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General sound map

Recordings of background atmospheres and incidental noises from all over London. Some form part of a sound grid series recorded at evenly-spaced points across the city, each marking the centre of a square on the map below.

1 3 5
2 4 3 3 11
1 1 1 1 6 5 7 16 21 3 18 1 1
2 8 22 11 3 5 5 17 5 4 2 1 4 1  
3 11 4 7 9 6 25 39 21 38 8 1 5    
1 3 5 7 5 48 42 56 38 11 8 3 2
1 1 2 7 6 15 8 40 15 5 1 1 4
1 1 41 2 8 4 1 9 7 1 1
3 4 3 7 1 3 5 2  
6 1 20 6 1 3 1 1
1 1 2 1 1
1 1

Above: graphic based on a daytime satellite image courtesy of the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. Each red grid square is 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers across.

Stationary DLR train Beckton 2:45

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 29 December 2014

Time of day: 3.45pm

Location: Beckton Docklands Light Railway station, east London.

Description: Humming, droning noises inside a stationary DLR train, automated platform announcements.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Olympus LS-14. Noise reduction above 4kHz in Soundforge.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Asda entrance Beckton 3:00

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 29 December 2014

Time of day: 3.30pm

Location: Outside the Asda supermarket, Tollgate Road, Beckton.

Description: Constant clattering of shopping trolleys, voices of shoppers as they pass in and out of the supermarket, beeping from hole-in-the-wall cash machines, footsteps, distant traffic.

Technical guff: In-ear binaural stereo. 2 x Sound Professionals MS-TFB-2 mics and Olympus LS-14 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Northern outfall sewer Gallions Reach 2:29

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 25 March 2014

Time of day: 2.30pm

Location: By the Thames at Gallions Reach, Docklands, east London.

Description: Distant traffic, echoing sound of water trickling and slashing around in the outfall sewer immediately beneath the mic position, a plane takes off from London City Airport, a pulsating mechanical hum, a crow caws.

Technical guff: X-Y coincident stereo. Audio Technica BP4025 mic, Sound Devices MixPre-D preamp, Roland R-05 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Thanks to Nathan Budzinski.

Woolwich foot tunnel 2:30

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 9 March 2013

Time of day: Mid-afternoon

Location: Mid-way along the Woolwich foot tunnel running underneath the Thames.

Description: Rumbling echoing sounds in the Woolwich foot tunnel on a Saturday afternoon. Occasional footsteps of pedestrians, a man approaches playing music on a mobile phone or small radio.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x DPA 2006C mics, Sound Devices MixPre-D preamp and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Albert Basin Docklands 2:00

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 25 May 2012

Time of day: Noon

Location: By the Thames at the gates to the Albert Basin, Beckton/North Woolwich.

Description: A strong wind blows and causes metal fittings to clatter against nearby flagpoles.

Technical guff: X-Y coincident stereo. Audio Technica BP4025 mic, Sound Devices MixPre-D preamp and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Many thanks to Ben McMahon.

Creekmouth Barking 1:00

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 4 November 2009

Time of day: 12.30pm

Location: Creekmouth Open Space, by the Barking Creek flood gate.

Description: A strong breeze stirs bullrushes; to the immediate north, sounds of heavy machinery from factories and scrapyards.

Technical guff: Stereo. Audio Technica BP4025 mic and Fostex FR-2LE digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 4419 8067 1:00

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 18 March 2009

Time of day: 10.30am

Location: OS reference 4419 8067. This point was in the middle of a mysterious industrial estate surrounded by a high fence, hence unreachable. The recording was made around 450 feet due east, on a track by the river.

Description: Cries of birds over the Thames and faint wind noise - very quiet.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics. Olympus LS-10 digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None

Woolwich ferry 1:00

Grid square: Beckton, Woolwich, Thamesmead

Recording date: 12 February 2009

Time of day: Early afternoon

Location: On the ramp leading to the Woolwich ferry, south side of the Thames.

Description: Sounds of car and lorry engines turning over as the Woolwich ferry docks at the south side of the Thames. Cries of seagulls, which are then echoed in the wailing of a siren as the ferry gates are raised.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp. Olympus LS-10 digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

About general sound map recordings

The majority of recordings on the general sound map are simply of curious or distinctive sounds heard around London. Some also appear elsewhere as part of the 12 Tones of London statistical recording project, and here are subsumed into their appropriate grid squares.

These kinds of recordings always have descriptive file names which don't require any further explanation. But just over a hundred others have ones consisting only of the letters 'TQ' followed by eight digits. These are the Ordnance Survey co-ordinates marking the exact centre of each of the sound map's 112 grid squares, and so these file names tell you with some precision where the recordings were made. Reaching each point was done with the help of a GPS receiver and a willingness to scramble over fences and run onto golf courses. The contents of those recordings are summarised in the graphic below:

The key on the left-hand side shows the most common sound categories encountered. The louder a particular sound type encountered at the centre of a grid square, the darker its icon. More than one icon of the same kind means that sound takes up more of the recording's length. Despite the wide spacing of the recording points and the brief duration of the sound files, they seem to do a reasonable job of plotting in outline the common or persistent sound types heard around London during the daytime.