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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Soundscape: Market and Rideau Centre

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image by Google maps
image by Google maps

As an experiment, this past weekend I brought an omni-directional microphone with me during a walk through the Byward Market and Rideau Centre. Starting beside the Highlander at the foot of the William Street Mall, I walked along seeing what sounds might leave a strong enough “audio footprint” to identify when I played the file back.

In the first segment I managed to pick out the sounds of Karen Carpenter thumping the life out of a tinny speaker outside a candy store, then the tuneless plucking of the world’s most melody-free busker, and finally the bustle and babble of the coffee shop in the Market building.

Next was the sound of Hot 89.9 blasting through two head-high speakers near the cosmetics promotion table inside the the Freiman Mall; as I recall this was compelling some young women to linger by the cosmetician, and encouraging everyone else to scurry through faster.

A few seconds later we emerge to hear the roar of buses on Rideau Street, and then a strange thing happened during the last leg, which was the long walk through the Rideau Centre. As much as it sounds like a noisy place on a crowded Saturday, the carpeted floor absorbed all the peaks in the audio signal, and the digital record of the walk was mostly a very low hum –edited out — relieved by only two or three audio artifacts. Can you guess what the electric motor is? Here’s a hint – wheatgrass comes into it. Once I got near the MacKenzie King doors the squeeky wheel of an electric scooter can be heard vying with the the roar of a 97 heading west. The very last sound is the squeel of the brakes on the the 86, come to take me home.

SoundScape by Spacing-Ottawa