What is URB?

Urb is a system for automated analysis and storing of an urban soundscape. Urb complements traditional sound maps, allowing the direct access of its features at any arbitrary moment since the system’s boot, thus facilitating the study of the soundscape’s evolution and the differences between specific timeframes, and facilitating artistic approaches to such data.


The notion of soundscape is increasingly relevant not only in contemporary culture and acoustic ecology, but also in many other fields, such as artistic productions.
The soundscape concept and movement were presented to us and based on Schafer’s considerations of environment studies in the early 70’s. According to Iges, Murray Schafer’s utopia, with some similarities of Pierre Schaeffer’s analyses about the sound, it would be to impose some kind of order in the sound environment with the aim of achieving a “sound ecology”. With the development of studies and sound collections, near the turn of the century, is made aware that the soundscape depends on the listeners’ understanding and interpretation of a soundscape. With sound files so freely available, like freesound project, and portable memory-based recorders so inexpensive, sound maps have become increasingly common on the Internet.

Usually the sound maps are based on a Google-style map that is used to situate the geographic origin of the recordings, e.g. World Listening Project. However, lacking any coherent temporal perspective, and usually lacking any interpretative analysis, the listener is left trying to imagine what has been recorded and what significance it has [B. Truax, 2012]. An interesting variant of this approach is a live microphone in a fixed location that is constantly streaming audio like the Locustream Sound Map developed.

The Locustream sound map has a very interesting approach to the soundscape but still has the time problem. It is very hard to have a good description if you cannot compare with different moments of the past. So, combining the problem of temporal coherence presented by most of the Sound Maps with conceptual and physical path shown by Locus Sonus, we started to develop a plan to work a complementary access to a sound map that is discrete in time.


Urb claim to be a complement to the approach of the sound environment study, presenting a proposal for a system based on available and cheap hardware and open source software. Thus, it may be a tool with a very large ramp of development and flexibility to be used, not only by environmentalists and urban planners, but also by artists with creative intentions.