Students create city centre soundtrack

Students from the North East Scotland College (NESCol) have captured the distinctive sounds of Aberdeen city centre – including gulls.

Bird cries feature alongside church bells, harbour boat engines, traffic and other sounds that combine to give Aberdeen’s heart its unique sonic signature.

The audio clip is featured on the City Centre Masterplan website, giving visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the soundscape via a mobile device, laptop or pc.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s lead on the City Centre, said: “What makes Aberdeen unique isn’t just its granite architecture but the ambience of its streets and public spaces.

“The City Centre Masterplan is transforming Aberdeen’s heart in different ways. New events, the creation of pocket parks, more pedestrian priority – all will affect how the city sounds as well as how it looks.”

Tony Young, Curriculum and Quality Manager for Music, Drama and Creative Media at NESCol, said: “The HND Sound Production integrates technological and creative skills in a wide range of contexts including studio recording, live event sound and post-production audio.

“Our students are always keen to further develop their range of skills and are delighted to be working with Aberdeen City Council and the City Centre Masterplan team following a live brief.”

The students were Caitlin Duthie, Jack Lovie, Mark Mackay, Magdalena Nakonieczna, and John Ord.

In compiling a list of sounds, NESCol – located on Gallowgate – drew on the experiences of the North-east Sensory Services’ (NESS) Service Users Forum, who suggested where they should train their microphones.

NESS director John Imrie said: “For people who are blind or who have visual impairment, a sense of place comes through sound and touch that both help to create and reinforce an internal map of the environment.

“All cities have an individual character and soundscape: special features, a blend of voices and accents, activities and movement. You have a sense of place and know where you are.”

The Council already supports soundsites, a pioneering project which invites people to map sounds across the wider city, providing the audio heritage of the future.

Creative lead Pete Stollery, Professor of Composition and Electroacoustic Music School in the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, said: “It’s great to hear that NESCol students are getting actively involved with listening to the sounds of the city centre and capturing them for others to listen to.

“Through the many sound awareness projects that other groups in the area, such as University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, [M]appingAbereen, soundfestival, and sonADA, have been undertaking in recent years, the importance of listening can be brought home to people.

“This active listening, as opposed to passive hearing, can allow us to come to terms with what we might initially think of as noise and to think of it in different, more acceptable ways – as sound.”

The Masterplan was unanimously adopted by Aberdeen City Council to transform the city centre over the next 25 years through projects like the creation of new civic space on Broad Street and the revitalisation of Union Terrace Gardens.

* The sound clips can be found here.