Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

10 December 2018

Recent site upgrades

RECENT CHANGES, upgrades and repairs include the following:

* A newer version of the site’s content management system has been installed. Pages should now load a little bit faster than before.

* The London Sound Survey now has an SSL Certificate to protect long-term rankings on search engines, and to allow for a store page at some point in the future.

* The ‘Old publications about street cries’ section has been given the more ambitious title of Street cries of the world and its navigation revamped to resemble an accordion menu. Both changes reflect the ever-growing amount of material that’s being presented there.

* A fault in the Old London maps section has been made good so the maps can be displayed properly again. They still need Adobe Flash to be enabled in visitors’ browers though, and a purely HTML5 map viewer will be installed in 2019.

* Three longish wildlife recordings, making up a feature about Lakenheath RSPB reserve in Suffolk, have been linked to and integrated with the rest of the site.

14 August 2018


AN ILLNESS in the family requires me to become a full-time carer for a while. Little or no new material will be added to the London Sound Survey during this time, although I’m able to make a few modest recordings around where I live. You can hear them on my Soundcloud account.

An album of my Thames recordings is due to be released later this year or early next year by the composer Iain Chambers. I’ll post more news on this when I know a definite release date.

07 July 2018

BBC sound effects plotted on a map

IN APRIL this year the BBC put online around 16,000 of its sound effects recordings, making them available for non-commercial use at no cost. The BBC presents the recordings in a plain-looking list here: Expressions like ‘no cost’ or ‘free’ have a certain resonance, so I examined the collection to see what could be done with it.

A large majority of the recordings are from unknown places or else are studio creations. Around 400 are from named locations in the United Kingdom, and of these I judged just over 300 to be worth presenting and reproducing here. The results range in time from 1940 to 1986 and access to them is through a simple sound map on this page:

The map took me a while to draw, but the way the red link spots are made and positioned is easy: each spot is a DIV element that acts as a link, made round-shaped with the CSS radius property.

27 June 2018

In memory of Richard Beard, wildlife recordist

I AM very sorry to report that the wildlife recordist Richard Beard died a few days ago. We first met in 2010 at the British Library Sound Archive after we’d been introduced to each other by Cheryl Tipp, the Archive’s curator of wildlife sound recordings. He was then working as a part-time volunteer to help Cheryl compile the metadata of who-what-and-where for digital sound files.

For hours at a time he’d sit in one of the Archive’s small recording studios and patiently work his way through batches of nature recordings, listening and noting. Many were ones he’d made himself, for Richard was a very knowledgeable and skilful recordist, although he wore his expertise lightly. After we got to know each other a bit better, he kindly offered to share some of his London wildlife recordings with my website. The first batch appeared here in 2012 under the title of Richard Beard’s Hackney wildlife.

These were good recordings and Richard clearly knew a great deal about birdsong, so I was keen for him to contribute more. He mentioned something he called the ‘Breakfast Project’, which seemed to involve him recording birdsong quite early in the morning, and which at the time was a work in progress. Eventually he completed it, and offered me details of around 360 recordings, each made at 6 a.m. in his back garden and representing nearly every day of the year. I was both taken aback and excited at the scale of the task he’d accomplished.

After some head-scratching I suggested having a single webpage linking to and presenting around a hundred of his morning recordings, and the result was titled The Hackney year.

I was never entirely sure what Richard felt about this treatment of his work, and suspect it may have seemed austere compared to the experience of birdsong among hedges and garden fences, trees and bramble patches – all the living, untidy intricacies of Darwin’s ‘tangled bank’. If so, Richard was too polite and good-natured to tell me. His recordings made a very significant contribution to the London Sound Survey, and I will always be grateful for them.

What is lacking from this appreciation is a photo of Richard, and I can’t find one online. He cut a good figure of a man, looking as if he’d been keen on playing sports when he was younger, and with a broad, friendly face. He spoke with a gentle Cockney accent. I would guess Richard to have been in his late fifties when we first met, but he seemed younger because of his openness and lack of cynicism.

Richard didn’t only record in and around London, but he felt a strong connection to the green spaces of east London, in particular the Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes running alongside the river Lea. Much of this arose from his family having lived there a very long time, going back to at least the beginning of the 19th century when an ancestor had owned a farm near the Marshes, most likely keeping a herd of cattle grazing among the riverside meadows.

In later years, Richard and his wife Fern spent a lot of their time on the Isle of Wight, where Richard continued to make recordings. His death is a sad loss to wildlife sound recording in Britain and to all who knew him.

25 April 2018

New section on historical street cries

A NEW site section on historical street cries has been set up and you can see what’s been gathered so far by going to this page. The eventual aim will be to integrate this material with other kinds of site entries, such as recordings. The historical part of the site now has the page-top banner of ‘Sound and History’ so it doesn’t look so odd when adding stuff about places beyond London’s confines.