Recordings of the ambient sounds from different places around the world remind us that travel involves not just sightseeing, but listening and hearing as well. Even when you can’t travel, you can still bring the sounds of a far-off city to you.
Cities and Memory [citiesandmemory.com] is a sound map founded by sound artist and field recordist Stuart Fowkes that features more than 3,000 sounds from 90-plus countries and territories. Visit Hanoi and Florence; and hear flamenco in Seville, Spain; and gnaoua music in Essaouira, Morocco. In March, 2020, a new project was launched, #StayHomeSounds, collecting sounds from the global Covid-19 lockdown.
Cornell University’s Natural Sound Archive at the Macaulay Library offers 150,000 digital and converted analog recordings that date back to 1929. Listen for whales, elephants, frogs, primates and birds. Cuts include a loon on an Adirondacks lake, birds at dawn in Queensland, Australia; and the “UFO-like” call of a curl-crested manucode in New Guinea. Search by animal or region.
Listen to “squeakings” sand in more than 10 locations, including Porthor Beach in the United Kingdom. You can also hear the chimes of Big Ben. Find places either via this list of all sites, by way of a search or click on the Tag Cloud.
Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist devoted to preserving the world’s quiet places. His Sound Tracker label features albums of ambient recordings he has made of various quiet places (generally defined as no human sound for 15 minutes). The website offers previews of his recordings, including Zabalo, a certified quiet place in the Ecuadoran Amazon, where it’s possible to walk for 1,200 miles without crossing a road.
Sound Cities is an open-source database created by Stanza, a London-based artist. “Next stop is Lombard crooked street, Lombard crooked street, next stop” is heard in a San Francisco trolley clip. A bike bell, car horn and conversation blend on a street in Kolkata, India, and Italians talk soccer.
Wild sounds of the National Parks from Jacob Job and Gavia Immer, natural-sounds recordists and science communicators, and their team at Colorado State University can be heard at Sound Cloud. Among the most popular are Coyotes Wake Up in Yellowstone, Dawn Chorus in Yellowstone, and Elk Rut and Coyote at Rocky Mountain National Park.