Unfortunately not that many recordings of the sounds in the past have been made. However, the London Sound Survey is a great project where they make field recordings of the current natural sounds found throughout the city. ‘Natural’ including man-made noises such as cars and trucks, industrial sounds, people talking, and wildlife sounds. The purpose is to provide recordings of sounds made now, so that people in the future can listen to them and experience what it sounded like in the past.
This project, and others like it, are great not only for archiving current sounds, but also for making us more aware of our surroundings and thinking about how we want it to sound. I believe the future of noise and acoustics is moving towards thoughtful consideration and design of our outdoor and indoor spaces in crafting a sound that we want to hear, rather than just trying to reduce and manage noises.
I’m quite interested in doing this type of myself and am thinking of getting a binaural microphone setup to do some field recordings of places and spaces I go around Ottawa (or elsewhere). Thankfully, the London Sound Survey has started me off with a list of binaural microphones to look into. A binaural microphone helps to record sounds in stereo, and with the microphones where your ears are – so that during playback, the recordings are much more realistic to how it would have sounded if you were there.
There are several other sound surveys or sound mapping projects in other cities around the world, and here’s one compilation, kindly provided by the somewhat defunct Toronto Sound Map site (last recordings were done in 2010?), run by the SMART Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto.