Do New York pigeons sound different from California pigeons? I'm not sure, but The Smalls Street Sounds could help me find out.
The new interactive online project aims to create a sort of sonic landscape of the U.S. by overlaying local sound snippets on Google Maps. Clicking through the 270-plus clips uploaded as of late Wednesday afternoon offers an imaginative audio tour from East to West and in between. It's a great way to relive the drama of a tropical Florida thunderstorm, amble through San Francisco's Chinatown, or visit that Radio Shack in Danbury, Conn., you've always wanted to check out.
Some sounds are decidedly location-specific (subway performers in New City, a Las Vegas casino, a student demonstration in Berkeley), while others could be heard anywhere (phones ringing, steam heaters sputtering, doors closing, zippers being zipped, plastic crinkling, computer keyboards tapping). You'll hear traffic, boots on pavement, trains, buses, wind, crying children, the sounds of running in snow--all captivating in their own way.
The Sound Map is a project of The Smalls, a curator of independent short films whose mission is to "champion the use of diverse and inspiring sounds in filmmaking and support talented artists who use sounds in a creative way to tell their stories and convey their own unique vision."
Next week, in fact, the Smalls Street Sounds will launch a competition challenging filmmakers to create short films (three minutes or less) based on sounds taken from the Sound Map. The theme of the contest will be announced on February 8.
In the meantime, anyone can contribute sounds (MP3 files only for now), with no limit on clip length, only file size. I'm just hoping no one uploads the voice of a San Francisco MUNI operator announcing yet another delay. I just don't think I could take hearing that one again.