What is Soundscape?

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?

Urban Sound Maps: Hear the City’s Heartbeat

Sound maps may not be a well-known or popularized tool, eclipsed by its visual counterpart Google Maps and its kind. However, there are serious sound map projects underway.

Sound Around You is a research project from University of Salford which allows everyone to help build a sound map of the world using a mobile phone. To contribute, you may get the app isay for iPhone, iPad or iPod or use your own recorder to capture, comment on and upload your day-to-day sound environments. Your soundscapes and opinions will then be anonymously placed on the world map. This worldwide soundscape research project utilizes crowdsourcing to collect description of sounds perceived by people around the globe and have perception evaluated in scale, exemplifying collective endeavours in sound mapping.

Details at: http://www.soundaroundyou.com/

London Sound Survey is a growing collection of sound recordings of people, places and events in the capital of the United Kingdom. The survey divides London in a grid of squares and makes summary of its soundscape by plotting in outline the common or persistent sound types heard around London during the daytime. The recordings concern mainly the background atmospheres and incidental noises from all over London.

Details at: http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/soundmaps/