These 10 recordings were all made during a few days in January 2017. I was asked by Bivouac Recordings to draw a portrait of my city, the place where I spend my everyday life, in 10 recordings of six minutes each.
That city is Utrecht, at the exact centre of the Netherlands. Being positioned at a relatively narrow stretch of the country, almost all traffic from East to West and back passes through here. In the middle ages, this was the seat of the Bishop of Utrecht, and the largest and most powerful city in the area. Amsterdam’s time was yet to come.
Utrecht has a university that’s nearly 400 years old, and a gothic church that was built starting in 1295. It was established as a fortress along the Rhine by the Romans. This was the Northern border of their empire. Part of the European middle ages are still felt here, a feeling that’s expressed in the presence of many early music ensembles and festivals. For the feel of the Dutch Golden Age, go to Amsterdam. For the feel of the medieval Netherlands, come here.
At this latitude, January is a deep winter month. This has an effect on the city soundscape. I could have taken you to the Amelisweerd, a forested area around an old estate. The Amelisweerd is well known among Utrechters as a place of quiet and refuge. In summer, one will hear birds, cyclists and the wind in the trees. In winter however, the birds will hardly sing, and the leafless trees are not heard. One will mostly hear the A27 freeway that runs past this area. All traffic from East to West…
Does that mean no interesting sounds can be found in winter? Hardly! The sonic landscape is different, but no less wonderful and worth studying. A low roar pervades the streets, courtesy of heavy traffic circling around the city. In the heart of the city, with it’s narrow, medieval streets, sounds of bicycles and machines bounce of the brick and stone walls. It’s a place where one can almost hear a building’s shape. Utrecht’s central railway station is the central hub for the whole country. The clattering of trains is heard throughout. And, as you will hear, nature is still found in the city center. One just has to get up a early to meet it.
Allow me to show you around my home, a marvelous medieval city which, after 6 years of living here, I’m still very much in love with. Allow me to show you it’s wonderfully industrial and echoey winter soundscape. Allow me to give you a taste of it’s feel. And who knows, when winter ends, I may show you it’s summer scape as well.
All 10 recordings have been made binaurally. Use of headphones is recommended.
Harrold Roeland (1981) is a trained composer, sound artist, performer and writer. His work deals with silence, long attention spans and experiencing the world as it is. A multi-instrumentalist, he currently works with several talented musicians, bringing Arabic, Indian and Medieval influences into play. Harrold Roeland is a member of Vlechtwerk Vocaal Ensemble, and hosts a weekly radio show at Dutch Concertzender.