Relaxation Listening Tour

An International Museum Day 2023 Online Event

Thursday 18 May 7.30pm UK time

The theme for International Museum Day 2023 is Museums, Sustainability and Wellness, and the Museum of Portable Sound is celebrating by presenting a special expanded online version of our museum’s relaxation-themed guided tour.

Since we’re a museum of sounds, our relaxation tour is focused around listening to the most relaxing sounds in our Permanent Collection of Sounds – from a dawn chorus of birds in the heart of Rome, to the highest waterfall in Germany, to a gardener trimming a tree in a beautiful park in central Cairo, to the calming waves of Lake Erie and the synthetic sound of pure brown noise, our listening tour will give you an excuse to make an appointment to relax!

Photographs of Rome in the early morning, the Offenburg waterfall in the afternoon, and the waters of Lake Erie at night, each superimposed with a glowing white waveform of their sound.
Unwind to the sounds of a dawn chorus of birds in the heart of Rome, the peaceful roar of the tallest waterfall in Germany, and the gentle lapping of waves on the shores of Lake Erie at night during our Relaxation Online Listening Tour.

Tour Text & Captions

1. Dawn Chorus
Rome, Italy

Recorded 13 April 2017

‘Dawn chorus’ is an expression used by birdwatchers to describe the sounds that birds and other local animals make as the sun rises. The chorus in this recording happened on a spring morning in the middle of Rome.

2. Crickets (Daylight)
Wetlands, West Park, Ann Arbor, Michigan, US

Recorded 14 September 2009

Recorded on an unusually warm autumn afternoon in the wetlands of a small urban park on the west side of a small college town in the midwestern United States. The park had recently been re-landscaped to create areas of wetlands more conducive to settling by local wildlife, including the creation of a small pond and creek.

3. Ancient Roman Channel
Winchester, UK

Recorded 1 August 2018

The Romans erected a city at the current site of Winchester about 70CE. At that time, the Itchen River which flows through the city was about twice as wide as it is today, and the Romans constructed this channel to reroute a portion of the river. This had the effect of not only reducing the risk of flooding in the city centre, but also created a defensive barrier on the eastern side of the city. The channel’s current powers a mill’s water wheel, still operating near where this recording was made.

4. Mika, Purring
Santa Iria de Azóia, Lisbon, Portugal

Recorded 3 August 2021

Born in 2013, male cat Mika was handed over to a family member of his current caretaker as part of a covert deal inside the Sete Rios Metro station in Lisbon, a hush-hush accord between a now ex-mother-in-law and the lady that works at Café Sical, whose cat had produced a sizeable litter.

Once cantankerous and aloof, Mika has become docile and affectionate since his veterinarian finally cured the rare skin condition that once tormented his every waking moment.

5. Buckingham Fountain
Grant Park, Chicago

Recorded 7 September 2005

Buckingham Fountain was dedicated on 26 August 1927 after it was installed in Grant Park on the edge of Chicago’s city centre. Designed by architect Edward H. Bennett, it features sculptures by Marcel F. Loyau. The fountain’s 20-minute water shows take place every hour from 8am to 11pm six months out of the year, from mid-April to mid-October. Each water show propels 14,000 US gallons of water through the fountain’s pressure jet system.

6. Air Vent
National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland

Recorded 6 May 2017

While walking alongside Warsaw’s National Stadium, I was struck by this amazing drone issuing forth from a massive air vent the size of a garage door.

I was so enthralled by the sound that I forgot to take a picture of the vent. The picture on the left is the path I was on, and part of the stadium can be seen just to the left of the path.

7. Psithurism
Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal

Recorded 8 September 2016

This example of psithurism – an onomatopoeic word that sounds roughly like what it represents – was recorded in a small suburb in the south of Portugal on an extraordinarily hot day.

” Among plants and trees, those with large leaves have a muffled 
 sound; those with dry leaves have a sorrowful sound; those with 
 frail leaves have a weak and unmelodic sound. For this reason, 
 nothing is better suited to wind than the pine.”

—Liu Chi (1311-1375CE) Chinese philosopher, poet & politician

8. Thunderstorm
Corfu, Greece

Recorded 7 October 2011

Heavy rain falls outside the window of a bedroom inside the Bella Venezia hotel on the island of Corfu. Thunder crashes almost constantly throughout, off in the distance.

9. Brown Noise
Synthesised Tone

Unlike white and pink noise, whose colours were assigned to them because the properties of their waves were similar to the wave properties of white and pink light, brown noise is named after a process in physics known as Brownian Motion: the random movements made by microscopic particles in a fluid caused by constant collisions with the fast-moving molecules that make up the fluid. Brown noise doesn’t have the high frequencies that are present in white or pink noise; it sounds a bit like a waterfall.

