A Library of Sounds




On October 6 an exhibition featuring sound recordings and oral history will be opening at the British Library- “Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound


The British Library has archived over 6 million sounds from regional accents to music to waterfalls: http://sounds.bl.uk





I love the idea of a library of sounds.

And it made me think of what I would archive in my own library of sounds.

  1. the voices of my loved ones
  2. the hum of many bees buzzing
  3. the turning of book pages
  4. the water sprinkler
  5. fire crackling


These are just some that come to mind at the moment.


What sounds would you include in your library?




72 thoughts on “A Library of Sounds

  1. Letizia, comments are back!

    I’d also want the sound of voices of loved ones.
    – a light rain
    – leaves rustling
    – ocean waves
    – crackling fireplace

    It is funny how many sounds there are around us all the time that fade into the background. Right now, my fridge is humming, my dehumidifier is droning on, and street traffic is continuous. And yet … it’s still ‘quiet’ until a sudden sound breaks this monotony.

    Thanks for sharing this fascinating piece! xo

    • You are so right, we are surrounded by soundscapes that are so easily muted. At the start of my guided meditation, the man always tells us to take a minute to listen to all the sounds around us before focusing on our breathe. I’m always amazed at all the different layers that I manage to tune out.

      I love your list of sounds.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Eden!

  2. What a fabulous idea, I like the idea of sounds past and present
    – family pet sounds
    – working sounds from the sheep farm of my youth,
    – family laughter
    – cicadas in summer
    – cathedral bells chiming
    – cat asking to be let outside
    – bird making its different chatter sounds

    Thanks for the inspiring post!

    • I like that you’ve divided them into past and present. In my mind, I included dog sounds in my family voices too.
      Cathedral bells chiming, yes!
      Thank you for adding your wonderful list!

    • So many of your sounds are those on the sound machines meant to help lull us asleep (the wind, the rain, the birds). Such comforting sounds…. the dog dreaming is a lovely sound to me as well 🙂

  3. How interesting! And I love your list! I think I would add the sound of laughter from my kids when they were babies, and the sounds of distant planes as well as trains… there are too many favorite sounds to list! But it sure is fun to stop and think about them for a moment. 😊

  4. I LOVE the idea of sound libraries!!! When I was younger, I used creepy recordings as a soundtrack for a haunted house at Halloween.

    My personal sound library contains the recording of both my parents singing me Happy Birthday a couple of years before they died. It’s from a cell phone voicemail. I love it, but it makes me cry.

    Apparently, Cornell University has a library of animal sounds. A friend of mine who’s an author-illustrator, just wrote a children’s book about strange animal sounds. So she used some of the recordings from Cornell to create her book. I think it’s pretty awesome!

    • How wonderful to have a recording of your parents singing to you, although I can only imagine how your heart feels when listening to it.

      It’s great that Cornell University has a library of animal sounds and so accessible. Libraries can serve so many purposes if we let our imaginations free….

  5. I love the idea of such a library! What would I include in my own? Off the top of my head, the sounds of my little boys laughing, all my boys snoring, rainfall on the sidewalk outside my bedroom, a waterfall, and leaves waving in the breeze. Even just thinking of these things gets me a little closer to wound down for bedtime!

    • You know, I imagine that the British Library has a collection of various fart noises in its archives, for some reason. In its comedy section or biology section. Love the idea of categorizing those, ha!

    • I like the word ‘murping’ and can well imagine it even if I don’t have a cat, it’s a good description. Water, in its different forms, keeps coming up for people- it seems to soothe us all.

  6. Hi Letizia, wow thanks for sharing this news! I look forward to hearing some of the captured sounds. I would love to hear a series of sounds that try to capture various levels of ‘silence’. What we think of as silence rarely is. But there is such a sweetness in finding an approximation of silence. (Note: If you’re in Berlin, take a time out in the Room of Silence next to the Brandenburg Gate.. it’s a beautiful experience!)

    • I will make note to visit the Room of Silence when I visit Berlin, thank you!
      I understand what you mean by the different levels of silence. One of my favourite sounds is the muted sound of the snow falling. It’s so hard to describe but it’s a powerful sound.

  7. Oh, snow falling – a wonderful sound

    No doubt we would all have the specific voices of dear ones, particularly those no longer with us (aren’t we lucky, living in an age where home recording happens)

    I would want the soothing purrs of more than one cat
    And (perhaps to go with the snow) the beautiful, mournful sound of Canada Geese in flight
    The irresistible, unearthly, ancient calling of timber wolves (again this would go well with the snow)

    Perhaps I could be cosy, inside, with a little group of cats, gazing outside as a snowy twilight fell in the forest…..above me, the beating of wings, the Canada Geese and then….the wolf howl.

    Perhaps if I were really in the forest I would be whimpering in terror, at that point………

    • haha, what a picture you paint! The fine line between a tranquil scene and the setting of a horror film, ha! But I love the sound of geese in flight as well. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment: you made me think and laugh 🙂

    • I agree! I hesitated to post this yesterday, but then decided connecting with others in a positive way is always a good idea in times of trouble. And reading what sounds are important to all of us has brought me such delight.

  8. I’d like to save the sound of coffee brewing in an electric coffee maker, a cat purring, and ocean waves gently lapping on the sand. Plus leaves rustling in the trees and a 3 y.o.’s giggle. Also the sizzle of a steak on the grill. Great question.

    • I love your list! The sound of coffee brewing in a percolator is one of my favourite noises but now I have a espresso machine so it doesn’t make that same sound. It’s been so fun to read everyone’s answers, thank you for adding yours!

