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Save our sounds

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Steve Martin Steve Martin | 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

Bang. Clatter. Rustle. Thud. Just some of the noises I made doing my very first job at the BBC. Creating sound effects on The Archers is one of the best jobs in radio.

World Service logoTwenty years later, I find myself absorbed in the subtleties of sound once again as the BBC World Service launches a short but engaging project called Save Our Sounds.

The editorial issues are quite different. No need to worry about using April birdsong during a June garden party scene or playing the wrong doorbell. The biggest dilemma for Save Our Sounds is accessibility.

Save Our Sounds aims to give people the world over a taste of "acoustic ecology", the act of capturing and preserving sounds which paint a picture of the world and which may become extinct. You'll understand that there's a huge, growing and fairly well-classified photographic archive, but a sonic record of global life is harder to come by.

So we're building a sound map of the world onto which you can add your own recordings. You can also join a growing online conversation by following the inevitable Twitter feed at (@bbc_sos) where you'll meet science writer and journalist Kate Arkless Gray.

But what about the large number of BBC World Service listeners who don't have internet access? Save Our Sounds is clearly built on the opportunities afforded by digital media, but we want to provide a way in for everybody.

Part of the answer lies in what sets the BBC World Service apart from other online organisations: we have a whopping great radio station attached to our website. So we've created Save Our Sounds radio programming that anybody can enjoy.

So those listening to the daily Outlook programme next week will be able to share in the project. The brilliantly inventive BBC World Service producer Rami Tzabar is also crafting a pair of Discovery radio documentaries, fronted by Trevor Cox, which you can hear in early July.

We've also tried to provide some pretty low-tech ways of contributing to our sound map. In addition to uploading from a web browser, by e-mail, or via the free AudioBoo application on an iPhone, you can use the plain old telephone system or even send a cassette tape in the post. Remember cassettes? They're still in widespread use in many places around the world.

I'd be interested to know how well you think we've done to open out this project and, of course, would love to hear any sound you choose to share with us.

Meanwhile, does Ambridge have broadband yet?

Steve Martin is editor of promotions and navigation at BBC World Service

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