I love meshing field recording with travel. Foreign sound effect atmospheres can give a taste of what it’s like to be in places you’d otherwise never experience, like France, Spain or Greece. The best ones can immerse you deep in the environment.
When you add these sound clip ambiences to a map, the immersion becomes deeper. You can virtually walk the streets of other places and hear soundscapes of what it was like to be there.
I’ve travelled quite a bit recording sound fx and I’ve always wanted to create a sound map of my travels. Here is my basic worldwide map of my sound effects. I’m planning something more elaborate for the future.
In the meantime, here’s a list of ‘mashup’ websites that combine maps and sound, called soundmaps. They use geotagging to position field recordings on a map. Some of them include soundwalks, which are field recordings while moving and exploring.
Now, if we could only have sound recorders with GPS geotagging built in…
If I’ve missed any cool soundmaps, please leave a message in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.
List of soundmap websites
The following is a big list, meant as a resource. I’ve listed the maps by region or city so you can skim through and pick where you want to have your audio tour.
A word of caution: some of these soundmaps autoplay sound effects as soon as the page loads, so you may want to check your volume before you click through.
Also, be aware that sometimes it takes a moment for tags to appear on the maps.
- the Radio Aporee Project is impressive. Started as a way to “create a cartography which focuses soley on sound,” I like their idea that they provide a “radio that surrounds you” as you walk through locations and “dissolves the borders between listening and performing… between the digital and analogue spheres.”
The soundmap has what appears to be thousands of recordings worldwide, and an excellent collection from Europe. High quality recordings are displayed on a large-format satellite map. They accept public uploads, and have an Andriod browsing app too
- Trevor Cox, a professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, has authored Sonic Wonders, a sound map which aims to “encourage people to be sonic tourists.”
Navigation is easy on this well-designed site. A Google map displays colour-rated tags of field recordings or ‘Sonic Wonders.’ Each sound has its own page with details, photos and videos
- Sound Bum has recordings from all over the world with a good selection from the Far East. You can zoom in to regions and see small photos beside each field recording. The hand-drawn maps are very cool
- this is my own soundmap created while recording for Airborne Sound. The links on the map take you to search results where you can audition the sound effects
- people have long visited freesound.org for their collection of attribution-only free downloads. This page has a geotagged Google map of the user-powered sound effect uploads on the site. Quality and organization varies, but the amount of sound effects is massive
- the Soundtrack soundmap’s goal is to “bring life to static maps.” How? Featuring only soundwalks, audio is paired with a pointer on a map in realtime. Listen to atmospheres and watch as a pointer moves through Bilboa, Lisbon and impressively, Ramallah, Palestine. Quality varies but the immersive aspect is superb
National and regional soundmaps
- Silente Sonoro has field recordings from a handful of Mexican states. Allows downloads
- PBS has a slick Soundscape of China soundmap. About 30 field clean field recordings by recordist Peter Eason are paired with photographs from filmmaker Jonathan Lewis
- this soundmap of Japan focuses mostly on Nagoya, Karuizawa and Tokyo. The site is in Japanese but it is easy enough to browse via the map
- the Quiet American website doesn’t have a map, but it does have great recordings of Vietnam. They also hosted the user-submitted “One Minute Vacation” with detailed notes on field recordings from around the world. Sadly, the project is on indefinite hold but you can still listen to the archives
- Soinumapa is a soundmap of the Basque region of Spain. Hundreds of recordings were created via an open collaborative project from over a hundred recordists. As far as usability goes, this is one of the best. All sounds are available for download
- Heimart is a soundmap that focuses in an area around the Swabian Alps in Germany. The links from the soundmap lead to clean pages of each sound, complete with impressive black and white photos
- the Escoitar soundmap has dozens of field recordings from north-west Spain
- madridsoundscape.org has field recordings sampled from Madrid and Aranjuez, Spain. A good representation of a region complete with birds, energetic crowds and city sounds
- UKSoundMap is the British Library’s sponsored collaborative soundmap. The project closed mid-2011 and has over 2,000 recordings. Massive
- the NY Soundmap site has some pretty cool stuff with a more artistic bent. Led by members of The New York Society for Acoustic Ecology, the website features Sound Seeker which is a sound map of New York City
- Open Sound New Orleans has a soundmap with ambient, vocal and musical recordings. Downloads allowed
- the Montréal Sound Map has something a bit different. They break down field recordings into stationary and mobile recordings, regular and binaural. Each recording displays a photo and equipment used. You can download the sounds too
- favorite Chicago Sounds have high-quality field recordings of the Windy City on this soundmap. Click the green tags to play sounds right on the map
- Mississauga, a city just west of Toronto, has its own soundmap here
- the website Sonidos de Rosario was designed to preserve the “cultural noise” of the city of Rosario, Argentina for future generations. The soundmap is text-based. Click here for the translated English version
- listen to frigid atmospheres from northern Québec at the Innuit settlement of Inukjuak
- the Lublin Soundmap is another Google Maps-based website, also powered by public uploads. You can flip through the sounds by category to see tagged pages with brief informative descriptions
- Saturnia is a small spa town in Tuscany, Italy. This soundmap is a densely focused representation of a specific area. Beautiful ambiences
- The London Sound Survey soundmap hosts recordings divided in a tidy grid of the London region. Each grid has many recordings, all logged with description, technical notes and downloads.
Additional maps include night recordings, waterways and a fascinating functional/incidental icon-driven grid. Immense
- panto-graph.net hosts a text-driven sound map of Prague. It’s all in Czech of course, click here for a Google-translated version. Not a soundmap per se, but a cool place to explore nonetheless
- The Soundmap of Cologne (English translation) is also text-based. I like the amount of detail with each post. The photos compliment the sounds. Great quality. Allows downloads
- Ecouter Paris is a slick Flash-based soundmap. Superb high-quality recordings. It’s completely in French but easy to navigate
- Manchester: Peripheral is another attractive Flash soundmap. A mix of field recordings and music
- powered by freesound.org, this soundmap at Sons de Barcelona has a dense amount of sounds from Barcelona, Spain
These websites track specific categories sound effects on maps.
- Twitchr is a soundmap of bridsong in the United Kingdom. It has a interesting feature that allows you to play sounds in view with a piano side-scroller
- Another birdsong soundmap can be found at Xeno Canto, a worldwide mapped database of shared bird sounds. Highlighting accuracy, Xeno Canto allows uploads for serious birders that are absolutely sure of bird species
Given the number of field recordists from the film industry in North America, I’m surprised at the lack of Canadian and American soundmaps.
If you know of any other cool soundmaps, soundwalks or soundscape + map mashups, please let me know in the comments.