Sound Experts Want to Record One Full Day of Human Noise From All Over the Earth

The project could help scientists better understand the human soundscape and quantify how it changes over time

Photo: Martin Puddy/Corbis

Bryan Pijanowski, a soundscape ecologist at Purdue University, is hoping to rally people all over the world on Earth Day to help him collect the planet's human noises. He and his colleagues have created a project called Global Soundscapes in order to capture and quantify the planet's noises.

Although Pijanowski usually spends his time taking recordings in remote jungles or barren deserts, in this case he is more interested in the human side of things. He hopes to create sound signatures of various urban and suburban locations around the world, and better understand how those noises influence the people living there. It would also be possible to return to those places years in the future (or even every Earth Day) to see how their soundscapes have or haven't changed. 

As Wired explains, the project hinges on a simple smartphone app. The app takes a short recording of users' surroundings, then asked them a few questions about how they felt when they heard those noises. It then loads the data into the project's database. “We should get a sense of whether and how we’re making this a noisier planet, which I think we’re doing,” Pijanowski told Wired. “And it should increase awareness of sounds. Hopefully it will make people stop and listen.”

Pijanowski hopes to capture around one million recordings on Earth Day. In the short term, he plans to use the project's results to identify the sounds that people most enjoy. Then, places like hospitals, waiting rooms and public transportation could potentially use those soundtracks to introduce a bit of relaxation in an otherwise frantic world.

Here, you can hear Pijanowski explain the project in his own words:  

Welcome to Global Soundscapes

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