Every city has a unique sound
Every city has a unique sound. Composed of countless moving parts, they all carry a blend of frequencies that make each location unlike any other. From the low-end comings and goings of truck and trains to the high-end squeals of vehicle brakes and horns, there is a distinct hum that one can hear if they listen closely. The placement of neighbourhoods, style of architecture, accessible nature, population, and many other factors make each place one-of-a-kind and with a one-of-a-kind sound.
Just as music is made of multiple tracks mixed into one, so is a city a mixture of sounds to create one overall composition. This is the beauty of sound in the city. It is as if they are each a living organism with a heartbeat. If you listen close enough, you can hear each one.
This is the idea behind the City Sounds project. With a portable recorder, I set out to record the various aspects of a city that contribute to its unique sound in order to better understand the city itself.
Vienna, for example, is a gorgeous, old city that sits alongside the Danube. The squeaks of tram lines blend with the sounds of vehicles that speed through distinct neighbourhoods while ambulance sirens and church bells cut through the noise. The famous river rushes below a bridge that carries a train while ducks and swans duck in and out of the river near the skateboarders that make harsh sounds on the concrete. Horse hooves clop along the road while tourists snap pictures of the historical buildings and discuss in a myriad of languages. It is a gorgeous cacophony of life that can only be heard in Vienna.
Whether it be for film or music, ambient sounds can be used in many ways. They can be used simply to experience a place through audio, or they can be placed into a project creatively. Perhaps an audio designer needs a specific sound of a water fountain or church bells or a musician wants to add a crowd hum to create a live feel, either way, ambient sounds can be incredibly useful.
Finneas & Billie Eilish
An example of this is found in the hit song Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. The hi-hats in the song are from an ambient recording of a crosswalk sound in Sydney, Australia treated to fit the track.
As a producer, audio designer, or travel lover, ambient sounds contain a whole world of possibilities. Explore cities you’ve never been to or manipulate a sound to place into your song, your only limit is your creativity.
Interested in exploring the sounds of Vienna? Check out the City Sounds: Vienna Sample Pack.
Get 30 ambient recordings and hear the essence of the beautiful city.