This work explores a selection of Houston’s geographical areas through their sonic profiles. I selected three locations to examine the multitude of interesting ways humans and nature contribute sonically to the Greater Houston area. At each location I collected audio-visual samples: a 75-minute timelapse, accompanying and synchronized sound level data (taken with a dedicated SPL meter), and an additional 2-minute sample of recorded audio.
Downtown Houston is one extreme, where the sounds are harshest and are almost entirely manmade. The opposing extreme is Buffalo Bayou just outside of Houston, where man’s sonic impact is only present in subdued forms. Somewhere midway is Hermann Park, where humans still make a major contribution sonically but natural sounds are preserved. The time lapses that accompany the graphs are visual documentations of the ways humans exist and move through the regions; people walk and jog, cars start and stop, trains chug along, massive freighters depart and arrive.
This sample was taken in the northwestern part of Downtown Houston, an area composed of corporate offices and businesses. The levels were taken on the corner of Texas Avenue and Milam Street, less than 15 feet from each curb. On the left side (but just out of the frame) is a major construction project on the entire adjacent city block. More construction is visible in the center of the frame, two blocks away. The sounds recorded here were almost completely man-made, with the exception of birds and wind. Cars passing and idle engine noise from both the construction and traffic were the most common sounds, with exceptionally loud sounds coming from passing busses or large trucks. Car horns, construction noises (such as shrapnel and concrete dropping into metal containers), and emergency vehicle sirens appear as spikes on the graph.
This sample was taken at the edge of Buffalo Bayou at San Jacinto Battleground State Park, 16 miles east of central Houston. The park is located in a very industrial region containing mostly oil and energy companies. This section on Buffalo Bayou is a very high-traffic area for boats, specifically large freighters, and as a result, most of the loudest noise in the sample come from passing boats. It's also common to hear sounds coming from the refineries and docked freighters. Common natural sounds in the area include birds (mostly seagulls), waters of the bayou hitting the riverbank, and wind. Other notable sounds include talking from people visiting the park, winding fishing reels, and occasional music played by the people fishing.
This sample was taken in the north part of Hermann Park on the top of the hill in front Miller Outdoor Theater. The recording was taken in front of a bike and walking path located about 200 ft. from Hermann Park Drive. Adjacent to the street is a kid's train ride and a continuation of the park (McGovern Centennial Gardens). The sounds here were typically man-made, the main exception being the wind on this particular day. Wind was one of the most frequent sounds, along with car engines/movement, birds, and people talking. Less frequent (but notable) sounds include car horns, passing planes and helicopters, toy train motor and whistle sounds, ambulance and police sirens, and passing bikes from the nearby path. Most of the recorded spikes were the train passing, clearly visible in the video, while other spikes were created by people on the hill behind the camera.