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The Sonic Landscape of the City: Sirens Taken for Wonder

Urban Omnibus reports on an interesting aural field trip they recently took through New York City.

Dan Gould
Dan Gould on November 24, 2009.

Urban Omnibus reports on an interesting aural field trip they recently took through New York City. British artist Paul Elliman organized the tour, part of a series called “Sirens Taken for Wonders.” Elliman’s tour explored the sonic landscape of the city – focusing on sirens on this particular trip.

Elliman explained how to decipher all the different siren tones heard around the city:

Code 1 is for an EDP, or Emotionally Disturbed Person. No siren is used, and the lights are used sparingly. Code 7, at the other end of the spectrum, is for severe trauma such as gunshot wound or cardiac arrest. Both siren and lights are at full volume.

In the discussion following the tour, Elliman gave a history of sirens, and talked about the different effects and interpretations of these audio blasts. And for most people living in urban areas, sirens become backround noise, lost in the aural fabric – it seems that an excessive amount of this noise pollution may have negative repercussions:

(Laura Kurgan’ of the Spatial Information Design Lab) has been mapping rates of incarceration by neighborhood and she found that siren sounds were most frequently reported as noise pollution in areas with high incarceration.

Urban Omnibus: “Sirens Taken for Wonders”

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