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Stanza: we are moving from Metropolis to Megalopolis to Ecumenopolis

SOUND MAPS Comments Off on Stanza: we are moving from Metropolis to Megalopolis to Ecumenopolis

Stanza is an internationally recognized artist. Expert in arts technology, his works has been exhibited since 1984, collecting prizes around the world. In some Stanza’s artworks, the sounds of the urban environment have an important role. “Since most of us live in cities, then that is for me where the most interesting sound interactions can take place” He created the term sound map and was probably the first to build an online sound map. In this short interview by e-mail, Stanza talks about sound, space and daily life.

  1. Did you create the term soundmap, right?

I have been using it for quite some time, but now it has probably become generic. I first used it to describe some projects proposals then part of The Central City ( net art projects) and then The Soundcities project was developed to include soundmaps, sounds feeds, live performances, workshops, a new 170 speaker installation  and new online soundmap software. The project and various aspects are available for exhibition and touring.

  1. Are we more attentive to the sound environment or is it more about availability of technology?

I am tempted to say: same as it ever was. However, the invention of all the new recording and listening devices has focused this attention into the space around us, i.e. the environment. Since most of us live in cities then that is for me were the most interesting sound interactions can take place.


  1. You say that globalization fractures the identity of the city experience and we start to find things that appear the same the world over. What kind of sounds are you looking for in the cities? 

The original intention and proposal to the arts council in 1995 was to find differences in the sound of cites before the year 2000. The sounds of cities also give clues to the emotional and responsive way we interact with our cities. Cities all have specific identities, and found sound can give us clues to the people that inhabit these spaces, as well as provoking us and stimulating our senses in a musical way. I am interested in the sounds of specific places, and how the sounds reflect this identity and re-imposes characteristics back onto the location or environment.

The aim was to create an online aural experience that evokes place, both as literal description but also developed musical composition. The sounds of cities evoke memories. As globalization fractures the identity of the city experience we start to find things that appear the same the world over.

The city is everything, everywhere, without limits. It is a virus on the skin, spreading outwards, upwards, and underground. There is no need to limit the city. It has no bounds.  Each aspect of city life seems to demonstrate specific characteristics, which can be developed into individual parts of the labyrinth, making up the images that will be used. A city experience consists of small unit blocks and cells which inter-relate, and lock together to form the composite city identity. The city has moved from metropolis, to megalopolis, to the ecumenopolis as I want to show with the Nemesis Machine installation. The city is everywhere, with lifeless design spreading upwards and forming a conundrum of physical objects in space.


Cities offer the opportunity for unique types of data gathering experiences via a variety of sources.  With this perspective there are many unimagined threads of data and connections that describe our world that can be explored through wireless mobile networks within which we can create new artistic interpretations.

4. Soundmaps are interactive tools that ask for another temporality, because we have to stop to listen. How does work the listening engagement on Soundcities?

What Soundcities does is create an open source archive, a resource. You can now contribute your own field recording onto the various soundmaps or create your own soundmap. There are now thousands of sounds from around the world. The site allows you to choose and add cities as well as make categories for sounds. This website allows the audience the possibility to remix the hundreds of samples recorded from around the world in the database.

The city is the orchestra. Soundcities involves field recording literally the sounds we hear as we walk out of the door. Not just as noise (data) or as noise pollution but also as an appreciation of sound and how this not only affects the space but it is the space.

The noise is the city, the noise is the music, the city is the orchestra and we are just conductors whose interactive actions compose this music as we walk around. We control the interface of the city as we navigate the streets. We are responsive in out interactions of the city space.

  1. In this regard, probably do you know the British library archive of soundmaps?

Yes I felt let down when I saw that. (Since mine is an unfunded project). Soundcities was the first online open source database of city sounds and soundmaps from around the world, using found sounds and field recording. There are now thousands of sounds from around the world on the website. The concept started in 1995 with various iterations. In 1996, I devised the term soundmaps and initiated the various works that developed into  Stanza’s soundmaps have been online since 2000 and the Soundcities database since 2004.  


To know more about Stanza:

Current Stanza’s artworks

Soundcities – Herd Above the Noise. Installation

The installation can play thousands of sounds from around the world and is arranged like a map of the city the artwork is installed in. What you see and experience is a map of wires and cables including over 170 speakers, a custom made amplifier that are all used to make the installation.  Soundcities has developed unfunded and has soundmaps, sounds feeds, live performances, workshops  a new installation  and new software.

The Reader

The Reader is a large six-foot sculpture of the artist Stanza wearing a hoodie reading a book which stands at the heart Of Milton Keynes Central Libraries. The artwork is a metaphor for the engagement of reading in the digital age. The sculpture acts as a focal point for community and public engagement and has taken over one year to make and design; it has been commissioned to act as a focal point for the identity of the library.

The Nemesis Machine – From Metropolis to Megalopolis to Ecumenopolis

The Nemesis Machine is a large installation (adapted to each place where it is displayed) that is a miniature city. It visualises life in the metropolis on the basis of data transmitted from London. So the city constructed in Bruges using electronic components reflects in real time what is happening on the other side of the Channel. Small cameras show pictures of the visitors so that they become part of the city.

The Agency At The End Of Civilization.

The artwork “The Agency At The End Of Civilisation” is a real time interpretation of the data of the Internet of Cars project using the UK car number plate recognition system aligned with real time images from one hundred CCTV cameras in the region of South of England. The installation presents all this as a spatialised audio experience of spoken texts and generative visuals.


Claudia Holanda
Cantora, compositora e jornalista. Faz atualmente doutorado na UFRJ sobre paisagem sonora. Se interessa por música, comunicação, mapas sonoros e formas de politizar as tecnologias.

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