Back in January we saw the Stereopublic project, which crowdsourced the quiet, and used it as an inspiration for short musical pieces as well. The URB project in Porto, Portugal takes a more academic approach, very carefully measuring and analysing the urban soundscape.
URB is a soundscape storage and analysis system idealized by José Alberto Gomes and developed in partnership with Diogo Tudela. URB’s goal is to keep record of the sonic profile of Porto, allowing researchers and artists to use the dataset freely within their own projects.
Using four Raspberry Pi’s equipped with a soundcard and an electret mic spread throughout the city, URB constantly listens to the environment and stores sonic features in an on-line public database. See the map above for where they placed the listening spots.
The datasets are freely available online, but you can also navigate them using URB XY, a data visualisation tool by Diogo Tudela. It’s interesting to see the differences between day and night, for example. Analysed properties like amplitude, zero-crossings, irregularity, spectral centroid, etc. are all very easily viewable and the tool is great to get a grip on the urban soundscape.
What I really like about this is that the data can be used for multiple purposes. From giving the government insight on noise pollution in a city and using this info in city planning, to artistic purposes. Which is exactly what the We The Citizens project (above) is about; using the data from the URB-system in artistic ways to make the audience aware of the sound ecology of the city. I hope this’ll happen in more cities, as most citizens are still unaware of the effects of noise pollution and sound ecology.