Aural Transit: Soundscapes of Urban Movement


Aural Transit: Soundscapes of Urban Movement is a side project that I began in Summer 2017 after becoming interested in the use of sound in undermining or asserting relationships of power in public transit. Inspired by The Acoustic City, Matthew Gandy, Benny Nilsen (eds.), I decided to produce my own recordings of Toronto’s urban life.

At the start of this project, I decided that a stereo microphone is necessary as urbanites experience the city in stereo, so I use Zoom’s iQ6 stereo microphone that I attach to my iPhone. Then, I upload the recording (AAC at 160kbps) to Soundcloud. The file name contains the location (or movement) I recorded, followed by the time and date. The description includes any additional information to further contextualize the soundscape. I try to record parts of my habitual movement through the city, but in some instances, I have gone to other areas.

Understanding where these sounds happened in the city is important. Below is a basic Google Map of my recorded soundscapes with each city on a separate layer (as of July 2017, I have only recorded in Toronto). In order to produce the map below, I had to upload the sound files as a video to YouTube—Google Maps will not permit sound files—and embedded them into each pin/line. Static recordings are marked with a pin, while recordings in which I moved are marked with a line (again, sadly, Google Maps does not permit directionality for lines and the Directions option don’t allow for additional data).

Over the 2017/2018 academic year, I hope to expand the sites and cities in this small collection. Furthermore, once I have a larger collection, I plan to move this to a more stable and comprehensive mapping platform, where I can add additional filters (especially the time of day). I may also consider expanding each description to produce a short (ca. 200 word) ethnography of the space I record.

My microphone is almost always on me and I look forward to building a more comprehensive archive of urban soundscapes over the next year. Don’t hesitate to email me with comments and suggestions as to where I should record.

Update: I have a dedicated site up and running since August 2017:

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