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Urban sound hunters scour London’s streets to capture city life

Recordings of ambient audio seek to preserve a unique aspect of the urban environment

When you think about what defines a city, you might think of its architecture, history, or inhabitants. But what about its sounds? Adventurous audiophiles in London and elsewhere are taking to the streets, recording everything from the sound of steps on cobblestone to birdsong, antique fire bells, and the dull roar of Tower Bridge lifting above the Thames.

The repository of these efforts is the London Sound Survey, a collection of more than 2,000 audio recordings of London. The site’s founder, Ian Rawes, was inspired to embark on the project after making an odd discovery in the British Library’s Sound Archive. Roughly a decade ago, Rawes came across a set of tapes containing the audio of every bus route in Yorkshire, meticulously annotated by its recorder. As Rawes told the New York Times, "it made me think, ‘God, if he can do that, there must be something in London to record.’"

Since 2008, Rawes’ recording hobby has morphed into an obsession for capturing the life of the city and learning more about what it sounded like decades and centuries ago. He even uncovered a BBC collection of ambient sound recordings starting in 1928.

Source: New York Times