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 27 39 21 39 8 1 5    
1 3 5 7 7 49 43 58 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.

Broadway indoor market Tooting 2:00

Grid square: Balham, Streatham, Tooting

Recording date: 22 January 2011

Time of day: 3pm

Location: Tooting High Street, south London.

Description: Walking through the Broadway indoor market: stallholders' voices, recorded music, footsteps, chirping of finches in cages towards the end.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Sewer Clapham Common 1:06

Grid square: Balham. Streatham, Tooting

Recording date: 1 September 2010

Time of day: Not known

Location: Clapham Common south side.

Description: Sound of sewer and road traffic, recorded from inside sewer through open manhole cover.

Technical guff: Stereo. Zoom H4 recorder, internal mics.

Recorded by: Jonathan Prior

Additional notes: Many thanks to Jonathan Prior for sharing this recording, which appears as part of the sound map on his website 12 Gates to the City.

Balham tube midnight 1:00

Grid square: Balham, Streatham, Tooting

Recording date: 7 October 2009

Time of day: Midnight

Location: Southbound Northern Line platform, Balham Underground station, south London.

Description: A northbound train departs from the other platform, some kind of machinery buzzes then stops, faint voices, a man whistles.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 2835 7309 1:00

Grid square: Balham, Streatham, Tooting

Recording date: 19 February

Time of day: 4.20pm

Location: TQ 2835 7309. Junction of Balham Park Road and Balham High Street.

Description: Loud traffic noise from Balham High Street, vehicles passing close by, music plays from a car.

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.