City of Things

Written by caroline

“This fantastic soundscape – it’s almost like walking through a dreamscape” Verity Sharp, Exposure, BBC Radio 3

City of Things is a 60 channel sound installation by Caroline Devine that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ‘new town’ of Milton Keynes. Commissioned by Bletchley Park Codebreaking Centre in partnership with MK Gallery, the Cowper and Newton Museum and The Open University and set within the Grade II listed shopping centre building, City of Things opens the City of Milton Keynes up to the ears, providing playful, unexpected encounters with the histories, the people, the secret sounds and the poetics of the city. The work was funded by Arts Council England Ambition for Excellence programme and featured on BBC Radio 3, BBCRadio 6 Music and BBC 3 Counties Radio. A track from City of Things was included in acclaimed The Wire Tapper 45 CD on the cover of Nov issue of experimental music magazine, The Wire.

BBC Radio 3 feature on City of Things, Oct 2017 including interview with Caroline Devine:

Devine used field recordings and residents voices as the starting point for a composition that features local birds, bats, mosquitos, buddhists, football fans, choirs and the voice of performance poet Murray Lachlan Young. Murray provides the voice of the poet William Cowper, who lived locally in the 18th century and whose writing documents the landscape and soundscape of the area that was to later become Milton Keynes. As well as recording the works of Cowper, Devine invited Murray to write six poems in response to sites that she had chosen in the city and these are woven throughout the work. Devine embedded the sound into the building itself by using a system of resonators on the huge glass windows of the shopping centre, speakers hidden in indoor planted areas and making use of the tannoy system to diffuse the voices of local choirs throughout – effectively turning the building into a giant instrument.

A soundmap developed by Devine throughout the project is available at the City of Things website. 

Video about City of Things here:


BBC Radio 6 Music feature on City of Things:


Caroline Devine and Murray Lachlan Young in conversation with Anthony Spira at MK Gallery:


1 thought on “City of Things

  1. ted mayes says:

    I am a visual merchandiser at John Lewis CMK – was excited earlier in year when ‘techs’ were testing fionics etc on glass (a long held dream of mine) – having worked on window displays for many years at the shop…
    I’ve walked past/through the installation twice a day since launch (on my way to Costas..) and have been constantly cheered up and enjoyed watching both adults and children engaging and enjoying your work – well done.
    I particularly loved the ‘fear’ on public when the football chants echoed to middleton hall – where are the hooligans!!
    One thought – could it have been proximity triggered?? i.e. react to human movement… would have been fun…. but brill anyway

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