Spillepengen is what geographers Matthew Gandy and Sandra Jasper (2020) would call a “remnant ecology.” As the last remaining slice of a once dominant coastal landscape feature, it evokes the uneven histories shaping the social and ecological development of southern Skane. For thousands of years, beach meadows like these have been crucial landing spots for migratory birds passing through the region. Because these meadows periodically flooded with sea salt water, they were never used for intensive agriculture, and came to function instead as common pasture areas that were relatively undeveloped. With the urbanization of nearby Malmo towards the end of the 19th century, most of the areas adjacent to Spillpengen were converted to light industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, part of Spillepengen was subjected to active landfilling, and the resulting peninsula-like tract now houses a waste facility and shooting range. Since then, the roads bordering to the east have steadily taken on more activity with the suburbanization of regional villages. The unlikely decision to establish a nature reserve here in 1991 – one which includes a secluded animal memorial site where deceased pets can be cremated – has proven to be fortuitous. Over the years, over 250 bird species in total have been seen on the site – making it one of the most dynamic urban birding areas in the country.  

Site locations: Max Ritts and Gunnar Cerwen, 2021. Revised deployment proposal (version 5).

Inspired by recent academic efforts to attend to mostly forgotten urban natures – as are captured in Gandy and Jasper’s wonderful The Botanical City (2020) – Gunnar Cerwen (SLU) and I are seeking to understand the acoustic ecological composition of Spillepengen. For most residents, the site remains a largely forgotten one, but we suspect that changes in the acoustical composition of bird activity portends a great deal of rich and insightful ecological activity. Among local ornithologists, for example, the site continues to play host to a number of well-known local birds, including the tofsvipa (lapwing); rödbena (redshank); and skärfläcka (cutting spot), the latter in particular being a beloved species. Meanwhile, a number of species have more or less disappeared during the last 10 years: gulärla, ängspiplärka, sävsparv. Considerable changes in observed greyling geese activity, whose population has surged since the 1980s, are perhaps the best indicator of local ecological change from an avian standpoint. It is suspected that more geese than before are staying around the area as a result of milder winters.   

Using AudioMoth recording technologies, we are constructing a series of transects along the waterfront area of the site, which we hope to monitor continuously during the spring returns (e.g., Spring 2021). Our primary aim in this research is to establish bird occupancy data in Spillepengen via acoustical methods, an effort we will (eventually) seek to publicize as the basis of renewed nature education efforts for local Malmo youth. Occupancy modeling is based on repeat observations at sites to estimate detectability and account for imperfect detection when estimating the probability of a species occupying a site or patch. This will allow us to further understand and specify reported changes in regional avian community composition: including the decline in wading birds and the concomitant rise of greyling geese over the last twenty years; the co-incidence of local noise with avian activities; and changing calling patterns in light of other land use changes.  

Spillpeng in 1955: Photo courtesy Malmo City Archives

Sound Drift 01


To better understand our own processes of place-making, we explored the soundscapes of sites that are familiar to us: places near our homes, places we used to live, places we go everyday. Within these soundscapes, we encountered unexpected memories and emotions, experiencing feelings of connection, community, nostalgia, anxiety, intimacy, and vulnerability. We recorded at various locations in Kitsilano, Richmond, and on campus at UBC. This process nuanced our understanding of these places that we know so well, and increased our awareness of the significance they have in our lives.

Monitoring Bird Songs

Sonic geographies is a relatively new method for monitoring biodiversity, which utilizes sound. A common sonic indicator of biodiversity is avian vocalizations, or bird songs, which we chose to monitor. We chose the UBC Botanical Gardens as our research location, working alongside SEEDS, an on-campus sustainability program that creates partnerships between students, operational staff, and faculty through innovative and impactful research projects. In our research, this location acts as a microcosm for larger global anxieties surrounding diminishing biodiverse habitats attributed to anthropogenic disturbances. We used the sonic geographies method, using hand recorders, to listen to and record sonic environments within the Botanical Gardens, paying close attention to both the bird and anthropological sounds, and the relationship between the two.

Chinatown Sound Map

Angela Ho (2016)

How might sound shape the way we experience and navigate through a place? What role can our particular interpretations of sound play in helping us locate our relationship to a place? In featuring the myriad of soundscapes that exists within Chinatown, this project aims to provide a platform for users to consider the contested nature of place. The Chinatown Sound Map operates on the traditional and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations. It is generously supported by the UBC Asian Canadian Asian Migration Studies Program, hua foundation and Chinatown Today.

The Chinatown Sound Map is a collaborative, community based platform for listening to and sharing experiences in and around Vancouver’s Chinatown. By showcasing the ordinary hustle and bustle of the neighbourhood, this project encourages users to engage with the sounds around them with a critical mind and curious heart.


Volumetric Brooklyn

Max Ritts (2016)

An attempt to evoke ‘volumetric’ space – i.e. space produced by the enclosure of solid surfaces. How might sound allow us to explore interconnected urban strata – such as the roadways, sewers, subway networks, and effervescent sounds that characterize Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighbourhood?

In this composition, I use a combination of looped and discrete passages to explore sections of Brooklyn, NYC. I begin with the rich musical life and dense automotive activity that defines Fulton Ave, Bed-Stuy’s main thoroughfare. A recent ice melt gave me the opportunity to explore perforations in the street and follow water down into sewer grates and off buildings. Underground, New Yorks’ multi-tiered subway system invites us to ask how different layers of echo and delay might interpenetrate with the water sounds above as well as more ‘machinic’ sounds (wheel screeches, compressed air release) that define the subway space.

The last part of the piece moves back to street level. The intense digging and earth-moving I was able to capture proposed not only a commentary on the changing volumetric of urban form (e.g. the filling in and filling out of solids), but an aural signifier of gentrification’s ‘hollowing out’ effect too… relentless condo building and road improvement I ear-witnessed proposes important shifts not only in the materiality but the very the idea of “Bed-Stuy” too.

Each of these 32 recordings was recorded in Bedford- Stuyvesant (Brooklyn, NY) over several days, in December, 2016. All sounds were recorded on an omnidirectional microphone on Zoom H6 recorder. I then imported the files onto my computer and did some editing and arranging on Reaper, cutting up each of my recordings and arranging them sequentially according to my intended effect.

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