CTS Sound Culture_Sound Artefact

A sound artefact of ‘Urban Noise’

Many people live in the city, which is a place of diversities. The urban environment includes multiple sounds, smells and visions and it enables all our senses to be awakened. On the other hand, since we have been exposed by particular urban senses for a long time, we could not notice it has affected to people by negative aspects. Especially, the urban soundscape is one of the important issues in our life. I will focus on “urban sound” as “noise”. The difference between sound and noise might be explained that sound is actually what we hear and noise is unpleasant or dangerous sound without being noticed. Even though the noise could be subjective, it is fact that the noise is everywhere in the city.

During the sound and city session, we were asked to do activity that finds the 3 types of sound, which are Keynote sound, Signal and Soundmark, in university and creates a sound map of university. By taking this experience, I started to record the sounds that I have unconsciously heard and encountered during my daily commute and staying in my room. I considered making a synchronous noise recording in the urban environment as a sound artefact on the basis of my sonic experiences. At the beginning of my research, listening is focused as a way to know and understand the sounds in the environment. I recorded an idling diesel bus, running train along the railway, running cars on the street, traffic signals for pedestrians, an ambulance siren, dog barking against construction around my house and running washing machine. Basically, these recorded sounds are recognised as noise. It is insidious and acutely affects urban residents over a long period of time.

Low-frequency noise might become the most insidious. The sound of airplane taking off and an idling diesel truck or city bus have the frequencies of vibration than an audible sound. (Holt, 2016) We do not actually discuss about our daily low frequency noise or high frequency noise, however we might suffer from these. We might overlook these daily noises. I strongly believe that we should be more aware of the sounds in our environment and understand that sounds could play a significant role to our life. My sound artifact might help the listeners to recognise the noise pollution of city as obstacles to our involvement with the sonic world around us. Therefore, I researched the urban soundscape and how it affects our minds and bodies in terms of the environmental psychology in order to disseminate to many people.

I stated to research the endeavors against battle over sound as a domestic disturbance from the Victorian time. Frith (1891) states in her letter that “Rather, Frith, than continue to be tormented in this way, I would prefer to go to the grave where there is no noise”. At that time, Carlyle failed to maintain solid boundaries between home and outside. He decided to construct a silent room at the top of his house. (Picker, 1999) These occurred “unwanted, unmusical and loud sound” in unintended listening mean “noise” commonly. (Schafer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, 1994) Noise is generally used to loudness, and noise pollution refers to negative aspects of sound that might result in physiological and psychological illness, while Winkler (2000) points out that a quieter soundscape is a healthier soundscape and plays an important role for mind, body and our soul. Currently, the sound pollution in the urban environment is getting worse. Truax (1978) defined that sound pollution is an imbalance in a soundscape and takes place by disrupting or intruding sounds. It has a characteristic that the perceived balance of the soundscape is interrupted. Moreover, noise puts our sense of the social to test its limit. Sound might become utopian and dystopian combination. (Bull & Back, 2003) Music could also become not only wanted, intimate and comfortable sounds to listen but also unwanted, deafening and threatening noise to listen at the same time.



Frith, W. P. (1891). John Leech: His Life and Work. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley.

Holt, S. (2016). How City Noise Affects Residents’ Health. [online] Available at: <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/03/how-urban-noise-impacts-residents-health/471465/&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2016].

Picker, J.M. (1999). The Soundproof Study: Victorian Professionals, Work Space, and Urban Noise. [pdf] Available at: <http://lit.scripts.mit.edu/dev/wp-content/uploads/jPicker-3Soundproof.pdf&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2016].

Schafer, R.M. (1994). TheSoundscape:Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Vermont: Destiny Books.

Truax, B. (1978), Handbook for Acoustic Ecology, Vancouver: A.R.C. Publications.

Winkler, J. (2000). The Journal of Acoustic Ecology. The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, [online] 1(1), pp.1–36. Available at: <http://interact.uoregon.edu/medialit/wfae/journal/index.html&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2016].


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