Listening to Lucerne, Listening for Lucerne

I am delighted to welcome you to the official launch of our A Symphony for Lucerne project. The goal is to work together over the coming year to create a sonic portrait of Lucerne – a symphony – that will convey the feeling and the meaning of this very special place to people who live in Lucerne, to those who have traveled here, and even – or especially – to those around the world who have never been here. As a composer, I will be listening to Lucerne’s sounds and to its stories, and I will also be listening to you, so that we can create and shape this piece in an open, dynamic collaboration.

The result of this collaboration will be premiered at the Lucerne Festival (who commissioned the project) on September 5, 2015, so that gives us many months to share sounds and ideas. But time passes quickly, so I hope you will start communicating with me right away – now!

You can start by recording your favorite sounds from anywhere in the city or surroundings, on your mobile phone, laptop, or other portable recording device. There are so many ways to listen to the city: try to find sounds that are beautiful and calming, like the many types of water – river, lake, fountains, rain, kitchen sinks, etc. – that surround and permeate the city; or sounds that convey a sense of physical material and presence, like the resonance inside a wooden bridge or the clunking of shoes, bicycles, roller skates or carts on cobblestones or cement; explore the hills and mountains, and collect those extraordinary sounds as if they were wildflowers, pure and vivid and proud. Go find surprising sounds, secret sounds, personal sounds, shocking sounds, sounds that only you know about as well as sounds that will immediately conjure up the emotions of being in Lucerne to anyone who has ever been here. Stand in one place, close your eyes, and listen to the incredible counterpoint of overlapping noises, voices, transportation media of all kinds (from boots to boats), natural forces, and animal friends.

Listen to Lucerne as if it were already a piece of music! That will help us create a final composition that grows out of the sounds of the city and surroundings, and contributes back melodies, harmonies and textures that help the city to sing.

Please share with me any sounds you record here. I’d also love to hear any ideas you have about great sounds that we might record, and also to hear your thoughts about Lucerne itself, what makes it special, and what “story” we might tell in this composition. You can post these thoughts in the comments section of this blog or send them directly to [email protected]

We are also delighted to share Constellation with you, a new musical app created by Akito Van Troyer at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge USA where I work, that will let all of us collect, listen to, combine and share the sounds of Lucerne. You will already find many lovely and interesting Lucerne sounds in this launch version of Constellation – see how many you can identify! – but there are many many things missing: multiple voices and languages, singing and playing music, birds, boats, footsteps, wooden bridges and doors, whispers and shouts, church bells…and many more sounds that I can’t even imagine. 

I invite you to seek out all these other sounds of Lucerne, to send them to us, and to experiment with them in Constellation. We’ll be posting new versions of Constellation frequently, adding new sounds and features, so please stay tuned! 

I will be listening to everything you send me, and sending my thoughts and sounds back to you. And I will be in Lucerne from August 22-29 to meet as many of you as possible, and to hear your sounds and stories, and to collect some of my own. We will be holding some workshops and Street Studio sessions during my visit, so look here for a schedule and come join us if you can.

I am so excited to be embarking on A Symphony for Lucerne, and look forward to getting to know you and your city by listening and discussing together, in person and via the Internet. Let’s make music together that will capture the spirit of Lucerne at this moment in time, and that will also inspire others around the world to visit this special place when possible, and to experience its powers of contemplation, healing, stimulation and tolerance even from very far away.

Onwards to a great creative adventure!

Yours, musically,



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