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Urban Silence

How do we actually define silence and what role does it play in an urban space? Can we break out of the all-encompassing flood of sound in the city in order to enjoy silence or its desirability? What urban and architectural conditions would have to be met for this to happen? Is silence even possible and desirable in an urban environment? The annual theme for the 2024 festival edition calls for reflection on silence in urban spaces as well as on the physical and cultural significance of urban sound space.

Historical, personal and aesthetic meanings of sound spaces evoke associations and reactions that allow us to individually classify, group and interpret sounds. Through cultural contexts, personal preferences and prejudices, as well as artistic conventions and aesthetic choices, the process of listening to sound becomes a subjective experience also in the urban environment.

How do we navigate urban soundscapes and what role do they play locally and/or globally?

Sound plays an important role in urban space. It can set new boundaries and barriers: while the walls of privacy reveal their secrets and backyard sounds accompany our everyday life beyond the yard, private conversations in open public spaces are hard to follow.

Traffic seems to be almost a sonic epitome of urbanity these days. Do we perceive it as cacophonous noise or rather as enchanting music? Or is the border between the two another cultural construct in which silence is an unwanted or desired contrast?

And last but not least, the inhabitants of a city as producers of sounds must not be forgotten: crowds and people's voices as sonic signposts (familiar or warning) unconsciously guide us through the city and mark new public spaces. The language/s that are read, spoken and heard in public space also guide us through an urban soundscape and shape it.

Further facets of the urban soundscape are formed by fleeting and constant sounds of nature: from singing birds, rustling lawns, barking dogs and buzzing insects to rustling trees and bushes, pattering rain and the rippling water of canals, these sounds produce different insights that complement, support or contradict each other. How is the city perceived through such sound waves? What layers of natural sound can be felt in Neukölln and/or Berlin and sensed as an urban experience?

In the upcoming festival edition of 48 Stunden Neukölln, all explorations of aspects of urban silence are welcome: from field recordings to experimental music to traditional forms of expression - everything is allowed. Musical compositions, (sound) installations, texts, theatre and poetry as well as pictures and sculptures are to explain the theme of urban silence artistically as well as implement it in a visually and sensorially sophisticated way. We are very curious about the numerous interpretations of the theme!