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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.

Beverley Brook Priests Bridge 1:00

Grid square: Kew, Chiswick, Mortlake

Recording date: 12 November 2011

Time of day: 4.40pm

Location: Priests Bridge off Upper Richmond Road, Barnes/Mortlake.

Description: Loud rushing sound as part of Beverley Brook is diverted to a tunnel running beneath the Halfway House pub on Priests Bridge, passing traffic.

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.

Beverley Brook Barnes 1:00

Grid square: Kew, Mortlake, Chiswick

Recording date: 11 Septemver 2011

Time of day: 3pm

Location: Rectory Road, Barnes, southwest London.

Description: Whine of jet engines as an airplane flies overhead yowards Heathrow, sound of the wind rustling foliage, birdsong.

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.

Kew Gardens conservatory 1:08

Grid square: Kew, Chiswick, Mortlake

Recording date: 6 February 2010

Time of day: 9.40am

Location: Kew Gardens palm house conservatory, south-west London.

Description: Loud hissing from plant misters which quickly subsides, then constant dripping of water onto plant leaves all around.

Technical guff: Stereo. Audio Technica BP-4025 mic and Fostex FR-2LE digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Thanks to Ed Lawrenson.

TQ 2043 7688 1:00

Grid square: Kew, Mortlake, Chiswick

Recording date: 30 May 2009

Time of day: 2pm

Location: OS grid reference TQ 2043 7688. Cavendish Road, overlooking the Westminster University sports ground.

Description: Continuous sound of distant traffic, a motorbike engine from closer by, a cricket match is in progress on the sports ground, with clapping and cries from the players.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Brentford Steam Museum 1:48

Grid square: Kew, Mortlake, Chiswick

Recording date: 22 February 2009

Time of day: Early afternoon

Location: Brentford Steam Museum, near Kew Bridge

Description: Recordings of different stationary steam engines at the museum, edited and cross-faded. First, a Hathorn Davey rotating engine, built in 1910 in Leeds, then the sound of steam escaping from a pipe join on the Grand Junction 90-inch engine. Last, a recording from the small engine section of the museum, with a Beck & Co Three-Throw water pump most prominent. The burping, grunting sound in the background is made by an Easton & Amos rotating engine, built in Southwark in 1863.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Kew Gardens 1:00

Grid square: Kew, Mortlake, Chiswick

Recording date: 11 February 2009

Time of day: Around noon

Location: Prince of Wales conservatory, Kew Gardens

Description: In the tropical plants section of the Prince of Wales conservatory are heard: visitors' voices, running water from a stream, water dripping from a miniature waterfall, and the hiss of an overhead plant mister.

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.