    • I am fascinated by how often cat purrs have come up. Of course, every dog sound would be recorded in my library so I shouldn’t be surprised, haha. And snoring has come up quite often as well!

  9. What a marvelous idea!! I grew up in an isolated community in Northern Canada surrounded by bush and pristine lakes. When I was 11, several friends and I were lost in the “bush,” a very dangerous situation. The sound of a loon flying overhead caught our attention as it circled back and forth, back and forth. We followed the loon’s lead, tramping through the muskeg and thick bush for 30 minutes until he/she led us to safety. The haunting sound of a loon’s call is embedded within me as a sound of safety and hope.

  10. Letizia gosh where would we be without sound? I have a sound machine for my son and I especially like the rain or ocean sounds, where he prefers the sound of a fan, its a funny old world we live in.

    • The rhythmic quality of the fan’s noises, I can understand how that can be comforting and lull one to sleep. Sound machines are a fascinating and wonderful invention: portable sound libraries in a way!

  11. Ooooh this library is appealing! It is about experiencing with the ears not the eyes.. imagine that! I would like to catalog the sound of the rain falling on the skylights or roofs. It is a sound I love. I would also like to catalog the sound of a laughing baby 🙂

  12. No goat sounds? 🙂 I’d love to go to this just to hear all the languages and accents. Fire crackling is a great one! Then there’s thunder and lightning, birds singing, train whistles, fog horns, and ocean waves. Those goat sounds are always good too – and moooing can be fun.

    • Well, goat sounds are a given 😉 Languages and accents are important to preserve and fun to listen to, especially as some are becoming extinct. I have a coworker with a strong Brooklyn accent and she said that now that Brooklyn has become more popular, that traditional Brooklyn accent is becoming lost.

  13. Thank you for this!
    I’m with Christy as far as rain on a roof (as long as I’m inside and dry). Also:
    – crickets
    – my son’s car pulling into the driveway (because I know he’s home safely)
    – my husband’s voice on over the phone (because we courted by phone)

  14. I love the idea of a library of sounds. The Macaulay Library keeps recordings of nearly every species of bird calls and songs. What a priceless treasure as some of those birds are extinct or near-extinct. I think all of my favorite sounds would be bird songs, especially the delightful white-throated sparrow. 🙂

    • How wonderful that the Macualay Library does this. I wish I could identify birds from their call – I have great difficulty in doing this although I keep trying.

    • It was so interesting to explore their library database and think about how many variations there are of sound. Thanks for the tweet, Dannie and hope you are, once again, out of harm’s way of this next hurricane!

  15. Sounds fascinating. I’d like to hear those sounds that will no longer be heard. Voices of my family who have passed on, for example. Too much of our history, written or oral, dies and is forgotten quickly.

    My own library though *racks brain*

    – Ten minutes of conversation, background voices and music, clinking glasses, laughter in a traditional English bar; the same in an Irish bar.
    – A recording taking in the middle of the Birmingham City fans singing ‘keep Right On’, as they’ve been doing since 1956.
    – A compilation of the music of my favourite artistes.
    – I think I’d like to speak/record a few of the best bits of my own writing (a bit subjective I know).
    – A recording of the speeches at my funeral. (‘He was a miserable bastard…’ ‘Never bought a drink…’ etc).

  16. Great concept, great post. Let’s see, if I were to come up with a library:

    – The sound of stepping softly on a heavy, massive wooden tree root, while wearing boots, as one would while hiking. Oddly specific, I know, but it’s a really interesting sound.
    – The sound of rain on a rooftop
    – The sounds of coffee being prepared
    – Ocean waves on a beach
    – Crickets
    – The “busy” sounds of being in a smaller city: traffic going on, stray conversations you hear bits and pieces of, music rushing past, and so son — just the general soundtrack of human life, I guess.

    • The sound of stepping on a heavy root with boots… it’s wonderfully specific. I think I know the sound you mean. Coffee being prepared is a sound I love as well – especially in a peculator.
      A wonderful list, thank you for adding it!

  17. Love this! OK, a library of sounds for me might include:

    -birds singing in the early morning
    -shake of a dog collar
    -the whoosh of soccer balls kicked into the net
    -cat purr melodies
    -Disney instrumentals
    -click-clacking of a keyboard
    -children giggling

    I wish I had a fireplace in my house; I envy you with your fire crackling sound!

  18. What a wonderful question! When I follow some guided meditation in the morning, the soft voice also asks us to stop, breathe, notice what sounds are around us. Right now? A constant high-pitch but gentle wheeeeeee (I have tinnitus); the low background of classical music; the comforting ding ding ding of the antique clock; a hawk squawking a warning; the tapping of my keyboard; a chipmunk’s frantic short squeal; the ting of my guy’s text telling me he’ll soon be home.

    • It’s something I like about my guided meditation as well, when it reminds us to take note of our sensorial environment. It must have been challenging for you to get used to having tinnitus. I imagine that after a while it becomes background noise, but I really have no idea. Your list paints an immediate and vivid scene; it’s an obvious and lovely reminder that you are a writer.

  19. Lovely lovely post and comments… I read everyone’s sounds, so many of them my favourites too, the thump of my fifteen dogs’ tails on the floor, the rain on the roof, the wind in the trees, sea crashing on the rocks below the house, the sound of bells, but there was one sound no-one else had mentioned… the glorious, triumphant cackling of a hen who’s just laid laid an egg !!!

  20. Pingback: A Library of Sounds – SEO

  21. Yay comments enabled! I like the idea of rain sounds or…how about this sounds that could be piped through to speakers near readers and would complement the book. That would be awesome, another form of method reading.

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