Sound Diary

Sound Diary

Sound Diary is an experiment where listeners combine curated sounds to create interactive sound-based narratives. Meaning is made through interaction with the curated sound objects, and by listening. Each sound below has its own player. Listen to individual sounds. Use multiple players to experiment with sound collages. Can you create a narrative by combining multiple sounds, perhaps starting and stopping them at different times?

Abbey Road Crossing
London, England, May 2014
The famous Abbey Road crossing, featured on the front cover of the Abbey Road record album by The Beatles. While someone in a nearby flat thoughtfully played "Let It Be" on their stereo, I thought about the music, and ideas, that originated in the recording studio just across the road.

AC Shutdown
Vancouver, Washington, July 2014
Summer. Air conditioners are working overtime. Some shut down.

Air Traffic Controllers
The rapid fire directions of air traffic controllers, and nuanced responses from airline pilots weave a narrative we can only imagine. Air Traffic Controllers features live feeds from Athens, Brussels, Chicago, Kuwait City, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Singapore, and the Apollo 8 moon landing approaches to demonstrate.

Another Cougar First Down
Pullman, Washington, October 2015
The noise of an American college football game is surprisingly rhythmic, relaxing, even meditative. I did not pay much attention, visually, but certainly enjoyed the sounds.

Armstrong on the Moon
The Moon, July 1969
I stayed up through the night of 20 July 1969 to watch astronaut Neil Armstrong take the first steps by a human on the surface of the moon. His famous statement still resonates with wonder.

Announcements of my arrivals in airports.

Asheville Hotel
Asheville, North Carolina, October 2014
I returned to my boyhood home for my nephew's wedding. My hotel is a former department store. I remember my mother bringing my sister and I here while she shopped. The voice in the elevator announcing the floors is the same now as then. The noisy grand player piano in the lobby is new.

Beneath The Millenium Bridge
London, England, May 2014
Sitting beneath the Millenium Bridge, thinking about Bill Fontana's "Harmonic Bridge" installation (2006) at the Tate Modern just across the Thames River, I recorded these sounds as people passed overhead.

Black Helicopters
London, England, May 2014
Describing soundscapes, R. Murray Schafer coined the term sound mark to denote a sound unique or particular to the context. A sound mark for London might be the black helicopters, seemingly always overhead. I recorded one hovering overhead. I felt like a target standing in the middle of the large, open courtyard, recorder raised high.

Car Rally
Vancouver, Washington, July 2014
The Fourth of July weekend hosts antique and classic car rallies where owners and spectators appreciate not only the looks, but the sounds.

Cats Eating
July 2014
My cats are such dainty eaters. They are quiet, so listening with headphones is advised.

Charing Cross Soundscape
London, England, May 2014
Announcements and general ambience in the Charing Cross Station.

July 2014
Arborists hired to trim trees and rhododendrons in the yard brought their chipper, and were amused with my request to record its sounds.

Classroom Printer
July 2014
Listen to the rhythm and interesting sound effects as the printer finishes a print job and cuts a large piece of paper.

Crusin' The Gut
Vancouver, Washington, July 2014
This car rally in downtown Vancouver has cars and trucks driving up and down Main Street (the gut), a long slow cruise up to the Dairy Queen, turn around and head back downtown. Cruisin' the Gut is about watching the vehicles drive by and hearing them approach and recede. Use headphones for the best listening experience.

Dance with Tweaks & Whistles
August 2014
An experimental narrative combining an early example of computer-generated music (1951) and radio telescope recordings of very low frequency audio signals (called "tweeks" and "whistles") from outer space.

DHSI 2014 First Day
Victoria, Canada, June 2014
Some interesting sounds, walking across the University of Victoria campus to the opening ceremonies for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute 2014.

Doo Wop Weather Report
An experimental narrative utilizing sampling and appropriation. I was thinking about radio when I made this work. The music samples come from Plunderphonic, original work by John Oswald. You may recognize James Brown and Dolly Parton.

Ester Short Clock
Vancouver, Washington, July 2014
Ninety eight degrees Fahrenheit! Children playing in the water feature at Ester Short Park. The clock tower strikes. A plane climbs overhead, bound for an unknown destination. What stories are here?

Fakto Singing in the Underground
London, England, May 2014
Independent musician Fakto singing in the tiled tunnel entrance to the Westminster Underground Station. Difficult to record but oh so sweet to listen.

Fort Vancouver Bell
Vancouver, Washington, July 2014
Fort Vancouver, built by Hudson Bay Company in 1824 as headquarters for their Columbia District, provided a regional trading post for over 35 ethnic and tribal groups, British subjects, and American settlers who visited or lived in its village. The fort bell was used to call meetings, or communicate the time.

Goldsmith College Soundscape
London, England, May 2014
Soundscape recorded at Goldsmith's College. Airliners circle London constantly, waiting to land at Heathrow Airport. Workers offload scrap metal from a construction project. A few early students. Otherwise, all is still and quiet; the start of a new day.

Guards Marching to Buckingham Palace
London, England, May 2014
There were two groups, each with a band, marching from different directions; horses too. Ah, pageantry.

August 2014
An experimental work / prototype for an audio narrative.

Langley Train
Langley, Canada, August 2014
A major railroad sits just across the highway from the hotel. It is busy day and night with mile long coal trains.

London Underground
London, England, May 2014
Sounds recorded while traveling via the famous London Underground, the Tube.

Maker Music
Portland, Oregon, September 2015
Music (or noise) created at the Maker Faire using rubber bands, iron pipes, and contact microphones.

