The UK Sound Map

In recent days it has been exhilerating to watch the evolution of the UK Sound Map project via its busy @uk_soundmap twitterfeed! There have been several high-profile media articles on the project already, including coverage on Radio 4’s TODAY programme, (feat. beautiful collage of sounds from the map) and this blog-post by Rory Cellan-Jones. I really enjoyed that the presenter in Radio 4 picked up on the fun and celebratory aspects of the project and it was great to hear Richard Ranft talking about more and more people becoming sound-recordists and archivists.

I have been excited about the idea of the UK Sound Map ever since I first heard about it several months ago. I think the project is an accessible, inclusive and participatory way for the whole country to get involved in documenting, celebrating, noticing and recording everyday sounds. And I think the collective, sonic portrait of the country that will be created through people’s uploads will be an important document for posterity – rather like the texts which Ian Rawes presents on the London Sound Survey from earlier centuries, which tell us so much about the way that London sounded in previous eras. The sound map is going to be a sonic snapshot from Summer 2010 – Summer 2011 of Britain, and what makes it so amazing is that anyone can contribute sounds to it.

Sound-recording is a realm that has historically been the province of a few geeky specialists and extremely costly equipment, but with the increasing availability of affordable recording devices and software, it is becoming an activity that more people can participate in. Partnering up with Audioboo means that anyone with an iPhone or a phone that uses the Android platform can join in with the project. Alternatively, if one doesn’t have a smartphone, there is an easy uploading interface at the Audioboo website and any configuration of microphone + computer + internet connection can be used to contribute to the map like this.

Over the years there have been several projects which documented the soundscapes of a region or a district – some of my personal favourites include the London Favourite Sounds project by Peter Cusack, and the Sounding Dartmoor project, by John Levack Drever. Projects which incorporate mapping software – such as the Gordon Soundscape project by Pete Stollery, or Trevor Cox’s Sound Tourism project – are growing in number, as software and technology for mapping and uploading sounds develop.

All of these ideas feed into long-established cultural ideas concerning our relationship to everyday sounds, and the relationship between one’s sense of place, and sound, and I am really excited to see a project that extends these ideas on the scale of the UK Sound Map. I am really looking forward to hearing what the British Library will say about the project on 2nd October at Sound:Site.

So far I have most enjoyed listening to the following sounds on the UK Sound Map;

The time and tide bell from the Outer Hebrides, recorded by Vergette (because I am obsessed with the Outer Hebrides and the knitting traditions which surround that region)

Ironing. Yet again. – recorded in Richmond (because it is such a familiar sound, and because this is such a lovely, clear recording of something we normally take for granted)

First notes of the day – recorded by swiftly (because I type like that, too, and I think it’s really interesting how specific people’s different typing styles are)

The Watermill at the Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex – recorded by rranft (because I have been to this mill and made bread from the flour they grind there, and because listening to this reminds me of those happy times)

Beside the sea near Tenby – recorded by walk2010 (because it was a lovely surprise to find this recording up there from my other half!)

What sounds are you enjoying, and what sounds are you uploading?

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One response to “The UK Sound Map

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Knitting, Sounds, & Good Weekends continued…

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