Save our sounds

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

MARCO WERMAN: Now it will come as no surprise to learn that we are big fans of sound here at The World so we're excited about a project devised by one of our colleagues at the BBS called Save our Sounds. Kate Arkless Gray is on the line from London. Kate are our sounds really in danger?

KATE ARKLESS GRAY: Certain sounds are definitely endangered. And I'm not just talking about the sounds of animals or birds that we often hear you know as endangered species�

WERMAN: Right.

GREY: �but things like the sound of a 56K modem. It was an everyday sound and now it's gone.

WERMAN: So what you've got � and I'm looking at it online � is this map of the world and everywhere there are these dots indicating short clips of sound from wherever � here, there, and everywhere. You're basically trying to create an audio snapshot of the planet. So let's listen to one of those sounds now.


WERMAN: Kate do you recognize this one?

GREY: I'm just trying to think. I've listened to an awful lot of these sounds since they've been coming in.

WERMAN: Don't worry it's not a test. I know looking at the map I mean there are hundreds of them.

GREY: Was that from New Zealand?

WERMAN: You're very close. You're definitely in the right part of the world. It was sent in by a listener named Roger Mills in Marricville which apparently is part of Sydney, Australia and it's the sound of flying fox bats in his back garden.

GREY: Ah yes. I did read about that one. Just because they're trying to get rid of some of the flying foxes aren't they?

WERMAN: Well they're not officially endangered but apparently Sydney's city council is looking at ways of trying to minimize their numbers in the city's botanical gardens which has caused some concern apparently with Mr. Mills in particular. So let me just get this straight. Anyone can send in sounds to this project � is that right?

GREY: Absolutely. We want to get as many people around the world thinking about sound as we can and we're trying to make it as easy as possible. With this map what you can do, you go online and you can upload the sound to wherever it was recorded and then listen your way around the world through other people's sounds.

WERMAN: Now Susan Sontag once said that everything has been photographed so you know we don't need to like redo all those pictures. But sounds� Would you argue that sounds have not all been recorded?

GREY: I think you know like you say there's an amazing photographic record of the world. We've got huge numbers of books and words written about the history of the world but sound is one of those things that we seem to take for granted. In fact I made a note of every single sound I heard on my way to work one morning and filled two or three pages in my notebook. It was incredible.

WERMAN: Let's hear another sound.


WERMAN: Eh Marco Eh! I think they're calling my name. These are fish sellers in Luanda, Angola Kate. These are recorded by Louise Redvers earlier this month and this is a chant they sing as they walk through the streets selling their fish. Is this going to be an endangered sound because Luanda will soon be selling frozen fish?

GREY: Who knows? I mean who knows. I mean this is why we're trying to collect not just endangered sounds but a real snapshot of the world because I mean that's a sound I would never had heard had it not been for this project.

WERMAN: And apparently I could request a sound. Is that right?

GREY: Yeah. We're having a bit of fun with this. We're running something called desperately seeking sounds. So it's a bit like lonely hearts. If there's a sound out there that you miss from your childhood, you know maybe you granny used to take you onto a carrousel and you'd like to hear that sound again. Let us know what the sound is and we'll try and get one of our sound scavengers out and around in the world to go and collect it for you and we can reunite you with it.

WERMAN: Well this next one is fortunately not a sound from my childhood. Let's hear this.

WERMAN: These are bumble bees. Not just any bumble bees. This was recorded by Erik Post this month in his back garden. Post writes on the map that the Dutch for bumblebees is Hommel and asks whether they will sound the same in 100 years. So we don't know but Kate the sound is safe with you isn't it?

GREY: I hope so. What we're going to be doing with these sounds by the way � any sounds that get sent into us � we'll be sharing the sounds with the British library and we're going to offer the sounds for them to sort of look after for future generations.

WERMAN: Well you can get to the save our sounds map at The World dot org along with full details on uploading or requesting sounds. The BBC's Kate Arkless Grey of Save our Sounds. Thank you so much.

GREY: Thank you.