The whole world according to aporee's soundmap, where the size of the red dots and numbers within indicate the number of recordings from a particular area
Throughout our lives, we move quite a bit and in doing so, we leave a trail behind us, of cities and memories and sounds. While it costs money to travel back to those cities and memories sadly sometimes fade, the sounds of many of these places are accessible via an impressive soundmap on aporee.org.
As the website describes it [sic'd],
The idea was to connect sound and space, and to create a cartography which focusses solely on sound, and open it to the public as a collaborative project. Meanwhile it contains 1000s of recordings from numerous urban, rural and natural environments, showing the sonic complexity of these environments, as well as the different perception and artistic perspectives related to sound, space and places. furthermore, it's an exciting playground for experiments with sound and mobile media.
Basically, it’s like crowdsourcing ambience.
The range of sounds is bewildering. I can spend a quiet morning on Bernal Heights Hill in San Francisco, listening to the city wake up. I can jump in my sonic time machine, travel back to 1977, and hear the long-lost conversations of a central London pub. Or I can hear a thunderstorm approaching in Prospect Heights, Illinois in May of this year.
It has an easy-to-use interface based on Google Maps, but the simplicity belies the totally immersive quality of the aporee map, especially if you have noise-cancelling headphones. It’s like space-time travel, without all the physics.
No doubt, aporee’s soundmap, which is backed up on archive.org, is far from the only one available. Depending on your interests, digital soundmaps have been developed for regions, animals, and certain categories of sound, like noise. Aural history even gets mapped over at The Roaring Twenties, a site created by a Princeton University professor seeking to document a stretch of the early twentieth century via old newsreels.
But in my search, aporee appears to be the most active and functional of all global soundmaps. Some sites have simply not been updated in years or stopped working as their operative technology phased out. Of the remaining ones, there’s MoMA’s studio map and Sound Around You, a project developed by the University of Salford’s Audio and Acoustic Engineering Research Center. But these fall short of aporee in many ways: recording length and quality as well as the sheer number of soundscapes shared.
So if the holidays has you bummed and missing someplace hard, aporee, as an audio cartography of moments in time, might be the cure for what ails you.