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The sound of Britain

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:35 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Heard any good sounds lately, something that you might like preserved for posterity?

Perhaps nursery rhymes chanted in a playground, the roar of the crowd at a Premiership football match - or something as simple as the waves crashing on a beach?

UK sound mapWell now you have the chance to contribute to an archive of sounds gathered across the country. The increasingly innovative British Library has got together with one of Britain's most interesting technology start up firms to create an interactive sound map of the UK.

The library is inviting anyone to use Audioboo, a smartphone application, to record sounds, and upload them with the tag "uksm".

Then, as long as the audio quality of the recording is good enough - watch out for wind noise is the advice from the folks at the Library - it will be plotted on the map.

The project has been launched nationally after a successful trial in the Sheffield area, and so far there are a couple of hundred recordings.

They include the sound of pigs at a farm near Bath, 4 minutes and 33 seconds of waterfall noise from Cwmaman, the sound of Coral Beach on the Isle of Skye and the sound of someone buying a car at Cinderford.

For Audioboo, it is an ideal opportunity to promote a service which aims to be a kind of audio version of YouTube, but which has yet to find an application that will make it useful to a mainstream audience.

The BBC World Service has been running a similar project called Save Our Sounds, inviting listeners from around the world to contribute recordings of sounds that could be endangered.

Now the British Library's map could deliver a sophisticated soundscape of our country, in all its noisy, or perhaps quiet and understated, glory.

But only if enough people hear about the project and decide to take part. So I'm off to record something on my phone right now. I just hope it makes it past the quality control inspectors at the British Library.

Update, 09:58: Good news - my recording for the UK sound map got through quality control at the British Library and is now plotted on the map. I recorded some audio in the control room of the studio from which Radio 4's Six O'Clock News is broadcast. You can hear it by clicking on the map - or you can go to Audioboo.


  • Comment number 1.

    Rory, factual error? (or erroneous implication!)

    "Audioboo, a smartphone application"

    actually only iphone and android smartphones.... (from visiting the link)

    Sound needs careful recording and reasonable microphones and technique - all things that smartphones and their operators lack.

    Better to do a proper job!

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for your comment, John_from_Hendon. The project welcomes all contributions whether from professional sound recordists or complete novices, just by adding the 'uksm' tag. By aggregating many recordings we are creating a truly representative snapshot right across the UK.

    Note that Audioboo is not restricted to smartphones - there is a web browser version for uploading sound files, so we also welcome recordings made with top quality pro stereo rigs - see for the options
    - Richard Ranft, The British Library

  • Comment number 3.

    At least these sounds of the UK will not have been auto-tuned.......

  • Comment number 4.

    I was going to upload the sound of the wind blowing through Wind Gap - but it looks like it would be rejected because of wind noise. :)

  • Comment number 5.

    This reminds me of something I've been up to recently. Myself and two friends recently created a public art installation in Leeds based on 24 hours of the city's soundscape.

    Working with Leeds City Council, we called the project 'Are You Listening Leeds?', and it ran in a disused shop unit in the city centre.

    It featured 24 different recordings in 24 different locations, representing 24 hours of the city in 24 minutes. If you're interested, you can hear more about it here:

  • Comment number 6.

    Whose brainchild was this?
    Do we really believe that "posterity" will be interested in sounds orginating from 2010.
    How many people are charged with working on this "sound" project? Who is paying the tab? I'm guessing the taxpayers since the project is affilliated with the British Library System.
    Did we not have anything better to do with the money, taxpayers money?
    I await the volume of inputs, but more so, the volume of requests to hear certain sounds.
    Personally, I believe both will dry up to nothing within a couple of months.
    Personally, I believe this statement says it all: Audioboo has yet to find an application that will make it useful to a mainstream audience.

  • Comment number 7.

    After working on SaveOurSounds, I was inspired to make my own soundmap based around places to visit as a Sonic Tourist. Places which sound unusual and interesting (whispering galleries, sand dunes that boom, places with unusual echoes, etc)


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