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This Is What Global Dissent Sounds Like

A new project maps almost 200 recordings taken in 27 different countries over the past 26 years

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smithsonian.com

It has been a tumultuous year in politics, and with each dramatic change, people across the globe have taken to the streets to chant, shout and sing their dissent. As Victoria Turk reports for Wired UK, a new project seeks to chronicle this outpouring of international activism by plotting recordings from hundreds of protests onto a single, interactive sound map.

Titled Protest and Politics, the map lets users click through almost 200 recordings taken in 27 countries, in 49 cities, over the course of 26 years. The earliest sound bite, according to Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura, was recorded in 1991 during a protest against the Gulf War in Washington, D.C. But many of the map’s sounds capture the swells of outrage and determination prompted by recent political events, including snippets of numerous protests against Donald Trump and Brexit, recordings from Black Lives Matter rallies, and sounds of a teachers’ strike in Colombia.  The most recent recording, for instance, dates to July 2017. Each sound bite is accompanied by a second version, which was remixed by a sound artist.

The map was created by Cities and Memory, a collaborative project that consolidates the recordings of sound artists from around the world. The group’s previous initiatives have explored and reimagined the sounds of various sacred spaces, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, and even the Dada movement.

In a statement, Stuart Fowkes, who runs Cities and Memory, says he found the subject matter pressing because “[n]o sound defines the age we’re living in better than the sounds of protest.”  

“There’s something important about presenting these pieces together,” Fowkes adds, “because we can use sound to draw together and help make sense of some of the threads of the global narrative of dissent that’s been building around the world in recent years.”

Most of the audio was gathered from protestors who fall to the left of the political spectrum—“The sort of people who are interested in recording and sound art tend to be quite a liberal, left-leaning bunch,” Fowkes tells Turk of Wired—but there are outliers. One recording was taken during a rally of the far-right National Front in England, while another captures anti-Muslim chants shouted during a protest in the United States.

While the map often reflects a turbulent and divided world, it also testifies to a sense of unity and hope among the crowds that gather to make their voices heard. At a rally in support of Canada’s Indigenous groups, for instance, a protestor addresses a crowd of both “Indigenous and non-Indigenous” people. And at a pro-EU rally in London this year, protestors joined together in singing “All You Need is Love.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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