I had this idea the other day and thought “such a thing must already exist”, and indeed there are many similar ideas out there, but I thought I’d outline my version anyway.
The sound museum is an archive of sounds, virtually or in a space, that can’t be heard anymore. Ideally these would be original sound recordings, primary documents of the sounds in their natural environment. The sound of a city street in Paris in 1950 available to compare with another sound of a city street in Shanghai from the same time. Visitors could hear different accents that have evolved over the years or even what the ocean sounded like crashing against rocks that have eroded. What does the crow of a peacock sound like? What’s the wind sound like on a glacier?
Most of the sounds in the sound museum are things that people haven’t thought to record up until now, so I imagine we’d need to simulate a lot of sounds. Museum curators would hire professional sound dramaturgs and historians to accurately recreate a particular sound. For instance, the sound of a horse walking on cobblestones would have to be different in the 17th century than today because the quality of steel the horses were shod with was different.
Ideally these sounds would be available online, or perhaps broadcast in curated programs. like an audio version of Life magazine or National Geographic they could be put together to express a particular idea or theme through sonic juxtaposition and recontextualizing of common noise. Maybe there could be a website that just streamed random entries to your player of choice. One minute you’d be listening to the calls of North American songbirds, the next, idling Ford engines throughout history.
Some additions would be expensive and involve elaborate productions. We might try to recreate the sound of the battle of Trafalgar. We’d have to find the right kind of wood, build ships, source original artillery or more likely make replicas. We’d need historical dialect coaches to come work with voice talent. Then we’d take the whole thing out to sea and blow it all up. Luckily we wouldn’t have to source much English wood, mostly just French. We’d only get one take, but I bet it would sound amazing.