A Sound Designer/Composer Captured the Sound of Silent London Amid the Pandemic

Listen to Will Cohen's 360-degree binaural tracks

On March 19 and 20, Will Cohen, a sound designer and composer at London music house String and Tins, carefully ventured from his London home with some high-level audio recording gear and—following all goverment protocols for safety—proceeded to capture the sounds of isolation and emptiness that have defined the British capital, and much of the world, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cohen had a DPA 4560 Core Binaural Headset, along with 744t and MixPre 3 recorders. Binaural recording, which has been around since the late 1800s, involves capturing audio that matches the way we hear. You attach two microphones to either a human or dummy head, and the resulting recordings can feel like "360" or "3D" audio, replicating the experience of actually having been to a location.

The results are posted, along with still photographs that Cohen also took, on a new "Silent London" page on the String and Tins website. Be sure to wear headphones for a true binaural experience.

Check out the first recording below, taken in the normally bustling Leicester Square. (The siren at the beginning is an ominous if fitting way to begin the aural journey.)

Silent London | Leicester Square

"In the final days before London was shut down in March 2020, I made sound recordings of areas that I care about as a Londoner," Cohen writes on the site. "From documenting spots that I skated at as a teenager, through to areas I have worked in—I wanted to see what familiar sounds still resonated at this unprecedented time. I used the binaural microphone technique—if you close your eyes and imagine, the physics behind this method of sound capture will immerse you in a 3D stereo environment pictured in the stills that I took on my journey."

Check out more of Cohen's snapshots below, and visit the "Silent London" site to hear all the sounds from the project.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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