London, Ont., duo aims to capture snapshot of city through sound

London Soundscapes: Echoes of the Anthropocene aims to produce an an acoustic time capsule which reflects what areas in London, Ont., sound like today.

They hope to connect Londoners with their environment in a new way through recordings

Caleb Crowe records at 101 Meadowlily Rd., the site of a controversial residential development. (Submitted by Brendon Samuels)

A pair from London, Ont., hope to capture the spirit of city for future generations to appreciate through a series of audio recordings.

London Soundscapes: Echoes of the Anthropocene aims to produce an acoustic time capsule which reflects what areas in London sound like today. Recordings are staggered across different times of year and recorded in places with ecological or cultural significance, to allow the project to paint a more diverse picture of the city.

Organizer Brendon Samuels and sound manager Caleb Crowe are the co-organizers of the project.

"Sound is always changing," said Samuels. "And those changes reflect a lot of other things that are happening in the environment and with people that, in our day-to-day, we don't always notice."

Samuels said these changes are long-term as well, reflecting things like declines in biodiversity, growth and development, demographic changes, and more.

"One recording we did recently was at 101 Meadowlily Road South, which is the site of an upcoming residential development. That was quite controversial, and the community really rallied around trying to influence that development."

He hopes that in the future if someone wants to examine the London of 2022 and compare it with what they're experiencing, they can.

Caleb Crowe (left) and Brendon Samuels (right) record at sunfest (Submitted by Brendon Samuels)

The choice to focus on sound rather than a visual medium for the time capsule is not one that was taken lightly, according to Crowe.

"Sound is something that is ubiquitous but often overlooked or underheard. Visually, when we see stuff, we often parse it into unique objects, but when we're listening to stuff, it really comes at us as a unified whole," said Crowe. "It seemed to be a way that we could get people to reconnect with environments that they are familiar with, but to encounter it in a new way."

The idea of having people reconnect and listen to their environments is also something Samuels and Crowe hope will spark engagement. 

"One thing we're asking for the public's help with is when they listen to the video, we want to know what they're hearing and what they're feeling. So people are encouraged to leave comments on the video recordings, which are on YouTube," said Samuels. 

When the time capsule is submitted to the Western library, those comments will be included, as people are part of the London soundscape.

Samuels and Crowe both agree the process of capturing recordings for the project has been fulfilling, and some of their recordings are personally significant.

"We were invited by the property management to access the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse building in east London. It's where a migratory bird called the chimney swift congregates," said Samuels, who is a PhD candidate studying birds. "This year, we went back and decided we wanted to put the microphones right at the base of the chimney so you can actually hear the birds circling and diving in."

Crowe's favourite experience came from a recording location called the banana kingdom along the Thames Valley Parkway, where a chorus of insects makes for some interesting audio.

"It's an area that I've often found myself just sort of aimlessly wandering into and being struck by just how beautiful it sounds, and so recording that and working on getting the final video processed has just been deeply pleasurable."

Funding for the project comes from the City of London and the London Arts Council.

London Soundscapes: Echoes of the Anthropocene can be heard on YouTube and Instagram.


Alessio Donnini


Alessio is a Sarnia-born, London-raised multimedia journalist. Graduating from Fanshawe College's Broadcast Journalism program, he's worked in markets from Toronto to Windsor, and has a love for all things news. In his free time, he can be found enjoying a good book, watching a documentary, or learning to cook a new recipe.