10. Lake Erie Waves
Pelee Island, Canada

Recorded 2 July 2010

The fourth-largest (or second-smallest) of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is still twice as large as Northern Ireland. Its waters surround Canada’s Pelee Island.

A busy shipping area, its shallow waters hold thousands of shipwrecks; there are at least 270 confirmed wreck sites explored by tourists each year.

11. Tape Machine Head Cleaning ASMR
The Keep, Brighton

Recorded 4 November 2019

A video plays of a closeup view of an old reel to reel tape machine. A pair of feminine hands uses a variety of tools to clean various parts of the machine while the following captions appear over the video:

Studer A807 mkII Reel to Reel Tape Machine.

First manufactured in 1981, the A807 mkII was a relatively cheap option for private radio stations.

More than 10,000 units were sold worldwide.

It has a Frequency Response of 30 to 16 kilohertz, and a Signal to Noise ratio of 64 decibels.

The A807 contains three motors.

It can accommodate tape reels up to 10 inches in diameter.

Studer’s official product brochure for the A807 described it as “The Universal Genius.”

This workhorse machine featured a microprocessor-controlled drive and audio electronics.

Its precision electronic tape counter boasted real-time indication, supported by photoelectric scanning of the guide roller rotation.

The A807 was the last tape recorder ever made at Studer.

After more than 50 years, Studer discontinued production of traditional conveyor belt machines in the summer of 2001.

12. Tree Trimming
Mahmoud Mukhtar Park, Cairo, Egypt

Recorded 6 May 2010

Tree trimming is sculpting with nature. A subtractive process, it forms shapes out of trees to give them an orderly look, a way to maintain the health of some tree types and display humanity’s alleged mastery over nature. The man trimming this tree was working in an outdoor sculpture park filled with the work of artist Mahmoud Mukhtar. This sizeable park is a natural refuge in the middle of central Cairo, as you can hear from the mix of birdsong and traffic droning in the background.

13. Clarence Esplanade Beach
The Solent, Southsea, UK

Recorded 29 September 2018

The Solent is the strait that separates the mainland of England from the Isle of Wight and abuts the Clarence Esplanade Beach of Portsmouth and Southsea, a haven for holiday makers even though the beaches are full of pebbles.

14. Turning Pages of the Description de l’Égypte
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor, US

Recorded 1 August 2018

To prepare for his invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned a comprehensive scientific study of Egypt: its ancient and modern architecture, its people, and its flora and fauna. The subsequent multi-volume publication Description de l’Égypte (1809-1829) became the largest published work in the world, a collaborative effort of 160 civilian scholars. Nevertheless, this was a deeply flawed work of colonialism and appropriation, even as it preserved much ancient culture that is now forever lost.

15. The Thames River
South Bank, London

Recorded 3 March 2015

The tides off the coast of England impact upon the inland rivers, causing a 5-7m rise and fall daily on the Thames. The tides aren’t the only cause of waves on the river – rainfall and boat traffic are among the other causes. This recording captures some mid-size wave action at night on the South Bank of the river.

16. The Tallest Waterfall in Germany
Triberg Falls, Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg

Recorded 14 September 2014

Triberg Falls, in southwest Germany’s Black Forest region, is the highest falls in the country: the Gutach stream plunges 163 meters (over 530 feet) in a torrent of tributaries, while the mountains that surround the waters reach about one thousand meters above sea level. These dizzying heights and the seemingly endless water produces a visceral roar that is somehow both deafening and peaceful.

17. Humpback Whales Singing
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Recorded 3 September 2018 by Dr Leah Barclay

Humpback whales date back about 880,000 years ago. Their vocalisations are a form of communication made by both females and males. In 1967, Roger Payne became the first human to identify whale vocalisations. Songs of the Humpback Whale, an LP record he compiled in 1970, is the best selling natural history recording of all time. Whale sounds can travel vast distances underwater, up to 10,000 miles at their lowest frequencies. Sadly, human ocean noise pollution is making this vital communication more difficult.

18. Crickets (Night)
Train Station, Graben Neudorf Nord, Germany

Recorded 18 August 2012

A missed train connection led to a two hour nighttime delay at this tiny train station in southwestern Germany. On one side of the train tracks, a large area of woodlands provided the perfect venue for a cacophony of crickets.

Headshot of Dr John Kannenberg, MFA, PhD

Introduced live by our Director & Chief Curator Dr John Kannenberg, anyone who wishes can stay after the tour for a discussion about how museums like ours can be spaces for rest and rejuvenation, or general questions about sound.

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