Mapping Sound and Sounding Maps

I have recently been researching sonic maps for a project I am developing and thought I would share some of the best examples I have come across so far…

1. Sound Seeker, NY

“The NYSoundmap is a map created by citizens that privileges the ear over the eye. The project reaches across the city’s geographic, economic, educational, cultural and racial divides. It is at once a historical record and a subjective representation of the city. It is what each user wishes it to be and it is ever growing, ever changing and totally interactive.”

Sound-seeker was created using GoogleMaps API’s and its users basically ‘plot’ sound on a google Map of NY and as such the project can be more readily thought of as a sound archive. For similar see the Montreal Sound Map

2. Locus Sonus: Networked Sonic Spaces

Since it was launched in 2004, the research group Locus Sonus has been working on artistic possibilities arising from the intersection of networked and acoustic or local audio spaces.  A number of different forms are experimented within the group, ranging from concert/performance, through installation to web-based projects.

One such project revolves around an evolving network of permanently open microphones producing multiple audio streams, relayed by the internet and by a specifically programmed server. These open microphones are spread around the globe and maintained by a large number of collaborators providing live sound material for subsidiary projects.

3. Inukjuak Sound Map


In the course of participating in an artist residency in Inukjuak, Nunavik(Canada) in 2009 Nimalan Yoganathana, a sound artist, activist, and composer based in Montréal, studied and recorded the sounds of his surroundings, including natural sounds (the wind, mosquitoes, water etc), and cultural sounds (throat singing, kayak building etc).

Yoganathan also led weekly sound art workshops for Inuit youths aged 13 to 16, during which they were taught outdoor field recording techniques. Each youth was given their own digital recorder to document their sound walks around the community. Their recordings have been included in the Inukjuak Sound Map.

The Inukjuak Sound Map is intended to help raise international awareness about the natural and cultural diversity of Inukjuak, as well as the interesting but fragile sounds hidden throughout this Northern community. The Inukjuak Sound Map, much like the NYSoundmap aims to create an archival database of these recordings by plotting the sounds on a static Google API.

4. Save Our Sounds

BBC World Service is asking its listeners to help create an online archive of sounds from around the world in a bid to preserve “endangered sounds”. You can add your sounds to an interactive map and explore sounds from other parts of the globe. The interactive map that allows you to upload your audio and place it exactly where it was recorded using a similar format to Google Map API’s. The map uploader is very easy to use and allows you to submit .wavs and .mp3s. The .wavs get automatically converted to mp3 before appearing on the map, so that it doesn’t collapse under the weight of the files. For a similar project also see Radio Aporee.

6. Soundscapes of Canada

The WSP group atThe World Soundscape Project 1973; left to right: R. M. Schafer, Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, Barry Truax, Howard Broomfield

The BBC project ‘Save our Sounds’ was actually inspired by a series of Canadian radio programmes – Soundscapes of Canada – that were first broadcast in 1974 and presented by R Murray Schafer. Soundscapes of Canada was part of a larger project Schafer was contributing to called The World Soundscape Project (with Bruce Davis, Peter Huse, Jean Reed, Barry Truax, Howard Broomfield) where the objective was to capture disappearing sounds in response to over noise pollution. As such Schafer and his peers as regarded as the pioneers of acoustic ecology and soundscape research.

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 specific place and then gives visitors access to that material through interactively layered maps. The ‘layers’ can consists of historic maps of a city (to mark its growth/development) and these layers can be crosscut with oral histories and recorded soundscapes.

8. Bioacoustics: animations showing how whales are affected by ocean noise pollution

Christopher Clark, the I.P. Johnson Director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created state-of-the-art acoustic animations that show how whale song gets lost among the noise of ship traffic, and therefore whales that require the quiet of the ocean to communicate over miles of open water are not able to hear one another’s songs.

Clark created animations of time-elapsed maps showing data of whale and ship sounds recorded over three months. It is part of an effort to understand what the increase in oceanic noise pollution is doing to whales who struggle to communicate with one another over the din.

To better understand these underwater acoustics, Clark and his colleagues have developed graphic animations that show the acoustic habitat as experienced by whales. Using data collected by seafloor sound monitors, the scientists can map the locations of whales and measure their sounds, along with anthropogenic sounds. The resulting animations vividly depict how the noise from human activities physically obstructs and reduces whales’ habitat, interfering with what Clark calls the animals’ “communication space.”

Whales no ships

Whale communication disrupted by a passing ship

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This entry was posted in Curation as Spatial Practice, Experimental Geographies, Mapping Sound and Sounding Maps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mapping Sound and Sounding Maps

  1. Hi – this is a great post. Sound mapping is a really interesting way of exploring our world, moving away from the visual field and finding what characterieses our local spaces sonically. I’ve worked a little bit on a few sound maps, one of my favourites at the moment is http://aporee.org/maps/ In an era where our towns are beoming more homogenous and our country spaces are shrinking it seems vital to appreciate the soundmarks of our localities.

  2. Pingback: Soundscapes

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