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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.

Kings Cross Square 2:34

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 12 February 2015

Time of day: 7pm

Location: Kings Cross Square, outside Kings Cross station, Euston Road.

Description: Voices, footsteps, station announcements from the Kings Cross station building, a skateboarder leaps and propels himself around the square, traffic growing louder. Recorded while walking from west to east across the square.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Olympus LS-14 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Queen Marys Gardens Regents Park 3:35

Grid square: Hampstead, Camden, Tufnell Park

Recording date: 14 February 2013

Time of day: 4:20pm

Location: Regents Park.

Description: Continual rumble of distinct traffic, birdsong close by and calls of waterfall further away, footsteps on a path, indistinct voices heard briefly.

Technical guff: Stereo. 2 x Rode lavalier mics and Tascam DR-680 recorder.

Recorded by: Jonathan Prior

Additional notes: Many thanks to Jonathan Prior for sharing these recordings. Visit his 12 Gates to the City website.

Fountain Regents Park 3:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 14 February 2013

Time of day: 4.05pm

Location: The Broadwalk, Regent's Park.

Description: Close-up recording of a fountain, indistinct voices of adults and a child heard in the background.

Technical guff: Stereo. 2 x Rode lavalier mics and Tascam DR-680 recorder.

Recorded by: Jonathan Prior

Additional notes: Many thanks to Jonathan Prior for sharing these recordings. Visit his 12 Gates to the City website.

Boating lake Regents Park 4:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 14 February 2013

Time of day: 4.45pm

Location: Regents Park, central London.

Description: Ambient recording of the boating lake in Regents Park from a footbridge.

Technical guff: Stereo. 2 x Rode lavalier mics and Tascam DR-680 recorder.

Recorded by: Jonathan Prior

Additional notes: Many thanks to Jonathan Prior for sharing these recordings. Visit his 12 Gates to the City website.

Kings Cross station 2:55

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 13 October 2012

Time of day: 4.20pm

Location: Kings Cross station.

Description: Recording made while walking through the station from the Pancras Road entrance to the York Way entrance. Voices and footsteps, announcements, rumble of trains' engines.

Technical guff: In-ear binaural stereo. Soundman OKM II Classic/Studio mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Somerstown voices 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 17 August 2012

Time of day: 12.50pm

Location: Chalton Street, Somerstown, north London.

Description: Recorded while walking northwards along Chalton Street: voices of shoppers, market stallholders and people sitting at tables outside two cafes.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL183 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Alexandra Road estate Camden 3:10

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 22 July 2012

Time of day: 4.15pm

Location: Alexandra Road estate, South Hampstead/Camden, north London.

Description: Recording while walking westwards through the Alexandra Road estate. Children playing on the walkway, a man fixes a windowframe with a power tool, a mother calls her child in, passing trains and aircraft drone.

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.

Euston Station Plaza 2:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 24 February 2012

Time of day: 6.50pm

Location: The plaza on the south side of Euston railway station.

Description: Footsteps and rattle of wheeled luggage, bystanders' voices, a station announcement, distant traffic.

Technical guff: Binaural stereo. Sound Professionals MS-TFB-2 binaurals mics and Sony PCM M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: This binaural recording is best listened to using headphones.

Regents Canal Camden 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 15 July 2011

Time of day: 7.20am

Location: Near the Oval Road bridge, Camden.

Description: Faint cries of seagulls, distant traffic, a train heads north from Euston station.

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.

Regents Canal London Zoo 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 15 July 2011

Time of day: 7am

Location: By the Regent's Canal next to the Snowdon aviary, London Zoo.

Description: A magpie chatters, background traffic, calls from birds in the Snowdon aviary.

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.

British Library at 8am 1:01

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 25 February 2011

Time of day: 8am

Location: Third floor of the British Library at St Pancras.

Description: Cleaners and kitchen staff tidying up and preparing a coffee machine. Clatter of chairs being moved, descending tone of the coffee machine, air conditioning.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL183 mics and Edirol R09-HR recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Chalton Street Somerstown 2:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park. Camden

Recording date: 14 February 2011

Time of day: 2.30pm

Location: Chalton Street near junction with Polygon Road.

Description: Yells of children from a nearby school, a crow caws, workmen pull a trolley along the road, a man talks in a nearby flat.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Edirol R09-HR recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Camley Street Natural Park 1:30

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park. Camden

Recording date: 14 February 2011

Time of day: 1.30pm

Location: Camley Street Natural Park, overlooking the Regent's Canal.

