Project: Soundscapes of the Urban Past

The project Soundscapes of the Urban Past has focused on the urban past in terms of its sounds, and on how the dramatization of these sounds articulated changing identities of both the city and its inhabitants between 1875 and 2000. This programme’s scholarly aim was to study dramatizations of sound in historical documents, radio plays and films – as mediated cultural heritage – in order to enhance our understanding of the continuity and change in representations of the city, specifically Amsterdam, Berlin and London.


Research team: Prof. Dr. Karin Bijsterveld, Dr. Andreas Fickers, Drs. Annelies Jacobs and Jasper Aalbers MA.
Type of project: NWO-Cultural Dynamics.
More information: Prof. Dr. Karin Bijsterveld

Apart from many academic publications, the Soundscapes project has also resulted in the installation on the “Sound of Amsterdam” at the Amsterdam Museum, which can be visited until December 28, 2013. You can read more about this unique installation here. The exhibition has been reviewed in the journal The Public Historian. Karin Bijsterveld gave a keynote talk reflecting upon the project at a conference on Digital Archives, Audiovisual Media and Cultural Memory in Copenhagen in November 2013, which you can watch online.

Many of the sound recordings made for the installation (by Arnoud Traa of De Auditieve Dienst) have been made available on the Soundcloud page of Beeld en Geluid.




Books and Book Chapters:

Soundscapes of the Urban Past. Staged Sound as Mediated Cultural Heritage, edited by Karin Bijsterveld. Bielefeld: transcript, 2013.

Part of the Sound Studies book series.

More information and an excerpt can be found here.



sdjDer Sound des Jahrhunderts: Geräusche, Töne, Stimme – 1889 bis heute, edited by Gerhard Paul and Ralph Schock. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2013.

This “sound book” published by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education collects essays that reconstructs and analyses the changing sound worlds of the long 20th century. It is accompanied by a DVD of sounds, including pop hits, political battle songs and radio transmissions.

One chapter is based on the research of the Soundscapes of the Urban Past project:

Annelies Jacobs and Karin Bijsterveld, “Der Klang der Besatzungszeit: Amsterdam 1940 bis 1945”, pp. 252-257.

More information and an excerpt (in German) can be found here. An interview about the book with editor Gerhard Paul in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit can be found here.


MoratSoundsSounds of Modern History: Auditory Cultures in 19th and 20th Century Europe, edited by Daniel Morat. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014.

One chapter is based on the research of the Soundscapes of the Urban Past project:

Annelies Jacobs, “The Silence of Amsterdam before and during World War II: Ecology, Semiotics and Politics of Urban Sound”

More information can be found here.



Jasper Aalbers (2010), “Een korte geschiedenis van filmgeluid”, in Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis vol. 13:1, pp. 95-112.

Annelies Jacobs (2012), “Oorlogsgeluid in de stad en stadsgeluid in oorlogstijd”, in Stadsgeschiedenis vol. 7:1,  pp. 42-58.



Jasper Aalbers (2013), Echoes of the city: Staging the Urban Soundscape in Fiction Film. PhD thesis, Maastricht University.

Annelies Jacobs (2014), Het Geluid van Gisteren: Waarom Amsterdam Vroeger Ook Niet Stil Was. PhD thesis, Maastricht University.