So what exactly do people want to hear in an urban environment?
Some recent interdisciplinary research has come out with results that at first sight seem contradictory
a city needs to have a sense of activity, so it needs to be lively,
with sounds like the clack of high heels on a pavement or the hiss of a coffee machine,
but these mustn't be too intrusive, because at the same time we need to be able to relax.
One of the major problems in achieving this will be getting architects and town planners to use the research.
Apart from studying the basics of acoustics, these people receive very little training in this area.
But in fact they should be regarding sound as an opportunity to add to the experience of urban living,
whereas at present they tend to see it as something to be avoided or reduced as far as possible,
or something that's just a job for engineers like the street drainage system.
What's needed is for noise in cities to be regarded as an aesthetic quality, as something that has the qualities of an art form.
If we acknowledge this, then we urgently need to know what governs it and how designers can work with it.
We need to develop a complex understanding of many factors.
What is the relationship between sound and culture?
What can we learn from disciplines such as psychology about the way that sound interacts with human development and social relationships,
and the way that sound affects our thought and feelings?
Can we learn anything from physics about the nature of sound itself?
Today's powerful technologies can also help us.
To show us their ideas and help us to imagine the effect their buildings will have,
architects and town planners already use virtual reality - but these programs are silent.
In the future such programs could use realistic sounds, meaning that soundscapes could be explored before being built.
So hopefully, using the best technology we can lay our hands on, the city of the future will be a pleasure to the ears as well as the eyes.