These are some of our earliest explorations of candidate “gongs.” Reusable files for sampling, editing, and remixing are available using the links on individual project and blog pages, or you can jump to the corresponding “pack” download pages at using the samples links below.

Golden Gate Bridge

The initial project for this site is the ongoing catalog of the sonic content of the Golden Gate Bridge with as much fidelity as we can afford.

Golden Gate Bridge assay 1—2008-12-28

Now a project page at Golden Gate Bridge assay 1.

The first walk across the bridge yielded 24 approximately 1-minute samples in 96 kHz 24-bit .wav format. A hand-held Sony PCM-D50 linear PCM recorder was used along with a Fishman V100 piezo ceramic violin pickup and a modified viola bridge. The bridge had a rubber bumper added where the strings normally go, allowing the feet to be pressed manually against the target; the idea was, if the bridge made sound, we’d buy a better mic. We didn’t know how close we could get to the cables or how large they were. The audio is sometimes scratchy as the feet of the viola bridge slip and click against the cables and other metal. Occasional bits of passing conversation appear, along with the constant strumming of the whole structure by vehicular traffic. It was early morning and a little cold. Not too much traffic yet.

Golden Gate Bridge assay 2—2009-10-18

Now a project page at Golden Gate Bridge assay 2.

Flushed with early success, we purchased a Schertler pickup designed for “ethnic instruments.” Early experiments with viola and tabletop were very promising.There are twenty-eight samples from our second bridge walk. Other variables besides the microphone itself? More traffic—probably since we spent four hours this time and left close to noon—made the bridge far louder than on Assay #1. Sound quality was better overall; since the mic was adhered and not hand-held, there are fewer clicks and pops. And the files are smaller, since we dropped down to a 44.1 kHz 24-bit sample and bounced down to monophonic after downloading.

Old WNIU radio tower—2009-07-20

The sounds of the tower, demolished shortly after we recorded them, are described on blog page a gong is retired.

An even earlier inspiration, the DeKalb, IL WNIU radio tower support stays had a distinctive sci-fi ray gun sound when plucked. We recently got back to sample these after nineteen years and to see whether the sound is as cool as remembered. Maybe less variety, that was the only real disappointment. The tower, decommissioned in 1988, was demolished along with adjacent Kishwaukee Hall in late 2009, a few months after our final visit.

The five samples are of different length cables, but end up nearly indistinguishable except for the time the plucked impulse takes to travel up and back over the wire. The trusty Sony PCM-D50 was used with the Schertler DYN-E-SET pickup.


A short list of candidates with brief descriptions. Jot them down even if you don’t have time to develop a full-blown scenario; someone else might.

  • The Eiffel Tower Of course it makes sound. Wind, people, and the lift are constantly exciting the ironwork. How to capture it? Fifty determined documentarists disperse about the structure with digital recorders? How about cell phones? The era of wideband voice is nearly here; can we tap it?
  • Oil wells Jacob and I have been discussing this for a while: what is the sound of an oil field being emptied? Can the noise of the many wells be captured, all at once? A mob action could be conducted in conjunction with the 2010 Long Beach SoundWalk. Reconnaissance is returning a few images of the drilling itself, and more recently, of exploration.
  • The Queen Elizabeth II After a day or two on the open sea some of us would likely be dying for something to do. Here’s a project.
  • Sea Launch A floating North Sea oil rig recycled as an equatorial satellite launch pad. It must ring with all kinds of noises even when a rocket is ”not” being launched from it.
  • The USS Enterprise Is it better to ask permission or beg forgiveness in this case?

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