Julian's blog: London Sound Archive
Following on from my meeting with Ken Livingstone (see The Sound of London post in this blog), I’ve written to him suggesting the setting up of a permanent London Sound Archive.
Every city has characteristic sounds, and the soundscape’s elements change all the time. Many sounds I remember from my childhood have disappeared (police bells and whistles, rag-and-bone men, Routemaster buses, slam-door trains) and there are many more from history that I never heard or don’t remember (tug boat whistles, street callers, steam trains in major stations). It would be wonderful to collect these historic sounds from private and public archives, and to add comprehensive recordings of current sounds (“Mind the gap!”, tube trains, taxis, church bells and so on) – and then create a searchable, interactive archive accessible through the web and via interactive kiosks in public places frequented by tourists or researchers, such as railway stations, the British Library, museums and major attractions.
There are resources available: Peter Cusack’s project Your Favourite London Sounds (which exhibited in City Hall in 2003) will have many of the current sounds; the British Library Sound Archive contains great treasures in oral history and also in recorded soundscapes; the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community will be able to contribute richly… but a national (or maybe even international) appeal will uncover so much more that’s currently owned by Londoners and others, and once the tagging and bagging is done we will have created a unique and precious resource for the city.
I hope Mr Livingstone will support this project so we can create this in time for the 2012 explosion of interest in London.