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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.

Acton Town station 1:00

Grid square: Acton, Wormwood Scrubs

Recording date: 23 July 2012

Time of day: 7.20pm

Location: Ticket hall at Acton Town tube station, west London.

Description: Echoing voices and footsteps in the ticket hall, squealing noise of the ticket barriers opening and closing, a flower-seller repeats his cry.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Sennheiser MKE-2 mics, Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Old Oak canal works 1:45

Grid square: Acton, Wormwood Scrubs

Recording date: 5 September 2011

Time of day: Not known

Location: Grand Union Canal by Old Oak Common, west London.

Description: Loud, busy ambience with sounds from earth-movers or similar industrial machinery close by. Faint birdsong in background.

Technical guff: X-Y stereo. Zoom H4n recorder with internal mics.

Recorded by: Sam Appleby

Additional notes: Many thanks to Sam Appleby for sharing this recording.

Grand Union Old Oak Common 1:00

Grid square: Acton, Wormwood Scrubs

Recording date: 30 June 2011

Time of day: 1.40pm

Location: North of the Old Oak Common rail depot, near Wormwood Scrubs, west London.

Description: Loud industrial sounds from the Old Oak Common rail depot, a train rushes past towards central London.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Old Oak Common sidings 1:14

Grid square: Acton, Wormwood Scrubs

Recording date: 6 February 2010

Time of day: 1pm

Location: Footpath immediately north of the Old Oak Common railway sidings, West London.

Description: Loud air-conditioning noise from a factory, clattering and clanking of a railway maintenance vehicle moving around the sidings.

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 8067 1:00

Grid square: Acton, Wormwood Scrubs

Recording date: 5 June 2009

Time of day: 2.15pm

Location: OS grid reference TQ 2043 8067. Cumberland Park, near junction with Woodhurst Road.

Description: A car drives by and a pizza delivery man pulls up on his scooter and dismounts. A blackbird makes clucking calls, and man approaches talking into his mobile phone.

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.