About seven months ago I moved from Porto, Portugal, to the center of Stockholm. I had never lived in anywhere except my hometown. Things are different in Sweden: lifestyle, architecture, people, language, weather… however, it is not a shock of any kind to come here from Portugal, as different as things are.
I arrived on what should had been one of the warmest summers ever (weeks in a row with temperatures from 23 to 30 degrees C) and at this point in February I am already slightly annoyed of all the snow falling on me almost every day.
As someone that works with sound, on this changing situation, I have become much more aware of how a city / place sounds like.
What could be different? These are both european cities full of life, people, cars, music and so on. Language, of course. And that is a good starting point. One could say in Portugal portuguese is spoken, in Sweden they speak Swedish. Correct! Partially: Sweden has a high percentage of immigrants and if one just listen without seeing, will notice immediately how in one minute wandering around in the streets will listen to so many different languages. English, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and languages from east Europe are just a few.
One fact that is very sounding (pun intended), it´s the amount of travel bags with wheels. Again, comparing both countries, Swedes travel incomparably more than Portugueses, due to different incomes and lifestyle. Very, very frequently, we hear to the massive sound of those small wheels running on the ground and reflecting their sound on the massive 200 year old buildings.
And what about the snow? Oh, the snow! As annoying as it gets sometimes, it makes such a difference when there is a thick layer covering the city. Everything seems to go into a rare silence. We don´t have to hear the snow falling, but it is as the rest gets quieter. This also brings people working taking the snow out of the roofs and trucks creating clean tracks on the street. For some minutes some part of the streets are cut while this happens forcing people to hesitate and go around.
This cold-snow-dark vs hot-bright-light summer causes a big shift in people´s mood. Its easy to notice on people´s voice how excited they are during warmer periods, how there is much more people running and working out outside and walk their dogs more frequently.
Unfortunately, in the last year, the amount of beggars and homeless also raised a lot. It would not be a faithful sound image of Stockholm today if we do not include those in our soundscape. This has been a quick change in time.
What about buildings? As means of comparison, even the main doors are different. Most doors here in Sweden are automatic, meaning you need a button and perhaps a code to get in – not traditionally a key. Not only they sound different opening and closing, as the time between these two occurrences is wider.
Several weeks ago I got a pair of microphones that allow me to do binaural stealth recordings. So, that was what I did – I took a big walk around trying to capture all these. What follows is the first edited piece. I confess I was trying more to get the sound of a building being renewed but I got a little representation of all these. Obs: it was not snowing on this day.