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.

18 March 2020


IF YOU’VE come here because you’re off work or you’re self-isolating at home, then hello and welcome! For first-time visitors, or those who’ve only glanced at the London Sound Survey briefly in the past, here are some suggestions for pleasant ways to listen and while away the time.

You might start with the vintage BBC recordings from the 1930s through to the 1950s. You’ll find some wonderful sounds of everyday London life there, from witty and raucous street traders, through to eccentric buskers, singing sewer workers, noisy auction rooms and much else.

Among the site’s modern-day recordings, one of the most popular collections for several years now has been the London’s waterways sound map. This consists of over a hundred short recordings made along London’s canals and small rivers, all linked to from a graphic looking like an alternative take on the famous London tube map. Many of the recording points were well away from main roads, so it’s like hearing a parallel city from which all the hurry, stress and elbowing have been removed.

For some grand and strange sounds from one of the city’s best-known landmarks, please listen to my lifting of Tower Bridge recordings. But if you’d prefer to hear the outdoors rather than the cavernous hidden spaces of the bridge, then you can embark on a sonic exploration of the Thames from around Chelsea out to the sea on the Tidal Thames webpages.

I don’t live in London any more so I’m not well placed to go and make recordings there during the pandemic. A press release from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious says it’s going to sound a lot quieter, at least until some people start looting shops like they did back in 2011. I’m not sure that I’d want to be out recording, even if I could.

Going on a recording trip during a time of emergency would be like when bystanders get out their smartphones to video an accident or a fight in the street. They’re not helping. If someone’s fit enough to wander the streets, they’re fit enough to make themselves more useful.

For consideration: the Government has been promising since the beginning of March to launch an appeal for volunteers to help the NHS. Very soon they’ll need a lot of people to step forward. I’m about to start work at my local hospital, but admittedly this isn’t due to some sudden upwelling of altruism on my part. I applied for the job back in early December, at least a month before I first read about the coronavirus outbreak in China. There was then an interview and a long series of forms to fill out and references to submit, and I’ve only now just begun my training.

So much remains to be seen about the full extent and long-term effects of the pandemic. Perhaps, as with many other places, it will eventually make sense to talk of a post-infection London as being distinct and different from a pre-infection one.

Best wishes and good luck to anyone reading this.