Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Researchers seek UK 'soundscapes'

Soundaroundyou screenshot (Salford U)

A project has launched to capture the sounds of UK locations, mapping them to create "soundscapes" that can be visited by users of the project's site.

Participants are asked to record 5 - 10 second intervals of sound using their mobile phones, describing where and why they took the recording.

The sound samples are then uploaded to a site where they are mapped.

The project aims also to analyse the recordings and provide an objective measure of sound and noise.

The Sound Around You project is the brainchild of University of Salford acoustics researcher Charlie Mydlarz.

Objective measure

"The government looks at sound and noise in a very one-sided, black and white fashion: if something's too loud, that's bad and if something's quiet that's good," Mr Mydlarz told BBC News.

"That's not really true. You do need a certain amount of volume within a sound environment for it to be appreciated - a marketplace needs to be bustling for it to be a marketplace.

"Before we make any judgments about these soundscapes and how people react to them we need to gather information about them," he explained.

Participants in the project can thus rate the sound that they record, and tag it as "tranquil", "eventful", "chaotic", and so on.

The resulting map laying out Britain's soundscapes can be visited by, for instance, prospective house buyers interested to know about the sound environment of a given neighbourhood.

But the results are also useful from a research standpoint, Mr Mydlarz said.

The audio clips will be acoustically analysed and associated with the characteristics of the recordings that participants use to describe them.

The project thus hopes to discover in a rigorous and objective way what kinds of sounds make for pleasant or unpleasant locations.

The Sound Around You project was launched at the Manchester Science Festival.

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