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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.

ExCel exterior dock 2:00

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 29 December 2014

Time of day: 1.50pm

Location: Outside the ExCel Centre overlooking the Royal Victoria Dock, North Woolwich.

Description: Quiet atmosphere with the cries of seabirds, distant traffic and aircraft drone, constant ventilation hum from the ExCel Centre.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Olympus LS-14 recorder. Noise reduction above 4kHz in Soundforge.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Three interiors ExCel Centre 4:52

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 29 December 2014

Time of day: 1.30pm

Location: Three locations along the main gallery inside the ExCel Exhibition Centre, North Woolwich.

Description: Three separate recordings edited together, featuring generally quiet atmospheres inside the ExCel Centre. Hum of air-conditioning systems, a phone rings, a few staff at work cleaning floors, faint airplane drone.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x Shure WL-183 mics and Olympus LS-14 recorder. Noise reduction above 4kHz in Soundforge.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

North Greenwich cable car 1:25

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 27 August 2012

Time of day: 5.20pm

Location: By the North Greewnich terminal of the cross-Thames cable car lines.

Description: Voices of the children and adults queueing to ride on the cable cars, rattling of cable cars passing overhead, loud humming of the winch motor.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

River Lea Bow Locks 1:00

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 29 December 2011

Time of day: 1.45pm

Location: Bow Locks, Bromley-by-Bow, east London.

Description: Churning and bubbling of water in one of the Bow Locks, constant traffic, faint bird calls.

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.

River Lea Limmo Peninsula 1:00

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 30 November 2011

Time of day: 3pm

Location: Limmo Peninsula Park, Canning Town, east London.

Description: Loud, constant traffic on East India Dock Road, a regular hammering noise from a large building site.

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.

Trinity Buoy Wharf 0:57

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 8 October 2011

Time of day: Noon

Location: Trinity Buoy Wharf at Leamouth, near East India Dock.

Description: Traffic passes over the Lower Lea Crossing, a metallic clinking sound as moored boats shift around at the mouth of the Lea.

Technical guff: Headworn stereo. 2 x DPA2006C mics, Sound Devices MixPre-D preamp, Sony PCM M10 recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Thames path North Greenwich 4:30

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 18 December 2010

Time of day: 3.30pm

Location: Thames path on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Description: Quiet ambience with occasional calls of birds, distant traffic, a catamaran cruiser motors past and its wash crashes on the shore.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Inside the O2 dome 3:37

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 18 December 2010

Time of day: 2.30pm

Location: Inside the O2 dome, north Greenwich.

Description: Recorded while walking a half-circle inside the O2 dome's gallery of restaurants and amusements. Loud humming of heating system, music piped over speakers, from restaurants and fairground rides, yells of children on go-karts.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Canning Town industrial estate 1:45

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 7 May 2010

Time of day: 1.30pm

Location: Walking past industrial estate units on Bidder Road, Canning Town.

Description: Vans and lorries passing by, a woman talks to a man outside a snack bar, humming and droning of industrial machinery, bulldozers shovel waste in a recycling plant.

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.

London City Airport 1:00

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 12 February 2009

Time of day: Mid afternoon

Location: North side of the Royal Albert Dock, close to Royal Albert DLR station, facing London City Airport.

Description: Sounds of jet and turboprop engines of planes taxi-ing on the runway.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 4023 8067 1:00

Grid square: Canning Town, Silvertown, North Greenwich

Recording date: 18 July 2009

Time of day: 3.00pm

Location: OS grid reference TQ 4023 8067. ON the north side of Royal Victoria Dock, near Royal Victoria DLR station.

Description: Traffic, wind rustles small trees planted near the dock, sound of JCBs working in the distance, an aeroplane from London City Airport flies overhead.

Technical guff: Stereo. Audio-Technica BP4025 mics and Fostex FR-2LE 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.