(under)scoring the commons; Troubling the acoustics of urban renewal


  • James Hazel Maher The University of Sydney


Since the 1990s, working-class regions in Australia’s major cities have undergone urban and socioeconomic development in the form of gentrifying processes that have induced negative social implications such as housing scarcity, rising living costs, and the displacement of low-socioeconomic residents. Informed by broader artistic, activist, and research practices concerned with the sonics of gentrification, ‘(under)scoring the commons’ is a creative research project I established in 2020 that aims to poetically and aurally understand how the changing soundscapes of urban environments, associated with working-class histories and memories, can index shifting social attitudes, perspectives and socialities. UTC’s main output comprises a sonic counter-archive informed by a socially-engaged compositional approach predicated on conversation and collaboration with community-ensembles and residents – alongside adequately contextualised field-recordings. With a focus on a recent iteration entitled UTC:2250 (concerned with Gosford, a low-socioeconomic area in NSW) this paper will discuss the ethical implications and creative outcomes of ‘working’ with sound in a socially situated way - framed by a critical reading of acoustic ecology.