Concert for a city with an orchestra: who and why records the sounds of everyday life

Have you ever thought about how the sound of the city changes over time? Once it was associated with the cries of traders and the clatter of hooves on the paving stones. Today ecosystem of sound “Enriched” trams, cars and other vehicles. The analysis of all this diversity is a whole science. Scientists rate noise pollutionand business uses audio to improve workflows – for example, retailers record the way sellers communicate with customers. But some enthusiasts are simply striving to preserve “casts of our everyday life” – the sound of all kinds of gadgets, rare languages ​​and hidden corners of the planet.

Let’s talk about several old and not very projects that form the “sound archive of mankind”.

A photo Free to use sounds / Unsplash

Ecology of sound landscapes

Cities are getting louder – every year the noise level in them is increasing about one decibel. The reason is industrialization and an increase in the number of noise sources. So, the “volume” of a car exceeds 70 dB, of a railroad – 100 dB, and of an airplane – 140 dB.

Noise pollution negatively affects human health and capable of causing chronic stress provoking cardiovascular disease, diabetes and strokes. Therefore, back in the middle of the last century, scientists and researchers began to talk about an unfavorable sound environment.

One of the most prominent figures in this area was a professor at the Canadian University. Simon Fraser – Raymond Murray Shafer (R. Murray Schafer) In the 60s, he taught a course on noise pollution, trying to draw students’ attention to relevant issues.

In 1969, Schaefer received support from the Donner Canadian Foundation, which finances environmental and social development projects, and launched a project called “World Sound Landscape” (World soundscape project)

Together with colleagues, the professor formed an archive describing the sound landscape of Vancouver – a collection The vancouver soundscape with comments on the intricacies of acoustic design.

A year later, the collection continued this topic. Soundscapes of canada. He was released by Shafer’s followers – Peter Hughes (Peter Huse) and Bruce Davis (Bruce Davis). Peter and Bruce taped natural noise, the sound of bells, the sound of lighthouses, conversations with people. Later, these materials formed the basis of ten broadcasts that were broadcast on the wave of CBC.

The works of Shafer and his colleagues also saw the light in the form of books. The tuning of the world (1977) and Handbook for Acoustic Ecology (1978).

City sounds, dog thoughts

Other projects in this area collect similar records with the audio landscapes of cities – the noise of the streets, the conversations of passers-by. In our blog we told about Radio aporee maps – Its participants are building a global audio map of the world, downloading recordings from parks, subways and stadiums. On the site you can listen to how “sounds” promenade in hong kong and Puerto Rico Nature Reserve.

Recording “street sounds” is an extensive topic, but not only collectives, but also individual enthusiasts are engaged in it. For example, one of the residents of New York, Tony Schwartz (Tony Scwartz), captured in the mid-fifties children talk, street sermons, performances by musicians. Schwartz also created audio film on behalf of his dog, and a collection of his conversations with taxi drivers in 1959 entered the top five Billboard in the category of documentary non-comedy recordings.

A photo Tony dinh / Unsplash

Schwartz made his radio and nightclub recordings and lectured at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City Hall and the Jewish Guild for the Blind. The famous Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian culturologist and philosopher, even called Schwartz the “electronic media guru” who was just emerging in those days. Tony managed to collect an extensive collection of sounds despite the fact that he suffered from agrophobia (fear of open space) – therefore, the author made all the recordings within his area.

Large archives to study

Nowadays, the case of Schwartz and Scheifer continues to live. Sound prints are collected by a variety of private and public organizations:

Additional reading from our “Hi-Fi World”:

The tree of music genres and xylophone from GitHub events
Like the crack of a fire, the creaking of doors and noise become music
Sound cards as a way to plunge into the atmosphere of an unfamiliar city
“Hear” the cosmos: from dark matter to comet Churyumov – Gerasimenko
“Listen to find a breakdown”: audio recordings of failed industrial machines

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