A Materialist Acoustemology of Urban Atmospheres in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico

Guillermo Martínez De Velasco, 2017
Vol. 23 No. 9 ISSN 1702-3548


The resonant frequency of sound, that is to say, the vibratory quality of sound, is felt and registered by our bodies in a way that goes beyond the audible. In an urban environment, the combination of sounds creates a sonic topography that manifests itself in the environmental qualities of a place. Sound is an integral constituent of atmospheric construction. How we think and feel sound is contingent on the architectural and lived conditions of space. In turn, the configuration of space is linked to capitalist-nationalist practices of urban development. This paper takes a materialist approach to urban sound in two areas of Mexico City’s central district (Centro Hisórico). The first is the corridor made up by San Jerónimo and Regina Streets and the second is the area known as La Merced. Through a combination of sound recordings, soundwalks and interviews with local
residents, this paper aims to gain insights the construction of the built environment and its relation to quotidian interactions with situated sound atmospheres in the context of urban regeneration. Additionally, this paper seeks to bring to the forefront aural research methods as a way of approaching the nuances of urban life at the intersection of political economy, geography, and ecology. Two sound pieces accompany this paper. One (11:30 minutes) is a recording of daily sounds around Edificio Smirna located in the San Jeronimo/Regina Streets area. The other (16:36 minutes) provides a sonic glimpse of Edificio Uruguay 125 in La Merced.