Sounds of… Tottenham Court Road

Science Sociologist/Policy Academic/Blogger Alice Bell has very kindly invited me to take part in the Sounds of Science event on February 29th at Charles Darwin House – featuring participants from the BBC, Audioboo and the BMJ. To celebrate world radio day, she wrote this blogpost in celebration, in part, of the sounds around us.

In my time as a scientist I’ve worked in labs, offices, clinics and theatres. I have a particularly vivid memory of being involved with a prostate laser treatment where the theatre staff insisted on playing 80s pop on a little CD player while they worked. Sitting between a man’s stirruped legs, waiting for the treatment to finish while listening to Never Going to Give You Up gives a new definition to the phrase “rick-rolled”. But I digress.

My current office is on Tottenham Court Road (aka “TCR”) – one of London’s busiest streets. When we record Global Lab (the CASA research podcast) you can hear the sound of TCR in the background –  we frequently have to stop and let ambulances and police cars race past. But we wanted to make a feature of this – CASA is a department that has a lot of projects about sensing the city, and it’s entirely appropriate that we’re right at the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant, most historic cities. So I went out onto the street with my iPhone and captured a bit of this. This is what TCR sounded like last July:

So far, so noisy. That weird whale song sound you can hear is the noise buses make – I think it might be their brakes, reverbed by some reflections between the parallel buildings of TCR. I started thinking about whether I could make that musical. It has a certain tonality to it, and with a bit of looping, a certain rhythm. A GarageBand file was born, complete with “dance” drums, and a guitar and a bass part recorded straight into the computer and augmented with Apple’s rather passable amp simulators. This is what it sounds like:

And, GarageBand users, this is what it looks like:

Anyway, that’s how I made background noise into the theme tune for a podcast. If you want to hear (even) more interesting stories about sound and science, come along at the end of the month to Sounds of Science.

2 thoughts on “Sounds of… Tottenham Court Road

  1. Pingback: Podcasting « Culture Badger

  2. Pingback: Being noisy about science | through the looking glass

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