Cities and Memory Oblique Strategies Project Launches Today (10th April)

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Today on the 10th April, 63 sound artists and musicians from across the world will reimagine the sounds of the world, using Eno and Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies cards as inspiration. Cities and Memory: Oblique Strategies sees more than 50 source field recordings from 19 countries all over the world reimagined using only the Oblique Strategies cards to define their direction and inspiration. The project is housed on an interactive sound map here, featuring:
58 locations over 19 countries, from Bangladesh and China to the USA and Canada;
63 sound artists, musicians and field recordists taking part from across the world;
A total of 110 separate Oblique Strategies cards used in the creative process.
The sounds from across the world are as diverse as the clatter of vintage printing presses, a shimmering chorus of insects, Hawaiian waves, the clamour of an English football match, the busying thrum of an international airport, the calm of a Buddhist temple and the power of a driving thunderstorm.
The remixed versions range from musical tracks built from the original samples, drone and ambient pieces built from field recordings, abstract interpretations of the original sounds and frantic cutups elaborately constructed from the source sounds. An album of highlights from the project, entitled Cities and Memory: Oblique Strategies, has been released digitally via Cities and Memory Bandcamp page and is embedded above.
I’ve really enjoyed contributing to this oblique strategies project, having also contributed two songs to their previous Hamburg project and I also have a couple of other remixes underway. The great thing about contributing is that you get to choose a field recording which is a unique sound source and offers great scope for creativity in many different ways through manipulating with a sampler, stretching, adding effects like delay and so on.
My sound file was Oxfordshire Milton Common Tower Electrical Drones. The two strategies I had were : Do something boring and focus on the flaws. I took the sample and chopped it into 12 equal parts. The length of sample is 1m 27s = 87s so each section is 7.328 seconds. I subsequently found that not all lengths were equal and I have no idea why because all of the timings seemed ok.
I decided to join odd and even samples together i.e. 1&3; 2&4; 5&7; 6&8; 7&9; 8&10, 11&12. I started with the process but only realised afterwards that there was a flaw where pairs got wrongly assigned part way through the process. I then used a Paulstretch on samples using 12 intersections and 0.7328 interval in line with the numbers for the initial sections and then used one of these as a drone but the note is not continuous, it has more of a random pattern.
I used ‘Serenity Free’ VST with the Heart of the Statue preset and TAL Reverb 2 airy mono plate preset for a drone chord and played a simple melody over the top. I then played four of the joined samples in sequence twice with a series of different delays. I left them as they were without further processing.
The boring strategy was to use arbitrary lengths for the chopping the sample into sections and then joining the odds and evens together. I also used a number of presets without additional processing and randomly assigned delays to different samples. Because I didn’t edit the chopped samples to fade in / out etc these flaws from the arbitrary chopping are focussed on when these samples play.
The project is one part of a global field recording & sound art work called Cities and Memory, which aims to present and remix the sounds of the world through a global sound map in which every location has two sounds: a documentary field recording and a reimagining of that sound.
The project, which has had 170,000 listens in the past year alone, records both the current reality of a place, and also present its imagined, alternative counterpart – in effect remixing the world, one sound at at time. Every faithful field recording is accompanied by a reworking, a processing or an interpretation that imagines that place and time as somewhere else, somewhere new. The listener can choose to explore locations through their actual sounds, or explore interpretations of what those places could be – or to flip between the two different sound worlds at leisure.
There are currently more than 550 sounds featured on the sound map at, spread over 32 countries.
Cities and Memory has grown rapidly over the past year, with features on The Atlantic, Vice,, CBC national radio in Canada, Resonance FM in the UK and specialist sound sites such as Creative Field Recording and the London Sound Survey.
The project is completely open to submissions from field recorders, musicians or anyone with an interest in exploring sound worldwide. The field recording and sound art communities have embraced the concept: more than 100 field recordists and sound artists from as far afield as Calcutta, Los Angeles and Cape Town have taken part, providing field recordings and radical reimaginings of global sounds.
Cities and Memory takes its name and original inspiration from Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities, which explores how people can experience the same place in dramatically different ways.
“As this wave from memories flows in, the city soaks it up like a sponge and expands. A description of [the city] as it is today should contain all [the city’s] past. The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.