Above: “Soundshape Frame,” from the blog of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

Above: Thomas Ashcraft’s recording of the invasion of Baghdad, 2003. From Soundtransit.nl

This is a follow-up to the previous post, which was a general typology of sound maps. Many readers wrote in with more maps that, in one way or another, extend the format. Ten of them are listed here.

1) The London Sound Survey

The London Sound Survey map is both assiduous and lovely. Many sound maps treat geography in two-dimensions – the LSS adds graphical elements that go further. It uses “recordings of background atmospheres and incidental noises from all over London” to comprise “a sound grid series recorded at evenly-spaced points across the city.” The recordings can also be represented graphically, so that a musical note represents a musical recording, and so on. Some other sound maps do this, too, but LSS is unique in that the boldness of each icon represents that element’s volume. This is much easier to see than to explain.

2) Madrid Soundscape
Madrid Soundscapes is a Spanish-language, collaborative documentary map of Madrin and environs, with recordings marked by color-coded pins indicating categories such as “social interactions,” “events,” “mechanical sound,” and “silence.” The site includes a Derridean manifesto about the divide between the visual and the oral.

3) Free Sound Barcelona
Free Sound Barcelona is another Spanish-language site that features not only a map, but a blog and other specific projects, such as the documentation of personal “audioways.” The map uses a satellite view, with larger pins representing clusters of sounds which can be accessed by zooming in and clicking directly. Although this map is structurally very similar to many other city-based collaborative efforts, it has a rather unique voice.

4) Noisetube

Noisetube, in its own words, is “is a research project about a new participative approach for monitoring noise pollution involving the general public. Our goal is to extend the current usage of mobile phones by turning them into noise sensors enabling each citizen to measure his own exposure in his everyday environment.” The project monitors more than 35 cities in total, using a sophisticated system to analyze raw loudness. Recordings can also be tagged with “social annotations,” weather, time, location, and more. The number of measurements per city ranges from less than 10 to more than 10,000.

Noisetube seems to be the most advanced effort at noise pollution control through environmental engineering. While the project leaves itself open to a number of methodological and theoretical questions, its approach to sound mapping is worth a look:

5) Soundcities
Soundcities was created by the British artist Stanza. It is effectively global in scope, although clustered in Europe (and to a lesser degree east Asia and the Americas), with Google Earth-based maps of forty cities in total. Rio de Janairo has one recording, Chicago four, and London perhaps a hundred.

Soundcities is described as “An online open source database of city sounds from around the world, that can be listened to, used in performances on laptops, or played on mobiles via wireless networks.” The sounds are meant to evoke a sense of place, but also to become available for composition.

6) Locus Sonus
Locus Sonus is a world map with pins representing active microphones streaming ambient sound in real-time. Microphones are operated by volunteers in many cities, some of whom also provide photo galleries of their locations. The intention is to “provide a permanent (and somewhat emblematic) resource to tap into as raw materiel for our artistic experimentation.” The streams can be mixed or heard individually.

The site is essentially an ongoing art project, which also serves as fodder for further projects. It is essentially generative rather than documentary in nature.

7) Hypercities

Hyercities is “a collaborative research and educational platform for traveling back in time to explore the historical layers of city spaces in an interactive, hypermedia environment.” Sound is just one among many elements in a “digital curation project” that collects data about a time and place – say, Tehran in 2009 – and then gives visitors access to that material through an interactive map. With the Tehran example in particular, Hypercities is advertised as a tool for political transparency.


SOINU MAPA is a collaborative sound map documentary of Basque country.

9) Sound Transit

Sound Transit is a well-designed site with a robust database of phonographic recordings. The home page offers three options: “search for sounds,” “book a transit,” and “localisms.”

“Search for sounds” is a simple database, searchable by keyword or location. A search for Thailand, for example, led to a submenu of four cities, from which I chose Bangkok. Seven recordings by five different sound hunters came up. Searching by keyword worldwide, queries for unlikely terms such as “golf,” “hospital,” “spider,” and “tomato” all turned up positive, suggesting
the database is deep indeed. More likely words such as “birds” and “street” each returned more than 100 results.

“Book a transit” – my favorite sound mapping instrument anywhere to date – allows you to “plan a sonic journey through various locations recorded around the world,” with an interface that imitates online travel booking. My itinerary looked like this:

The site also outputs sounds from each location in your itinerary into a single, playable string, with slow fades between each part. No other sound map I’ve seen evokes so emphatically the transformations of space, including sonic space, that take place in a mobile modernity. Although this suggests the possibility of even more commentary and critique ready at hand, it is an exceptionally thoughtful presentation.

10) Radio Aporee
Radio Aporee is a global map that can be viewed through Google Maps or as a bewildering network of lines and tags. The map does not reveal political divisions. The recordings, of which there are thousands, are user-contributed, and include not only environmental sound, but voicemail “tags” of a location that can be added by anyone with a cell phone. Visitors can access sounds directly, at random, or as mixes.

According to the site’s proprietor, Udo Noll, “there are some other “interfaces” to listen, e.g. the permanent stream of (randomly or intentionally grouped) recordings at http://radio.aporee.org/ , the experiments in public spaces, with hybrid/mixed realities (superpositions of “real” spaces and the geolocated sound archives, explored by GPS-walks etc. http://aporee.org/maps/mobile/), and last but not least the user’s, artist’s, contributor’s projects within radio aporee, e.g.”

These include

The Global Bridge Symphony

Allah Bul Kheer – Of street vendors and displaced people in damascus

– The Montreal Sound Map

– The The Stuttering Stroll


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