Sounding Democracy


A broad range of questions arise around sound and democracy – including the use of sound to demarcate or discipline territory, sonic surveillance and forensic listening, the evolution of protest music, democratic compositional practices, being silent and silencing as political acts, rhetoric and discursive practices, frameworks for deliberation, and the legitimacy of synthetic voices. The open audio archive Soundings is designed as a general, powerful tool and resource for researchers and activists working with audio – an instrument with which to probe the concept, specific manifestations, and possible futures of democracy. The archive’s rich metadata structure permits extensive annotation, collaborative editing, and deep and precise filtering and sorting.

Soundings was originally conceived in 2020 as a repository for the Sounds of of Democracy project, initiated by Vienna-based Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) and academic partners including the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, IHEID Geneva. It brings together diverse voices, sounds and sonic practices from across sectors and territories, arranged thematically in categories including: field recordings from protests, music, vox pops, interviews, documents and dramatisations of deliberative processes, and conversations with digital assistants. In addition to public submissions, the archive was populated in 2021 with commissioned works from CMAP/Radio Chicoco (Port Harcourt), Journal Rappé (Dakar) and CAMP (Bombay), among others.

In April 2022, recordings from the Famers’ and Anti-Citizenship Amendment Acts protests in India were uploaded to Soundings as part of Artefacts of Resistance, a collaboration between King’s College London and Somerset House Studios.

A multichannel sound installation based on an algorithmic traversal and manipulation of the archive will be launched at the Vienna Humanities Festival in September 2022.

Soundings is an instantiation of the open media archive, with configuration and hosting support by Jan Gerber of, and funded by the IWM.


Top right image: Port Harcourt Waterfronts Town Hall July 2009, courtesy CMAP.