Have you had difficulty finding a quiet place to relax, or a restaurant to enjoy a good meal with friends without too much noise from the background? Sometimes the noise level of a venue can get too loud that a pleasant conversation is impossible. Here’s a mobile app that we have come across, during the ASA meeting in New Orleans held earlier this month, called SoundPrint that helps users locate quiet venues on map. Users can search keywords (Figure 1) or look directly on the map, venues are displayed with their decibel levels (Figure 2). The app categorises venues into quiet, moderate, loud and very loud areas, so users can easily find quiet or vibrant venues according to their preference. With the app, users can also measure the loudness of a venue in decibels (Figure 3), which contributes to the database of the app, and enables users to determine whether a venue is too loud or not (>80dB), to reflect to the manager for improvement.
Sometimes it is hard to find quiet places nearby when you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. We came across a mobile app that helps users find quiet areas close by to relax. Hush City, an app introduced during the ASA meeting in Boston earlier this year, helps users find these “everyday quiet areas” on a map of quietness (Figure 1). The app also encourages users to explore quiet spots in their neighbourhoods by allowing them to record sounds and measure sound levels in decibels with the app (Figure 2). Users can answer a questionnaire of feedback on the sound spot (Figure 3). The collected data and feedback are used for the map of quietness. This actively engages the public in sonic environment evaluation and planning.
You may know the word landscape. A landscape includes the broad view of everything you can see around you (e.g. trees and rivers when you go hiking). You may also hear bird cries and rivers flowing. These elements make up a soundscape i.e. an auditory landscape. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines soundscape as acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood by a person or people, in context. In simpler terms, soundscape refers to the component sounds of an environment.
Since a soundscape may comprise a host of different sounds, they may not fit or even clash with each other, giving rise to disharmony, especially in cities where man-made sounds and noise dominate the scene. In view of this, soundscape design aims to make sounds or noise, which are perceived to be inevitable, more in harmony with the pertinent environment. For instance, water sounds from a fountain in a park may help mask the undesirable vehicle noise nearby. Regarding how to harmonize a soundscape, professionals engaged in the field have different opinions and focuses. For city planners, they may want to control noise and meet objective noise standards; for sonic artists, they may want to factor in an emotional dimension in their soundscape planning.
Does your neighbourhood have a harmonious soundscape?