COVID-19_Belfast City: Lifted Restrictions

Poster to thank National Health Service (NHS) and Key Workers, installed to show support during the Covid-19 pandemic
Poster to thank National Health Service (NHS) and Key Workers, installed to show support during the Covid-19 pandemic

Listening Soundscape Study 5

In the midst of a global pandemic, countries and cities have become literal ghost towns. Once flustered with sounds from human activities, this has now been overtaken by the subtle industrial, mechanical, and natural environment sounds. This project began on Friday, March 27, 2020, during Lockdown 1, after two years of different lockdowns and exit strategies, Northern Ireland finally lifted all pandemic restrictions on February 15, 2022. These recordings reflect the two years of changes due to Covid-19 in our urban spaces in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Re-capturing the same first 10 locations on the same day from the first lockdown.

Refer to Covid-19_Belfast City: Lockdown 1 for first listening comparison:

Refer to Covid-19_Belfast City: Lockdown 3 for second listening comparison:

The project maintains the same recording constrictions of using my one daily activity of walking around the city of Belfast and quickly recording various local or touristic points of interest with aid of the VisitBelfast’s visitor map. Each of the soundscapes lasts two minutes because of the strict lockdown measurements set by the government, only allowing us to be outside for limited periods of time for essential grocery shopping, a daily activity, work, or health-related. The repeated recordings at various times during the pandemic generated many soundscapes for preservation and documentation. These recordings aid in comparing and reflecting the changes in these areas with an attempt to record in similar positions and times across the two years.

For this project, the points of interest are (Hyperlinked to Wikipedia Pages):

Please listen with headphones to enhance the auditory experience.

March 27, 2022

Albert Memorial Clock

Recorded at 6:13 pm

Recording of distant bar chatter, vehicles passing, pedestrians walking, dogs walking, children talking, distant laughter, vehicle horn, bicycle passing, birds flying and squawking, random object noise.

Arthur Square

Recorded at 5:20 pm

Recording of kids yelling/playing/running around the sculpture, different groups chattering, birds flying around, a group of youths whistling and chanting, dog walking by. 

Belfast City Hall

Recorded at 5:07 pm

Recording of birds flying and squawking, various groups chattering, different vehicles driving by, engines, baby stroller over cobblestone, kids chatting, banners flying in wind attached to a rope, car door slams. 

Botanic Gardens

Recorded at 7:04 pm

Recording of a plane overhead, ball playing in the field, multi-group chatter, a person yelling “hi” to the recorder, littering observations, birds singing, laughter, footsteps on cement, children running and singing.

Commercial Court

Recorded at 5:58 pm

Recording of outdoor crowd chatter, multi pub ambiences, glassware, cars passing on cobblestone, laughter, radio music playing on speakers, pedestrians walking, a child talking.  

Great Victoria Street

Recorded at 4:52 pm

Recording of suitcase traveller, groups chatting, vehicles passing, taxi stalling/driving away, footsteps, pedestrian cross lights, a phone ringing in a vehicle, child talk, emergency vehicle distant siren.

Queen’s University Belfast

Recorded at 4:20 pm

Recording of vehicles passing, groups of friends chatting, passer-by, motorbike speeding, a person listening to radio or music, seagulls, emergency vehicle sirens, footsteps on bricks. 

Shaftesbury Square

Recorded at 4:38 pm

Recording of vehicles passing, suitcase traveller, cars stopping, engines turning on/off, distant pedestrian chatter.

St Annes Cathedral

Recorded at 5:46 pm

Recording of a bus engine stalled, birds flying and flapping, vehicles passing, car door opening, rollers on the sidewalk, distant group chatter, pedestrians walking, running child.

The Entries

Recorded at 5:31 pm

Recording of a Cover band playing at Jailhouse, outdoor crowd, laughter, chatter, yells, passers-by, glassware, pub ambience, instruments, singing.

Extra Recording of Belfast St Patrick’s Day – 2022-03-17

Recorded at 1:37 pm

After two years without any St. Patrick’s Day parades, the city of Belfast decided to organise a large parade starting from Belfast City Hall and moving through the city’s inner streets. On a rainy afternoon, I recorded within the crowd to capture some of the bands, floats, cheers, chatter, and the continuous rain that fell on us. This is a recording of the parade march, parade bands, music, instruments, chanting, yelling, whistles, groups, children, adults, celebrations, chatter, and gatherings.

