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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.

By the Thames at Crossness 1:20

Grid square: Abbey Wood, Thamesmead, Belvedere

Recording date: 20 March 2011

Time of day: 5pm

Location: By the Thames at the Crossness Nature Reserve.

Description: Cries of wading birds in a small bay where the nature reserve abuts the Thames. Constant rushing noise from the Crossness sewage works and incinerator immediately to the west.

Technical guff: X-Y stereo. Audio Technica BP4025 mic and Fostex FR-2LE recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Thames at Dagenham 1:00

Grid square: Abbey Wood, Thamesmead, Belvedere

Recording date: 4 November 2009

Time of day: 1.45pm

Location: On a path by the Thames just west of Dagenham.

Description: Waves lapping the shoreline, distant hum and clatter of machinery at Barking Riverside to the west.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 4815 8067 1:00

Grid square: Abbey Wood, Thamesmead, Belvedere

Recording date: 20 April 2009

Time of day: 11.20am

Location: Belvedere Road, near the entrance to Crossness waterworks.

Description: Birdsong from hedgerows on each side of Belvedere Road. Traffic noise from the Eastern Way elevated section to the south, and a faint humming sound from Crossness waterworks to the north.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics. Edirol R09-HR 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.