New Cross Station sounds
London, England, May 2014
I rode the train from Charing Cross to New Cross, where I recorded these sounds.

Oregon Wine Tasting
Hood River, Oregon, July 2014
The Pacific Northwest is developing quite a reputation for wine, especially those made in the Columbia River Gorge. It is a popular day's activity to tour from one winery to the next, tasting wines. Says Mark Amerika about this sound diary, "The audio mix has a delicate hint of cherry bomb popsicle with bubble gum air refreshener and a nice Zoom finish."

Prime Meridian
Greenwich, England, May 2014
I stood astride the Prime Meridian, zero degrees longitude, the division between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Astride the brass marker at the Royal Observatory, you literally are standing in both.

Pub Last Call
London, England, May 2014
The classic, but sad, sound of the pub bell signaling last call.

Rain Chain
June 2014
Rain water flowing down the rain chain on the front porch. Automobile tires hiss along the highway in the background.

Rain on Skylight
September 2014
Rain today, most all day. At one point it was quite loud on the garden room skylight.

Rain on Vent
June 2014
The sounds of rain striking metal roof vents reverberate down the exhaust ducts and into the house, their rhythms changing with the ebb and flow of rain.

Santa Fe Bells
Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 2014
A sound mark of Santa Fe might be the hourly bells of The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in downtown.

Santa Fe Thunderstorm
Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 2014
New Mexico is getting unexpected, but very welcome relief from years of drought. Cool upper air from the north mixes with moisture laden air from the south, spawning spectacular afternoon thunderstorms.

Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park
London, England, May 2014
It WAS Sunday, and everyone spoke to a similar topic.

Steelyard Passage
London, England, May 2014
The Steelyard was the walled medieval main trading base of the Hanseatic League in London, located near present day Southwark Bridge (built 1814-1819), on the Thames River. The site is commemorated by Steelyard Passage, literally, a tunnel under a building. A sound installation depicts what might have been heard in this former river shipping and warehouse area.

Stevenson Train
Stevenson, Washington, July 2014
One of my favorite breweries is Walking Man, in Stevenson. Their outdoor seating area is right next to the main railroad line through the Columbia River Gorge. Headphones are recommended.

Symphony for Antique Tractors
Clark County Fair, Washington, August 2014
Sounds from the antique gasoline powered farm equipment display.

Tiny Sounds
London, England, May 2014
An uncurated sound art performance by several persons in a lecture hall, each walking about making sounds with small instruments.

Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts
Lights Out Listening Group Lights Out Lockdown Edition 4
Juried exhibition, international
Lights Out Listening Group
Glasgow, Scotland
30 September 2020
Event program

Lights Out Listening Group normally takes place in the Old Hairdressers Shop, in Glasgow, but due to the COVID pandemic this listening event was held online, at the Lights Out Listening Group, mixlr website. An archive of listening programs is available at the MixCloud website.

Trafalger Tavern
Greenwich, England, May 2014
A leisurely lunch and several pints of cider at the Trafalger Tavern, built in 1837, on the banks of the River Thames, imagining this chorus of contemporary voices as sea captains and pirates.

Voice of the Fair
Clark County Fair, Washington, August 2014
Every year, there is a new "voice of the fair" making announcements over the public address system.

Voices and Spaces
Portland, Oregon, August 2014
Sound artist Ethan Rose produced Between Rooms and Voices, an ambient, locative narrative utilizing a moving choral group. The organ introduction is performed on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world's largest musical instrument, located in the Cathedral section of the Luray Caverns, Virginia. Stalactites covering 3.5 acres of the surrounding caverns produce symphonic quality tones when tapped by electronically-controlled rubber-tipped mallets.


unplace logo unplace networked art: places-between-places exhibition
Juried exhibition, international
19 June-19 November 2015
Lisbon, Portugal

unplace was conceptualized as a museum without a place, a virtual exhibition that included Internet and web-specific artworks and sought to highlight tensions between real and virtual spaces in geopoetics, fiction, hacktivism, and other participatory projects in virtual and networked environments. It evolved from the Uncertain Spaces: Virtual Configurations in Contemporary Art and Museums conference and its investigation of intangible museography and exhibition of contemporary art in virtual and networked contexts. The conference was promoted by Gulbenkian Next Future Programme, Lisbon, Portugal.

Alcina Cortez, Instituto de Etnomusicologia, Música e Dança, Lisbon, Portugal, based part of her doctoral studies on Sound Diary. She used discourse analysis methods to investigate the ability of sound narratives, like those that can be constructed using Sound Diary, to inspire visitor imagination. Her research is designed to assess the ability of sound objects im museum contexts to inspire visitor narrative immersion and interactivity, as determined from visitor's discussion of their sense of engagement with sound objects in a curated context.


Sound is ephemeral. Unless recorded, it disappears soon after its production. How to curate recorded sounds so to provide interactive listening-based experiences is an interesting research and creative question.


Object: audio file
Format: mp3
Bit Rate: 356kbs
Duration: Various
Created: 2013 (to present)
Creator: John F. Barber

Artist Statement

We are surrounded by sounds that inform and contextualize our lives. But, these sounds are ephemeral. They disappear soon after their sounding, and are unavailable for further consideration unless preserved.

Sound Diary archives and curates sounds that intersect with my life. Beyond preservation, the intent of this work is to challenge thinking about works of art exhibited in virtual and networked exhibition spaces and how they promote meaning making through interaction with the curated sound objects, and by listening.