Please note: Extra recording part of this Lifted Restriction, Belfast Christmas Market from 20 Nov 2021 – 23 Dec 2021 at the Belfast City Hall, in Belfast, Northern Ireland: To note, this Christmas Market was only accessible with proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test. Soon after, there was a temporary partial lockdown restriction, which led to the full lifting of restrictions in February 2022.

Extra Recording of Belfast Christmas Market (Outside) – 2021-12-02

Recorded at 6:37 pm

After two years without any Christmas Markets, the city of Belfast decided to organise it again. This recording faces the queue waiting to go inside the market as the rain falls. Recording of a queue waiting, vehicle passing, raindrops falling, wet roads, wet sidewalk, pedestrians, multi-group chatter, “Not wearing masks”, metal gate movement, vehicle horn, children talking/yelling, distant music.

Extra Recording of Belfast Christmas Market (Inside) – 2021-12-10

Recorded at 5:08 pm

After two years without any Christmas Markets, the city of Belfast decided to organise it again. This is a double stitched recording from the right and left inside of the market. Recording of two market recording positions, multiple music genres, merchant stands, chatter, passer-by, doors opening/closing, close/distant dialogue, fire burning, children, strollers, laughter, and objects slammed and banged.

Extra Recording of Northern Ireland Centennial Parade – May 28, 2022

Recorded at 3-5 pm

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Northern Ireland Centennial Parade was delayed by one year. It was finally held on May 28, 2022, and hosted by The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. The parade featured around 130 bands and it began at the Stormont Estate, moving through to Belfast City Hall. This event marks the 100th birthday of Northern Ireland, with approximately 20,000 people in attendance. Recording is time-compressed to highlight a range of sounds from group gatherings, chants, whistles, bands, instruments, helicopters, vehicles, chatter, marching, drinking, and celebrating.

Extra Recording of Belfast Orange Day – 2022-07-12

Recorded at 11:25 am – 6:13 pm

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Orange Day parades were previously restricted in size and attendance. In 2022, the parade was back on in pre-covid conditions, meaning a full day of marching and celebration. The recordings took place such as the recording position of last year and the return route marching was recorded within a flat less than 300m from Lisburn Road. The recordings are separated into four sections to best time compress the activities taking place during the march, Section 1 – beginning of marching, Section 2 – marching break, Section 3 – continued marching, and Section 4 – return route marching through the perspective on window listening. Recording of Full Parade, Return Parade, marching, viewers, helicopters, drums, whistles, flutes, accordions, vehicles, chatter, celebration, bottles, drinking, smoking, and stalled vehicles.

Additional Contributions

1Sounding Belfast During Covid-19

During a global pandemic, countries and cities have become literal ghost towns. Once flustered with sounds from human activities, it has now been overtaken from the once subtle industrial, urban, and natural sound environments. Recording multiple points during the lockdown, we are able to chronologically experience the differences imposed by Covid-19 restrictions and how these spaces have changed from the start of the global pandemic.
This project reflects through an auditory and sonic art perspective how the city sounds like without the presence of humans or the normal amount of human density in popular areas in public spaces of Belfast.

This project is accessible via Echoes (GPS soundwalks):
Or alternatively scan the QR code below…

2- Cities and Memory

This sound map is part of Cities and Memory: #StayHomeSounds is a global field recording & sound art work that presents both the present reality of a place and an alternative, reimagined sound world – remixing the world, one sound at at time.
Scroll to Northern Ireland and you will see all files I have recorded.

3- Radio Aporee – Soundscapes in the Pandemic:

The platform radio aporee is online since about 2000, the project radio aporee ::: maps has started 2006. it is a global soundmap dedicated to field recording, phonography and the art of listening. it connects sound recordings to its places of origin, in order to create a sonic cartography, publicly accessible as a collaborative project. It contains recordings from numerous urban, rural and natural environments, disclosing their complex shape and sonic conditions, as well as the different perceptions, practices and artistic perspectives of its many contributors. this makes it a valuable resource for art, education and research projects, and for your personal pleasure.

In addition to aspects of collecting, archiving and sound-mapping, the radio aporee platform also invokes experiments at the boundaries of different media and public space. within this notion, radio means both a technology in transition and a narrative. it constitutes a field whose qualities are connectivity, contiguity and exchange. concepts of transmitter/ receiver and performer/ listener may become transparent and reversible.

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