Sound art

In search of the world’s most interesting sounds

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David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coaliton

Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound” is a wonderful book by the UK sound researcher, Trevor Cox, about interesting, intriguing sounds he’s gathered around the world. To get a taste of the book and this researcher’s interests, you can listen to Twenty Thousand Hertz’s podcast about the book that includes sound samples from some of the author’s worldwide research adventures or watch Cox’s lecture at the University of Salford.

You may also enjoy some of the other episodes Dallas Taylor’s Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. Taylor is a sound artist whose aim is to deliver “[t]he stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.” His podcasts are well worth a listen.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The sound of cities before and during the pandemic

Photo credit: Jonathan licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Stuart Fowkes, a UK based artist, has been mapping out the sounds of cities since 2014. I would guess that he never imagined that a worldwide pandemic would provide him with the opportunity to hear “lost” sounds in a city that had been overtaken by increasing noise pollution. He comments about the return of the sounds of birds, insects, and other sounds of nature. His recordings of sounds during the past six years from cities around the world has resulted in a map featuring a wide variety of sounds. His recording project titled “Future Cities” features the sounds of several years ago but now includes the sounds during the pandemic.

In writing about the sounds of cities, Fowkes recognizes that the increased traffic and noise from construction sites, as well as the activities associated with tall buildings, has resulted in environmental stress which can adversely affect health. Furthermore, according to Fowkes, noise has also drowned out certain sounds that defined specific cities. For example, the sounds of the bells ringing at Westerkerk church in Amsterdam at one time played an important role in helping “people mark out kind of where they need to be at any given time.” He fears that these sounds that characterized specific cities will be lost after the pandemic passes.

Fowkes hopes that his project will bring attention to the important role auditory elements play in defining cities and as a result lead to noise reduction becoming a significant goal in future urban policy decisions. With noise having drowned out sounds that at one time were identified with specific cities, I wonder how many people can remember what these sounds were.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

How to occupy your time while self-isolating

Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cities and Memory, a global, collaborative sound project, has launched an intriguing project that will record sounds from the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled #StayHomeSounds:

We’re inviting anyone around the world to send us a sound recording from wherever YOU are, and tell us a little about how things are wherever you live. 

We’ll publish the results on a global sound map, so we can all share a little of our world as we go through these strange and unsettling times.

If you would like to participate, click on the second or third links above to learn more about the project and how you can become involved.

Cities and Memory launches NYC sound map

Photo credit: Lukas Kloeppel from Pexels

Cities and Memory has launched an interactive New York Sound Map. The map is sprinkled with markers that provide the original New York City sound recording for each site “accompanied by a reimagined version, in which an artist has remixed and recomposed the original recording to present a new perspective on the city.” Be prepared to spend some time wandering around the city.

Cities and Memory also offers sonic tourism guides to a dozen cities, including New York City.  Be sure to bookmark the site and sign up for their mailing list so you can be the first to learn about future projects.

Explore the sounds of Yellowstone

Photo credit: Frank-2.0 has dedicated this photo the public domain

Cities and Memories has launched their newest project, a sound map of Yellowstone national park. Once again, Cities and Memories provides captured sounds of “everything from grizzly bears and coyotes through to the park’s iconic geysers and steam vents,” and couples them with reimagined sound pieces by artists from around the world. Be sure to set aside a few hours to explore the sound map!

What is sound tourism?

Photo credit: Ibrahim Asad from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

When Silencity wrote about the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia, I said to my wife, “we were there!” And I learned that there is a branch of tourism called sound tourism, for those who seek out places with unique sounds. There even is a website, Sound Tourism, to learn about interesting sounding places and acoustic.

If you want to enjoy the world’s sounds, you need to be able to hear them.

Protect your hearing.

Remember: if something sounds too loud, it IS too loud!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Enjoy the natural world in sound

Cities and Memory has launched another fabulous project. This time they explore the natural world in Sounding Nature, “the biggest ever global exploration of the beautiful sounds of nature.” Artists from around the globe have reimagined 500 sounds from 55 countries.

Click the second link to listen to the captured natural sounds and the reimagined sounds they inspired.

Travel with your ears

Photo credit: Adrian Glover licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

The New York Times Magazine has produced a slick and interesting piece where they travel around the world to various locations and focus on what you would hear if you were there. In the piece we hear the sounds of lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, then travel to northern Chile to hear the cracking of the Atacama Desert, stop briefly to hear the sound of rats conversing in New York City, and so on.

Sit back, relax, and click the link above.