The Friday Fillip

Listen up.

This fillip’s about soundscapes. We’re all pretty familiar with those recordings of thunderstorms or surf or canoeing up a river, the ones that help us relax and, often, sleep. Strangely to some, there are city sounds that people enjoy as well, sounds for those who use their ears that are as characteristic of their burg as shots of the skyline. So think about the city sounds you like as you peruse the unorchestrated urban sonatas that follow here.

First is London, where the Favourite Sounds project seems to have had its greatest success. You’re probably best off entering the site through the text-based list of recordings, where 40 soundscapes await you, ranging from the bell on the No.73 bus, through evening birds in Abbney Park Cemetery, and on to a Muslim call to prayer at the East London Mosque while a helicopter lands at the nearby heliport. My own somewhat nostalgic pick here is the slamming of train doors from Victoria Station (in 1987).

On to Delhi and the honking roar of rush hour traffic. Only, this is presented on YouTube, so you’ll have to close your eyes. It’s the sound we want. Then onwards, further east, to a walk through San Francisco’s Chinatown, courtesy of the Internet Archive; the file you want here is the one labelled “san francisco, california 12/9/06”.

Finally, north to Canada, to Urban Sound Ecology, where they’re recording the sounds encountered on walks through Canadian cities. At present they’ve got 20 soundscapes recorded in Vancouver and Toronto, complete with maps of the walks. There’s a (surprisingly tolerable) stroll through the middle of Eaton Centre from the north to the south on the day before this Christmas eve, taking the Skytrain to Broadway and Main in Vancouver, Jericho Beach on a sunny summer afternoon, and a July walk up Beverly Street in Toronto. (These links are to the current pages on which the recording appear; they may change as new recordings are added; the site lacks a search function and an index.)

In the spirit of the season, I’m relenting to offer those of you who aren’t fans of city-sounds a link to nature’s audio channels, this from the Western Soundscape Archive in the US, where, although you can’t listen to the buffalo roam, you can hear the bark of arctic foxes or the relaxing sound of ice cracking on Timber Lake, Alaska.


  1. Thanks Simon as usual for your Friday fillips.

    On a slightly more mundane but related note, I have been trying the Relax Melodies Premium app on my iPad and really like it.

    I don’t mean for this to sound like an advertisement for the product (I have no connection to it), but it lets you mix up to 70 sounds – many nature-related – and adjust the volumes individually for each sound. Kind of fun. I drifted off to sleep the other night without realizing it!

  2. I’ve usually found the sounds on Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album very good for that purpose, and I like the thing (g).