A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

San Francisco Urban Ambiences

Posted: March 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording
Audio recorder and the Mission District

Ready for recording in San Francisco's Mission District on a rainy winter day.

Urban ambiences benefit from focused listening. Every city has its own sonic palette, and every neighborhood’s aural character is as unique as a fingerprint.

I work right in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, a culturally rich and very urban part of the city. Best known as the hub of the city’s Latino community, it has its good and bad sides. The good includes more eateries than one could possibly explore, great boutique shops, art studios, and amazing diversity. The bad includes drug dealing, prostitution, and gang violence. As you can imagine, that makes recording opportunities galore.

This post’s track is a compilation of urban ambience recorded out of my office’s windows, at varying times of day. This is only a small snippet of my huge library of urban San Francisco ambiences, every one of which reveals another aspect of the City’s character.

(A recent article on the human need for occasional silence by George Michelsen Foy, author of the upcoming book Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence,  is an interesting counterpoint to today’s sound recording. Give it a read.)


[Røde NT4 stereo mic into Sound Devices 702 field recorder]

Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “San Francisco Urban Ambiences”

  1. 1 Chuck Russom said at 10:33 am on March 30th, 2010:

    Recordings featuring prostitutes arguing is worthy to be in any library!

  2. 2 Michael Maroussas said at 7:40 am on April 3rd, 2010:

    Yeah, great prostitute shouts Nathan! Exactly the sort of street voices I was after when I was getting NY atmos fx together for Kickass. One sound I got that was similar to yours was some girl arguing on a street corner, shouting “bitch ass ni*#a!” at the top of her voice! If you listen carefully enough it did make it into the final mix somewhere….

  3. 3 Nathan said at 1:38 pm on April 3rd, 2010:

    Haha, thanks, gents. Michael, I am SO looking forward to Kickass…congrats on being on such an interesting project! My ears’ll be peeled for sure.

  4. 4 Rod Shields said at 7:12 pm on April 6th, 2010:

    ROFL that sounds just like SF Muni, the “I ain’t no mf’n punk”, omg I love it!

  5. 5 Nathan said at 7:36 pm on April 6th, 2010:

    That’s right on the 10 line, Rod. Good guess! :-)


Leave a Reply