Madrid, Spain, circa 1935
Today’s post is another brief one. It takes us back in time to the soundscape/noise-scape of big cities. For centuries now, people have complained about how noisy and distressing cities are. (See the past two posts about city noise and noise maps.)
Drawing on Mark Smith’s work on the social history of noise/sound (see here for a previous post on the NC about his work), I have found another great example.
I was reading Antonio Munoz Molina’s novel, In the Night of Time, and found this delicious description of a city soundscape:
“Car horns, streetcar bells, the shouts of street vendors, the monotonous chants of blind beggars, paso dobles at bullfights, drums and trumpets at military parades, the rabble’s music at festivals and circuses, church bells, the uproar of workers’ demonstrations, gunshots at riots, train whistles, all ascended to his open window, confused as the polychromatic haze of a Ravel orchestration, against which the sharp sound of soccer players’ shouts and the referees’ whistles on the athletic fields and the bleating of a flock of sheep grazing in a nearby meadow stood out clearly. If he paid a great deal of attention he could hear the wind in the poplars and almost make out the flow of water in the irrigation ditch that ran beside the Residence and on to the orchards on the other side of the Castellana. He was in Madrid and in the countryside, on the boundary where the city ended.” (39)
This is such a strong description of a specific soundscape, one that gives us a real sense of all sorts of activities in Madrid at this time. (This would be the time of the Spanish Civil War, hence the gunshots and demonstrations.)
Here are two pictures of the same square in Madrid, circa 1935. Perhaps you can get a sense of what such a space would sound like then.
One final note: these next two pictures are of the Castellana mentioned in Molina’s description. The first photo dates from the 1930s, and the second shows how it looks now. I have to say that it must be much noisier now than then, even with the tree-lined road.
For your homework, think about how the soundscape of where you live has probably changed in the past 100 years. You can submit your thoughts and ideas to the NC and we will post them.