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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.

Thames wash at Erith 1:16

Grid square: Erith, Slade Green, Crayford

Recording date: 20 March 2011

Time of day: 3pm

Location: By the river wall near Riverside Gardens, Erith.

Description: Wash from ships passing along the Thames estuary laps against the river wall.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Dartford scrambler bikes 2:19

Grid square: Erith, Slade Green, Crayford

Recording date: 18 October 2009

Time of day: Around 3pm

Location: Dartford Marshes, just east of the river Darent, overlooking the scrambler bike track.

Description: Sounds of scrambler bikes ridden by kids and youths, tearing around a twisty, purpose-built dirt track. One lad whoops with excitement after his bike veers off course and comes to a halt.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: The recording point just about falls inside the grid square, even though the borough of Bexley (and London) officially ends at the river Darent.

Dartford clay pigeons 1:00

Grid square: Erith, Slade Green, Crayford

Recording date: 18 October 2009

Time of day: Around 4pm

Location: On the south side of the Thames, overlooking the clay pigeon shooting range on the Dartford Marshes.

Description: Loud pops and cracks from guns being fired at the clay pigeon shooting range. Echoes can be heard bouncing back across the Thames from a row of houses facing the river in Purfleet in Essex.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: The recording point was a few hundred yards beyond the easternmost boundary of the Erith/Slade Green/Crayford grid square.

TQ 5211 7688 1:00

Grid square: Erith, Slade Green, Crayford

Recording date: 20 April 2009

Time of day: 1.00pm

Location: Slade Green Road industrial estate, by the junction with Freeland Way.

Description: Birdsong, a machine like an angle-grinder starts up briefly some distance away, a vehicle drives past, air-conditioning equipment starts up at a nearby packaging plant. Airplane drone, a dog's barking and a child's voice are heard faintly towards the end.

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.