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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.

Abingdon Road W8 April 2:00

Grid square: Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, Kensington

Recording date: 21 April 2013

Time of day: 3.15pm

Location: Junction of Abingdon Road and Abingdon Villas, west London.

Description: Voices and clattering sounds from a nearby restaurant, occasional passing traffic, slamming of car doors, a taxi drives off.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Mutton Brook Lyttleton Playing Fields 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead Heath, Highgate, Archway

Recording date: 3 February 2012

Time of day: 3.15pm

Location: On a footbridge by the Lyttleton Playing Fields, East Finchley.

Description: The Mutton Brook passes noisily over a rubble-filled stream bed, traffic on Lyttleton Road, a car horn beeps.

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.

Mutton Brook Norrice Lea 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead Heath, Highgate, Archway

Recording date: 3 February 2012

Time of day: 2.45pm

Location: Norrice Lea near junction with Lyttleton Road, East Finchley.

Description: Loud traffic from Lyttleton Road, faint birdsong and trickling of the Mutton Brook, occasional sounds of a gardener at work outside a nearby house.

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.

Highgate Cemetery 3:00

Grid square: Hampstead Heath, Highgate, Archway

Recording date: April 2010

Time of day: Daytime

Location: Middle of Highgate Cemetery, north London.

Description: This was recorded April 2010, during the volcano-induced no-fly-zone over Britain. There is traffic noise, but the usual frequent aeroplane noise is missing.

Technical guff: Olympus DS-50 rec order.

Recorded by: Chris/dashanna

Additional notes: Many thanks to Chris/dashanna for sharing this via SoundCloud.

TQ 2835 8826 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead Heath, Highgate, Archway

Recording date: 16 February 2009

Time of day: 1.40pm

Location: OS reference TQ 2835 8826. Archway Road, opposite Highgate Wood.

Description: Heavy traffic close by. During a lull between vehicles an old man can be heard shuffling past.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: This recording used to set gain level for all OS reference recordings.

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.