Chapter 6

Berlin Sounds: Audible Cartography of a Formerly Divided City

I) Warming up the Ear

1) Describe the current soundscape in the room by listing its various sound events. What sounds are more prominent than others? What sounds get blocked out? (When, for example, a car drives by.) Concentrate on one sound alone, say your computer. Can you divide it into further sounds such as the CPU working, the fan, etc.?

2) Auralize a train ride. What does the station sound like, and the voice announcing the stops? How does the soundscape change with each opening of the doors? Do the stops sound different? Do people talk to each other?

3) Look at a map of Berlin before 1989. Find the Wall, checkpoints, and the train station Berlin-Friedrichstraße.

4) Do a Web search on products from the GDR that are not produced anymore, such as the Trabant.

5) Visit the Web site and find out about the latest Berlin Ostalgie idea.

6) Think of two places important to you in your childhood. How do they sound different? What associations do you have with those sounds?

II) Working with the Text

1) Describe how, in the case of fountains, sound creates and triggers memory. What memories are triggered?

2) How does this lead to a combined perception of acoustic and physical sensations? What other sonic memories have physical effects on those remembering?

3) What did the Wall area sound like? How do "ear-witnesses" from East and West describe it?

4) How was silence perceived from each side of the Wall?

5) Why is it important to collect acoustic testimony now?

III) Further Food for Thought

1) Would you argue that the two Germanys shared one air space or had two distinct ones? Why? Use examples from the article to support your answer.

2) Why was the station Berlin-Friedrichstraße dubbed Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears)? Use outside research to answer this question.

3) Write a (short) German history by focusing on the soundscapes surrounding station Berlin-Friedrichstraße. (The tab "historie" on has more information.)

4) Learn about the chant "Wir sind ein Volk!" that ultimately brought about the peaceful revolution. Find out more about this term and the Monday demonstrations. Could you argue that sound eventually ended the Cold War?

5) Watch the film Good-Bye, Lenin! (2003). What are the sounds of East and West in the film?

6) What is Ostalgie? Is it related to sound at all? How does it create community?

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