Sound maps

Via Matthew Battles' Twitter feed comes Cinco Cidades, a "cross-disciplinary project documenting the cultures and sounds of five cities across Portugal." Each of the five cities has its own map showing where the various sound files—children playing, street noise, birdsong, local musicians, conversation, bells, subways, construction, residents talking to interviewers—were recorded. What makes the site so fascinating is that it lets you blend the sound files into mixes. Here's one I made just now, which includes the sounds of trains arriving at a station, church bells, a cafe owner talking about coffee, a guitarist playing fado, and (my favorite) ambient radiator-dripping noise from inside a cultural center where music drifts down the halls.

As I was playing with sound files, I immediately started thinking about how one might adapt the same concept, perhaps based on Open Street Map data, with lots of volunteers armed with digital voice recorders. I'm trying to imagine what a sound map of New London would sound like (ferries leaving their dock on the river? local bands? seagulls? Amtrak trains?), or a sound map of Philadelphia, or Baltimore, or New York, or Chicago (to speak only of cities I know reasonably well). I think half the fun of a project like this would be in learning to hear the sounds that you take for granted when you hear them every day but that, all together, make a place sound like itself and no other.

2 Responses to “Sound maps”

  1. Amanda,
    I’ve been contemplating building a soundmap of Baltimore – little by little, day by day.
    Check out
    Christophe Casamassima

  2. Amanda says:

    Very cool! Baltimore’s my home town, so it’s always nice to hear bits of it.