Stolen Voices is a research enquiry that uses listening as both methodology and material. Stolen Voices develops techniques for ‘listening in’ and eavesdropping to help articulate an epistemology of place through sonic frameworks. A core motivation for the listening is a semi-fictional story we tell ourselves (and anyone else who is listening): an ‘event’ has taken place along the East Coast of the United Kingdom (UK), and we have been tasked with figuring out what has happened. While the specifics of the event might be difficult to pin down, the urgency of the investigation is fuelled by concrete concerns found in the UK edgelands, at the border/margin of the country: the uncertain future of the UK’s relationship with Europe; the effects of climate change on coastal landscapes; the waning of industries like manufacturing and coal extraction; the oil industry in crisis; the rise of global shipping infrastructures. By using a semi-fictional framework, we move away from mapping techniques like data-sonification towards a methodology that embraces gaps and inventive excesses while insisting on the importance of making an account. Through listening, we foster attention to contingencies and indeterminacies and their relationships to prevailing structures and knowledge hierarchies. Stolen Voices asks: what is the relationship between a listener and what is heard? How can listening attune us to the complexities of contemporary political, economic, ecological and social processes? How did we get to where we are now, and how, through listening, can we seek out levers for change? What do the rhythms and atmospheres of specific geographic locations inform or reveal about history? Evolving over several years, in response to what we hear, the investigation necessarily proceeds slowly. In this article, we unfold our methodological processes for the detection of sound, voices, atmosphere and affect. We use creative-critical writing to evidence the construction of a research investigation focused on the act of listening as a spatial practice and necessarily collective endeavour.
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