Join the University of Oxford’s project to capture the sounds of migration

Published 20 February 2024 / By COMPAS Communications

Back to Articles

Join the University of Oxford’s field recording day to capture the sounds of human migration 

A major project to capture the sounds of human migration and migrant communities, run by the University of Oxford and Cities and Memory, is inviting people from all over the world to participate in a day of field recording on February 24th 2024. 

Migration Sounds is the first large-scale public exploration of the sounds of migration. The project is a partnership between the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford and Cities and Memory, one of the world’s largest sound projects, which covers more than 120 countries and territories. The recorded sounds will be presented in a unique online exhibition and searchable on a global map. They will also be reimagined into brand new compositions by artists all over the world, taking inspiration from the original recordings, and reflecting what migration means to them. 

So, what does global migration sound like? 

For each of us these sounds are fundamentally different. The sounds can be so mundane that others around you hardly notice them: but you do. People may notice a sound because it clearly indicates that they are far from where they grew up; because they are the sounds of travelling somewhere new; or even because they are the sounds that signal someone is being made welcome (or unwelcome). 

While the project is open to any recordings made up to the 31st of March 2024, anyone interested in participating is encouraged to make recordings on February 24th so that the project can also capture a snapshot of a particular day in many places all over the world and including many people. 

Jacqueline Broadhead, Director of COMPAS at the University of Oxford, said: “We often think about migration in terms of numbers and news articles, or in political debate, but the reality of the process and experience of migration is fundamentally human – by recording these ordinary or extraordinary sounds, we can capture and share a bit of that human experience. 

“A huge array of sounds – from accents and sirens to birdsong or train doors closing – can all capture a sense of place and share how it feels to be somewhere that is not where you originally come from. We’re looking for sounds that can capture tiny parts of people’s stories." 

A wealth of recordings – and their stories – have already been received. Examples of the types of sounds already collected include: 

  • Sounds of a hometown recorded after moving back from years lived abroad 
  • Conversations between friends from different countries all living in a multicultural modern city 
  • Novel sounds experienced when first moving to a new country that are different from home: for example, a market, a pedestrian crossing or a metro system 
  • Sounds of public protests led by diaspora groups 
  • Sounds of security forces breaking up an informal migrant camp 
  • Sounds of immigrant workers doing their jobs, or of shops and restaurants established by immigrants in a town or city 

Stuart Fowkes, a sound artist and the founder of Cities and Memory, said: “The project is the first large-scale public exploration of the sounds of migration and settlement, and we think it’s going to be a really valuable way to use sound to help reframe conversations and public discourse around migration. 

“It’s really important to say that this is not just about the sounds of migration in the “traditional” sense of travelling to a new place – we’re looking for the sounds of settlement and home (both new homes and old homes) from wherever you are. 

“By getting people from around the world to make recordings on a single day, we also get to capture a specific moment in time from a multitude of perspectives – but all dealing with migration in one way or another.” 

Sounds can be submitted from anywhere around the world until the deadline on 31 March via 

Broadhead added: “We’re excited by this great partnership to literally put Migration Sounds on the map.” 

Longer term, the partnership seeks to connect social sciences and the arts through migration research at Oxford. Phase II of the project will launch in April 2024, where the project will see musicians and sound artists reimagine the incredible bank of sound recordings into a suite of brand-new compositions. 


For further information contact  

Delphine Boagey, Communications Officer at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford.

Notes for Editors

  • Visit the Migration Sounds project page: 
  • Visit the COMPAS website to learn more about the work of the Centre: 
  • Stuart Fowkes from Cities and Memory and Rob McNeil from COMPAS will be undertaking a day of recordings in London on 24th February – to arrange to meet them or join, contact Delphine Boagey. 


The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) is a research centre at the University of Oxford. Since 2003, COMPAS has established an international reputation for original research and policy relevance. It undertakes multi-disciplinary research, publication, teaching, and user engagement activities with a broad set of academic and non-academic users worldwide. 

COMPAS has over 20 staff members from a range of backgrounds and is actively involved in many international networks and projects. COMPAS is based within the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and houses long-standing initiatives The Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity, and The Migration Observatory. 

About Cities and Memory 

Cities and Memory is one of the world’s largest sound projects, with more than 1,600 artists forming a global community with the aim of remixing the world, one sound at a time. Encompassing field recording, sound art and sound mapping, every location on the Cities and Memory sound map features two sounds: the original field recording of that place, and a reimagined sound that presents that place and time as somewhere else, somewhere new.