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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.

Treetop walkway Kew Gardens 3:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 5 May 2013

Time of day: 4pm

Location: Kew Gardens, south-west London.

Description: Recorded while walking a circuit of the Treetop Walkway in Kew Gardens, south-west London. The walkway is about 60 feet/18 meters high and surfaced in perforated sheet metal which makes the clattering sounds you can hear as people walk over it. The planes are bound for Heathrow a few miles to the west.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Thanks to Jacky Minchella.

River Brent barge shed 1:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 6 August 2011

Time of day: 6pm

Location: Disused barge shed by the Commerce Road industrial estate, Brentford.

Description: Echoing sounds inside the barge shed, with calls of ducklings, a plop as the mother duck dives underwater, aircraft drone, hammering in distance.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

River Brent Glaxo HQ 1:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 6 August 2011

Time of day: 5.50pm

Location: By the GlaxoSmithKline offices near Boston Manor Park, west London.

Description: Constant sound of machinery at the side of the office building, faint rush and splash of an ornamental water feature that runs into the Brent, loud traffic with siren.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

River Brent under the M4 1:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 6 August 2011

Time of day: 5.30pm

Location: Under the M4 motorway near Boston Manor, west London.

Description: Muffled sound of traffic passing along the motorway overhead, a coot calls, faint jingling from a chain as a walker approaches with his dog.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Great Conservatory Syon House 2:46

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 30 August 2010

Time of day: 2.45pm

Location: Inside the Great Conservatory at Syon House, Brentford

Description: Visitors walk through the Great Conservatory, jet planes fly overhead bound for Heathrow, a constant hum from a small wall-mounted transformer.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. 2 x MM-HLSO/Sennheiser MKE-2 mics and Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 1647 7688 1:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 30 May 2009

Time of day: 1.30pm

Location: OS grid reference TQ 1647 7688. Quaker's Lane, a broad alleyway running off London Road near the junction with Spur Road.

Description: Vehicles pass along London Road, a few dozen yards away. Aeroplane drone and voices of children walking along Quaker's Lane, who pause then run past the sound recordist, who is in motionless 'living statue' mode.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: One of the few instances where the recordist's presence obviously influences the sounds in the auditory scene.

Brentford boatyards 1:00

Grid square: Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond

Recording date: 11 February 2009

Time of day: 11.00am

Location: Brentford boatyards at the mouth of the River Brent.

Description: Arc-welding equipment, drilling sounds from further away, honking of Canada geese, indistinct cries and shouts from boatyard workers, and airplane drone.

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