© Urban Studies Journal Limited 2019. This paper seeks to better understand the lively city with reference to recent analysis of sonic affects, bodily sensations and emotions. The notion of ‘hearing contacts’, as it is usually deployed in discussion of the lively city, emphasises the social interactions with other people in a rather narrow anthropocentric way. Yet, it overlooks the diversity of felt and affective dimensions of city sounds. This paper takes up this challenge by bringing Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of territory into conversation with Greimas’s semiotic square. In doing so, this paper offers a compelling theoretical framework to better understand the sonic sensibilities of listening and hearing to provide a clearer sense of how people decide to attach specific meanings to sound, and which ones they do not. The paper first reviews various theoretical approaches to sound and the city. Next, the paper turns to an ethnographic account of sound and city-centre urban life recently conducted in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. This research seeks to better understand the ways bodily dispositions to sonic affects, materials and cultural norms helped participants territorialise the city centre, distinguishing ‘energetic buzz’, ‘dead noise’, ‘dead quiet’ and ‘quiet calm’.