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.

Perkyn Square Tottenham Hale 0:31

Grid square: Walthamstow, Leyton, Lea Bridge

Recording date: 11 October 2015

Time of day: 4.05pm

Location: North-western side of Perkyn Square, part of the Hale Village housing development in Tottenham.

Description: Recorder directed towards decorative concrete fountain; area busy with children playing and shoppers returning home. Small amount of wind; area mostly shielded from nearby traffic sounds by high buildings around square.

Technical guff: Stereo. Tascam DR-40 recorder, on-board mics.

Recorded by: Emily Best

Additional notes: Hear more recordings by Emily Best:

Helicopter and gulls River Lea 1:00

Grid square: Walthamstow, Leyton, Lea Bridge

Recording date: 2 November 2010

Time of day: 5.15pm

Location: By the River Lea near the Warwick East reservoir.

Description: A helicopter flies overhead and away, cries of gulls squabbling, honking of geese.

Technical guff: Smartphone recording.

Recorded by: dollyskilbeck

Additional notes: Visit dollskilbeck's Twitter page for links to interesting stuff.

River Lea waste depot 1:15

Grid square: Walthamstow, Leyton, Lea Bridge

Recording date: 10 April 2010

Time of day: 10.45am

Location: River Lea, a few hundred yards south of Lea Bridge Road.

Description: Birdsong, humming and occasional clanging sounds from a waste depot on the other side of the river Lea.

Technical guff: Head-worn stereo. 2 x MM-HLSO/Sennheiser MKE-2 mics and Edirol R09-HR digital recorder.

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

TQ 3627 8826 1:00

Grid square: Walthamstow, Leyton, Lea Bridge

Recording date: 16 February 2009

Time of day: 3.30pm

Location: OS reference TQ 3627 8826. Brunel Road, off Markhouse Avenue.

Description: Bird song, aircraft drone, vehicles driving past, a pedestrian passes, hollow banging sounds as concrete pipe sections are lifted off the back of a lorry.

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

Recorded by: IM Rawes

Additional notes: None.

Hackney Marshes 1:00

Grid square: Walthamstow Leyton Lea Bridge

Recording date: September 2008

Time of day: Around noon.

Location: Lea Bridge end of Hackney Marshes.

Description: Football players recorded around Sunday lunchtime at Hackney Marshes. Players' cries, metallic banging from a building site, aircraft drone, fizzing of insects in a patch of tall grass nearby.

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.

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.