Seeking Sounds

By Nadia Nadesan

Without fail every Friday afternoon, the apartment across the street from mine on the third floor blasts reggeton music. If I were to close my eyes I might think it was 2am in Chueca rather than a sunny afternoon in the little known barrio of San Fermín.

San Fermín, a neighborhood south of the city center of Madrid, like all other neighborhoods, has its own unique soundscape with regular rhythms, patterns, and flows denoting which street, corner, or square you're in. Rowland Atkinson referred to our personal sound maps as acoustic territories that are regulated by institutions, social, and cultural practice. Our acoustic territories tell us about how we relate to each other as a society. Public and private spaces are created, defined, and contested by those who manage and make the soundscape.

When I moved to Madrid and made my apartment my home, I adorned my space with music and the sound of cooking. Sound making is world making whether it be internal or shared. And the boundaries of sound are fuzzy. Thin walls, open windows, and sirens all make for very porous boundaries for our acoustic territories. The sound of our space connects us to the people and institutions in our day to day lives.

Scholars such as Apan Nayak point out that the process of making a soundscape is open ended and porous. The multiplicity of the diaspora in San Fermín is reconfigured again and again as new people come in with their sounds of Juan Gabriel blasting on the stereo, bargaining in Mandarin at the grocery store, the clink of dominoes on a quiet afternoon. Our personal sounds of home, nostalgia, and resettling come together to form a collective and shared sense of San Fermín.

However, our soundscapes are not just what we hear, but what we don't hear as well. When I was living in Copenhagen I had heard of the Mariam Masjid where the call to prayer is lead by a woman. I wanted to hear it, but the location of the masjid was not yet disclosed in order to keep it a safe space, and the sound could not be heard publicly (for instance when near the masjid in the city district of Nørrebro).

But what if they did feel safe, what if the world were a different place? In an attempt to reimagine the world, I created a blip of the sound of the city I would like live in.


Nadia is mostly a student at the moment. She enjoys Korean horror movies, David Harvey's writing, coffee made by other people, pickle rice, and when possible, a room of her own.

Maya Acharya