Amsterdam is an amazingly beautiful city, one built along the needs of the pedestrian or cyclist, the cobbled streets and canals being mostly devoid of cars and other motorised forms of transport, thus making for an ideal location for field recording. It’s quite interesting to compare the field recordings made here with those made in Brussels. Both are vibrant and bustling European cities, though both have very different soundscapes..
Unlike recording in non-urban areas, urban field recording is rarely concerned with the capturing of the subtle nuances of bird song or similar such quiet events. The loudness and pervasiveness of the sounds from human habitation and society, including the noise and sounds generated from road and air traffic, will often make this extremely difficult. I do believe though that most cities still possess their own unique and individual sonic personality, it’s just a case of listening to the surroundings that you find yourself in, and adopting a perspective from which you can communicate this personality to the listener. Conveying these city sounds in a new light can be incredibly revealing, even when the space in which they were recorded is perhaps one that we know intimately.
The reimagined piece composed from the recordings of Amsterdam is an amalgam of sounds from cyclists and their bicycles, buskers, trams, canal boats and the church bells from the many churches in the city. The material was chosen to reflect as much as possible the sonic character and inherent musicality of the city. I was particularly attracted to the sounds of the tolling bells in the many churches in the city, and the sounds emanating from the literally thousands of bicycles that can be heard rattling over the city’s cobbled streets.