Sunday, September 23, 2007


The (British) Observer has an interesting article on urban soundscapes. It's based on the premise that we have to live with noise, so we might as well try to organise noise so that it's pleasant to us.

Research has shown that people quite like the sounds of:

  • car tyres on wet roads
  • the roar of a distant flyover
  • the rumble of an overground train
  • the sound of an orchestra tuning up (not usually in the street...)
  • the thud of heavy bass heard on the street outside a nightclub
As a classical music lover, I'm not totally convinced of the last one....But having lived in a city, near traffic lights, for most of the last 7 years or so, I don't find heavy traffic very worrying (though I tend to live high up). What did bug me for a while was when blind-friendly beepers were installed at the traffic lights outside my house - but I did not notice them this summer, so maybe they have gone.

The point of all this activity is to design cities and open spaces so the sound environment pleases us; sometimes this coincides with the environment in other ways like when you plant trees and they muffle and absorb the sound. Seems like a good thing to do. AS LONG AS NO-ONE DECIDES TO PLANT A NIGHTCLUB OUTSIDE MY HOUSE.

Sounds I like:
  • that orchestra tuning up
  • someone practicing an acoustic musical instrument
  • a distant train (or even a near train, it's kind of romantic)
  • children playing
  • people chatting amicably and laughing
I had the pleasure of hearing the last two the night I slept outside on the balcony. Did not get many winks but it was lovely listening to the sound pattern changing as the children were playing, then went inside, the neighbours going inside and watching TV, the TV going off and another group chatting, then at 6 am the following morning another neighbour starting to clean his yard...

Should mention also that since I don't often speak the language well of the country I live in (Georgia is the worst) all I get is sound patterns most of the time.....