From loon calls to streetcar squeaks, CanadaSound aims to make library of Canadian noises

The roar of a snowblower. An orca's breath underwater. Bed sheets on a laundry line, snapping in the Newfoundland wind. A new project is hoping to round up Canadian noises like these to make a sound library for the country.

'We are looking for the sounds that only a Canadian ear would recognize,' says CBC's Grant Lawrence

CBC's Grant Lawrence is one of the ambassadors behind the CanadaSound project. He will be showcasing some of the best sounds Canadians submit in a new podcast and on a special CBC Radio show to air on Canada Day. (Richard Grundy/CBC)

The roar of a snowblower. An orca's breath underwater. Bed sheets on a laundry line, snapping in the Newfoundland wind. A new project is hoping to round up Canadian noises like these to make a soundscape of the country. 

The project's called CanadaSound and the plan is to have people submit their Canadian noises to an online database, which can then be accessed by musicians making new music. It is a collaboration between CBC Music and other Canadian arts and culture groups.

CBC's Grant Lawrence is one of the project's ambassadors. He'll be sifting through the sounds and showcasing stories about some of the best ones for both a new CBC podcast and a special CBC Radio show to air on Canada Day.

"We are looking for the sounds that only a Canadian ear would recognize," he said.

"It's going to be different for every different person [and region], which is a really great thing."

He said the result will be a "coast-to-coast-to-coast soundscape."

What Canada sounds like at 150

Although the project officially launched Tuesday, Lawrence has already received submissions. He's expecting a lot of stereotypical Canadian nature sounds, like loon calls, but is hoping people think outside the box, too.

"I've been told, but I haven't heard it yet, that the northern lights actually make a sound," he said, adding that he hopes someone will capture and send it in.

"I think it's an atmospheric crackle."

 

As more sounds are sent in, musicians will start drawing from the library. Some have already signed up to make songs, including Burlington, Ont. band Walk Off the Earth and Montreal pop singer Karl Wolf. The best tunes will be gathered on a digital album, with proceeds to go to music education charity MusiCounts.

While only musicians can download from the database, everyone can listen to the submissions on the CanadaSound site, which features a map of Canada with pins showing where each sound was captured. 

Submissions will be accepted until the end of the 2017, so the library can include sounds from all seasons. After that, it will be handed over to the Department of Canadian Heritage for future use.

Grant Lawrence's advice for getting good sounds

  • If it is a small, subtle sound, "try to get as close ... as possible."
  • If it is windy, turn your back to the wind and then hit record.
  • If you are using a camera to get it, "film side-to-side" to get the whole scene.

Along with Canadian Heritage and CBC Music, the project's partners also include the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the Juno Awards, SOCAN and Cleansheet Communications, where the idea originated.

Lawrence thinks it is a fitting gift for Canada as it turns 150.

"Sounds disappear," he said. "The sounds of 2017 are different than the sounds of 1950, or 1967 or 1867."

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