Maybe you have ever wondered where the real Bucharest is. In Primăverii, at the mall, or on the terraces with muted music and bubbling water? At the University, at kilometer 0 of the Capital and Romanian democracy? Maybe further, in Ferentari and Rahova? Or behind the communist boulevards, after the blocks, in Militari, Titan and Giulesti? The neighborhoods of Bucharest are as complicated as the Bucharesters who live in them. In some places there is more history, in others – more people and sweeter life. Sometimes, in the evenings, in corporate heaven, it’s so quiet you can hear if you’ve dropped your ID on the floor. Other times, during the peak hours of the multinationals, at lunchtime, you can hear spoons and expensive cars around the bland canteens. Cars seem more nervous when looking for parking spaces on the narrow, cubic stone streets.

Treatises on urban anthropology were written, urban mythology atlases were drawn, and sociologists, historians, architects and even real estate agents ate some good bread discovering Bucharest. One can talk for hours about Miţa Biciclista, the famous prostitute from the interwar period, about George Enescu’s concerts, the lavish dinners of former concubines, or the wardrobe of a single housewife. However, almost no one leaves these areas of etiquette, still too few venture towards the outskirts, after blocks and among people. Cișmigiu Park is reduced to its history, its pedantry and the present around the few taverns. About Ferentari, we only talk about the poverty-extreme poverty range. And the interest in the Titan bedroom neighborhood does not go beyond the living room space, while the people from Giulești are most often heard only from the train compartments.

It’s too little, not enough, the neighborhoods of Bucharest have so much to say about themselves and their people. That’s why someone has to put the microphone in front of them and let them act like they do every day.

This is what I did, this is Ear to Bucharest! I traversed the boulevards, streets and alleys of the neighborhoods with the microphone in hand and attentive to all the pulsations of the places. I didn’t change anything. We recorded the ambient sounds exactly as they are heard on the spot, in the field. In several field recording sessions, the neighborhoods revealed their stories and interpreted them uncensored. Here, in Cişmigiu people still fall in love under the noisy flocks of birds and away from the vagaries of traffic. Shows are held, new music is played and the old trees are rustling. In Ferentari, there is not only misery and poverty. Life beyond all the clichés and comfortable prejudices is much calmer: children laugh, grown-ups discuss politics and listen to music, and cars are just as irresponsible. The world quarrels and reconciles. And the show Sistem ka pe Ferentari is no longer a novelty. I listened to it and recorded it. Titan? It’s industrial and yet green. The domestic neighborhood, the sleeping neighborhood, the sound mirror of the most diverse routines of workers, children and grandparents. You can hear the birds singing in the park, and that’s a big deal! And how should Giulesti be? With his trains that speak jerkily, in two beats, with his dogs forgotten behind the railway tracks and the wind that raises the dust on the streets, Giulesti lives with hope. Just like his football team that once was.

I did not file these sounds. On the contrary, I showed everything to the people of Bucharest. I sent from Cişmigiu to the Capitol Summer Theater, from Ferentari to the North Station, from Titan to Drumul Taberei and from Giulesti to the University. Sometimes we let them unfold as we heard them, without interventions and artistic acts. And other times I built, like a lego, from sounds other sounds. Live and in replay. We used modern sound processing devices: loop stations, sampling machines and synthesizers. We opened four commissioned exhibitions of acoustic urban landscaping. And that’s not all: we archive all these recordings in a virtual map. A complete picture of all the sounds around us, which can be equally boring, interesting or downright annoying. We want to listen and see how the soundscape of the city evolves, we measure the noise intensity, the number of decibels and the level of auditory comfort. And we always take into account the stories from the mute. This is just one form in which the suns of the city can be placed, but it is not the only one. Everything is for someone to listen to the daily stories of Bucharest, inexhaustible and always different.

We built four communication bridges between neighborhoods. But this is just the beginning. We promise. This map of Bucharest is incomplete, we must open the door to all neighborhoods! We continue to collect the stories of the people of Bucharest and their stairs, blocks, houses, streets, neighborhoods. We walk around with the microphone in hand and continue to look for areas from which we can broadcast live.

The urban soundscape, with all its stories, are as important as any urban plan. No one sees the noise. Bucharest’s uproar is not written anywhere, although we all witness it every day. There are strategies for reducing the level of ambient noise, but these strategies will never be able to create a delicate sound space with all Bucharest residents. What sounds do we like? When do we plug our ears? What do we want to hear so that we stop nervously slamming the doors of cars and houses? Someday, maybe this city will be more friendly to the ears of its inhabitants. Perhaps, years from now, no one will bathe in the lake of Titan, and car horns will disappear for good. No one knows how soundscapes evolve over time. We record the testimonies of the present. The next generations will see what their street said a few years ago. What was the real Bucharest.

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Ear to Bucharest is a project to document the specifics of the sound environment of the city. The research is materialized in a series of immersive installations and interventions in the public space, with the aim of reconnecting the people of Bucharest with the city and the stories they would not normally encounter. Ear to Bucharest was supported by the Accelerator of Ideas, Open Lab Bucharest 2021, a project that contributed to the city’s cultural activity in Bucharest’s candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2021.

Maybe you have ever wondered where the real Bucharest is. In Primăverii, at the mall, or on the terraces with muted music and bubbling water? At the University, at kilometer 0 of the Capital and Romanian democracy? Maybe further, in Ferentari and Rahova? Or behind the communist boulevards, after the blocks, in Militari, Titan and […]