projects launched
  • 120 countries now on the sound map, with Guadeloupe, Belize and Tanzania among the most recent additions
  • Two million listens to Cities and Memory sounds worldwide
  • More than 1,600 artists taking part

Polar Sounds

We started the year off with a bang, as our collaborative project with the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) launched.

Polar Sounds was a huge undertaking, and a unique project in how it uses sound and art to frame the conversation around human impact on our polar worlds, and there were some truly amazing compositions among the responses we received from artists. 

The project was also a huge news story, as one of the lead BBC News stories of the day here in the UK, also featuring in the likes of New Scientist, The Wire and on The Today Programme.

Music for Sleep

Our second major project launch of 2023 is one of my personal favourite projects – Music for Sleep. It’s a collaboration between artists and field recordists to create a worldwide, wide-ranging collection of compositions specifically designed to induce, aid and boost sleep. 

There were so many ways to present the sounds – they appeared on a global sound map and in an interactive player, but we also assembled some of the more ambient pieces into a special hour-long audiovisual composition designed to relax viewers and listeners, which you can find here:

We also presented some of the most beautiful field recordings as a separate album, along with edited soundscapes of forests, birdsong and waves:

Cities and Memory live events

In April it was a privilege to present Cities and Memory to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, talking through some of our projects and how we can use sound to answer some bigger questions about the world around us. 

In November we travelled to Belfast to present the project at Queen’s University, where we also performed live in the incredible Sonic Lab (“IMAX for the ears”), which was a special experience. 

The full live set is available to watch on our YouTube channel:

The Sound of Adventure

July saw the callout for a new collaboration with adventure travel specialists Exodus Travels, for a new project exploring the experience of travel through sound. 

The Sound of Adventure saw field recordists commissioned in some of Exodus’ most popular travel destinations to collect and record off-the-beaten-track sounds from each country, to be reimagined into compositions reflecting the theme of travel. 

The project will launch in late January/early February 2024, and the compositions we’ve heard so far are sounding amazing!

Migration Sounds

In September we announced the launch of one of our most ambitious projects yet – Migration Sounds. Working in partnership with the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)  at the University of Oxford, this project aims to reframe the migration conversation through sound. 

We’re currently looking for submissions of recordings of the sounds of migration and settlement from all over the world, so please do send yours in!

The project welcomes sounds that encompass the whole spectrum of human migration. These might be the sounds of leaving a place, of journeying from one place to another, of settling or of returning. So if you’re living in a new country or have spent time away from home, we’d love to hear your sounds, and what they represent about your experiences. You can submit a recording here. These sounds – and we’ve had some incredible stories and submissions so far – will be reimagined by a selected group of artists into new compositions reflecting on what settlement and migration mean to them. You can join the waitlist for next year’s artist callout here.

News roundup

It’s also been a big year for Cities and Memory in the news, and we’ve seen some great media coverage of the project.

Wired Italia ran an extensive feature back in February, and Songlines magazine gave a shout out to our Music for Sleep project:

To finish the year, we found ourselves on the front page of one of Japan’s biggest newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun, as they visited Oxford to talk to us about the project, and to learn more about Migration Sounds:

Albums of the year

As regular listeners will know by now, some of the highlights of our projects are released as standalone albums on Bandcamp, all available as free downloads or pay-what-you-like – and we’ve released eight albums this year.

Most recently, Sounds of the Year is our annual look back at some of our favourite compositions from the wider Cities and Memory sound map this year:

Our series of country-specific collections grew in 2023, with special albums focusing on sounds from Iceland, Portugal and Egypt:

And of course, there were album releases tied to our big project launches in 2023, Polar Sounds and Music for Sleep. 

Once again, a huge thank you for listening to and being part of Cities and Memory in 2023. With Migration Sounds and The Sound of Adventure in preparation, as well as new project ideas coming soon, 2024 already looks like being a good one!

In the meantime, a very happy – and sonic – festive season to you all 🎄🎧