‘Quiet’

Inspired by a post by soundslikenoise, I thought I’d share some of my own views on so-called ‘quiet’ areas.  As part of a project, I recorded material from some of the loudest and quietest places in London.  An organisation called Hear The World conducted a number of studies of the decibel levels of various cities around the world, and produced an interactive map which you can see here.  Tottenham Court Road is cited as the loudest location in London, reaching nearly 95 dB at times.  However this noisy city also has many parks, one of the largest which is Hyde Park (630 acres), so I journeyed to the centre of this urban oasis on a Winter morning when the ducks and geese were guaranteed to outnumber people.  The thing that struck me the most when I listened to the recordings of the park at home was the sheer number of airplanes.  I wanted to use the material for a composition and it took a great deal of cutting to produce just a few minutes of usable material.  The second thing I noticed only when I processed the recordings as spectrograms.  I have included a twenty second segment of each below:

The picture of Tottenham Court Road is as would be expected of a typically lo-fi environment – a wall of broadband sound.  However the spectrogram of Hyde Park also has a dense, low-frequency band present throughout.  The layout from about 1500 Hz upwards is what you would expect of such a ‘natural’ environment, but it is evidently completely affected by its location within the city.

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2 thoughts on “‘Quiet’

  1. good work!
    Bernie Krause talks about making recordings like this, all over the world. and Gordon Hempton in his book (“One Square Inch”? – i think that is the title – i have a copy somewhere but can’t find it right now) also talks about how ‘noise’ of technologies has taken over all sorts of locations that USED to be very quiet. (Here is his site – http://onesquareinch.org/)

  2. Thanks for the link, I’d seen the title ‘One Square Inch of Silence’ a while ago but hadn’t seen the website, I’m on the mailing list now! The NY Times had a really interesting article recently – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/is-silence-going-extinct.html?_r=4&pagewanted=all
    It talks about the problem of engine sounds, particularly snow mobiles, in Yosemite National Park. It’s such a shame, all these pristine sonic environments could be damaged beyond repair before proper legislation is drawn up to protect them.

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