Description: Rushing of water from the canal locks to the north, traffic, a train passes, faint birdsong and honking of geese.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Edirol R09-HR recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Camden Lock 2:29

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 11 December 2010

Time of day: 3pm

Location: By Camden Lock on the Regents Canal, north London.

Description: A pleasure cruiser slows to pass under the footbridge leading to Camden Market, faint of cries of seagulls, bystanders' voices.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Double Six cafe Euston 2:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 5 May 2010

Time of day: 11.30am

Location: Double Six cafe, Eversholt Street, Euston.

Description: Hissing of the Still water boiler, sounds of plates and cutlery, customers' voices.

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: For Adrian Maddox.

Swiss Cottage Library 2:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 5 May 2010

Time of day: 2pm

Location: Swiss Cottage public library.

Description: Constant, deep humming of air conditioning, faint voices and other sounds inside the library, traffic.

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.

Camden Town Library 2:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 5 May 2010

Time of day: Noon

Location: Camden Town public library, Eversholt Street.

Description: Fairly quiet library ambience with occasional voices of staff, a child's voice, bangs of doors opening and closing, faint air conditioning sound and traffic.

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.

Stables market Camden 2:23

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 13 March 2010

Time of day: 4.15pm

Location: Walking through the Stables market, Camden

Description: Women working at Thai and Vietnamese food stalls try to encourage passersby to sample small trays of noodles and curry, loud music from a CD stall at the market entrance.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp, Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Pembroke Arms Primrose Hill 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 13 March 2010

Time of day: 3.30pm

Location: Pembroke Arms pub, Primrose Hill, north London

Description: Saturday afternoon ambience inside the Pembroke Arms pub. Loud conversation from all around in a busy, high-ceilinged pub.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

At St Pancras International 1:22

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 30 December 2009

Time of day: 5.20pm

Location: First Capital Connect platforms, St Pancras International train station.

Description: A train leaves from the First Capital Connect platforms for Bedford at about 17.20 on 30/12/09 and then various announcements are heard - recording ceases abruptly when your recordist realises that he has 3 minutes to race up three stories to the East Midlands Trains platforms to catch his train ...

Technical guff: Stereo. Olympus LS-10 digital recorder.

Recorded by: Ben Cripps

Additional notes: None.

Squirrel monkeys London Zoo 0:35

Grid square: Hampstead, Camden, Tufnell Park

Recording date: 2 November 2009

Time of day: 11am

Location: Inside the monkey enclosure at London Zoo, Regent's Park.

Description: Thin, high-pitched squeals of black-capped squirrel monkeys and some rustling sounds as they climb around a bush to get a better look at the recordist.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp, Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Top tip nature lovers: to get the attention of a troop of squirrel monkeys, try sticking your tongue out at them.

Reptile house London Zoo 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Camden, Tufnell Park

Recording date: 2 November 2009

Time of day: 12 noon

Location: Inside the Reptile House at London Zoo, Regent's Park.

Description: Footsteps and echoing voices of children and adults inside the Reptile House.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp, Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Hyacinth macaws London Zoo 1:11

Grid square: Hampstead, Camden, Tufnell Park

Recording date: 2 November 2009

Time of day: 10.30am

Location: By the Parrot House, London Zoo, Regent's Park.

Description: Throaty squawking and croaking of Hyacinth macaws as they clamber around the wire mesh of their aviary. Deeper, echoing calls of unseen macaws from inside a building to the rear of the aviary, and high-pitched trilling of starlings, which have invaded the parrots' home in large numbers.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp, Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Camden High Street 2:32

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: November 2008

Time of day: 10.30pm

Location: Parkway, Camden High Street, and Camden tube.

Description: Sounds of Saturday night revellers: shouts and conversations, a scooter buzzes past, music from shops and nightclubs, a bottle clatters down some steps at Camden Underground station. Extracts edited together from a longer recording.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics and PA-3SX preamp, Olympus LS-10 digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: Thanks to Chris Low.

TQ 2835 8447 1:00

Grid square: Hampstead, Tufnell Park, Camden

Recording date: 17 February 2009

Time of day: 2.30pm

Location: OS reference TQ 2835 8447. Behind Hardington Flats at top of Belmont Street.

Description: Distant traffic, a warehouse door slams, pigeons cooing, a phone rings in a nearby flat.

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.