Building a library of obsolete sounds

Nov 30, 2022 | Blog, Quiet Coalition, Sound

Photo credit: Dzenina Lukac

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Cities and Memory has announced the launch of Obsolete Sounds, the biggest-ever collection of obsolete and disappearing sounds of the world.

As Cities and Memory notes, “[o]bsolete Sounds is designed to draw attention to the world’s disappearing soundscapes, to highlight those sounds that are worth preserving because they form part of our collective cultural heritage–and to help us think about how to save those sounds before it’s too late.”

Among the sounds I remember from my childhood are the clicking of manual typewriters, the rattle of coal sliding down a chute to a neighbor’s basement coal bin, the cries of street vendors announcing their arrival, the buzz of propeller planes flying overhead to Newark Airport–long before it became Newark Liberty International Airport–and the ringing of rotary phones, now preserved only as a ring tone option on digital phones.

I’m glad someone is capturing and preserving these lost sounds. Some of them are so iconic, they have even been put to music:

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