2. i) What observations were made about the soundscape during my soundwalks?

April 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

I started to note recurring sounds within the soundscape:

Planes and helicopters,
Motorbikes, buses and cars,
Signals; traffic lights, police sirens and vans reversing,
Construction work,
Constant drones from various generators and fans
Chime of church bells,
Along the Thames Path;
Waves on the shore, water gushing through locks,
Creaking boats,
Various avian calls;
Seagulls, pigeons, ducks and geese,
Runners and cyclists,
In parks;
Parents and children playing,
Football matches,
Low hum of the City in the background….

The different dynamics of the journeys, in terms of decibel levels, differed dramatically at times. At certain points along the Thames path, particularly on the Albert Bridge North (ABN) journey, it was incredibly quiet and a solitary experience too. Coming off Great West Road and following the path to Barnes Bridge, I think I only encountered one person.


It was only the sound of airplanes that were apparent in the foreground, the distant City revealing itself occasionally, where there was more open space (e.g. park – Riverside Recreation Ground). In fact, planes were quite a dominant feature of the soundscape. That said, their presence is easier to notice in quieter spaces, whilst in louder environments they may be masked by other sounds, and so glide gently in and out of our periphery without us necessarily noticing.

The majority of main roads I encountered were busy, since I usually undertook my journeys between 12-8pm. Embarking on my ABN journey, I followed the main road West and came across Cremorne Gardens, a little park along the Thames Path. I stood on the peer, perhaps only 100m or so away from the main road, and only slightly sheltered by short building. The difference in perceived level of traffic was surprising, and I could clearly hear the sounds of seagulls in the water below, as well as the flutter of pigeons lined up on the railings. Even the delicate tinkling of shells and stones on the shore as the waves drew back and forth could be heard.

The frequency of police sirens on some journeys was far greater than others. On my Vauxhall Bridge South (VBS) journey – through Camberwell, Peckham, Nunhead, and finally New Cross – I recorded a great deal. Police sirens are incredibly loud and a very distinct and dominant feature of London. I actually think they’re too loud and don’t seem particularly directional (i.e. you can’t always tell which direction they’re coming from until they get close).

I recorded a fair amount of footsteps; sometimes my own, sometimes other peoples. Sometimes I would follow a person’s footsteps, letting that sound lead me to the next. (I hope I didn’t freak anybody out… though I don’t think they actually noticed!) Footsteps are interesting when they accumulate, like in enclosed places of transit (underpasses, stations), where many feet meet to create a denser rhythmic texture within the space.


A single pair of feet crunching and squelching through a wet pebble shore has a very different feel. A single pair of feet in a relatively quiet environment is a good way of hearing the acoustics of a space and how it changes when those feet make their way through different spaces; a narrow alleyway, a tunnel leading to the tube, a stairwell leading back over ground….


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