What did Antwerp sound like in the nineteenth century? What images did listeners associate with each sound? How did sounds sort time and space? To what extent did they contribute in forming identities and communities in the art and trade centre that Antwerp was?
At an era with no radio, television, internet or other sound producing media, sounds and noises carried significant meaning. The pounding of bells helped the townsmen to organise their days and to orientate themselves in the developing city. Drum rolls, jingling bells and trumpet calls annouced post, important notices, armies or notables. Songs alleviated work, forged bonds or worshipped God, heroes or nations. Indoors, clocks ticked, knitting pins tapped, pens scratched on papers, maybe someone played piano or the sounds of carillions, horse hoofs, barrel organs or steam locomotives seeped in.
Urban sound history has been given increasing attention during the past couple of years. The research project ‘Stadsklanken XIX’ therefore aims to reconstruct the sounds of private and public spaces of nineteenth century Antwerp with contemporary research methods and in collaboration with a research project of the university of Antwerp, ‘Antwerp Time Machine’.
Image: Louis Van Engelen, ‘Zondagmiddag op Sint-Anneke’, 1887