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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

The Sounds of Motoring

My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.

Every once in while I notice an accumulation of a category of recordings in my archive that just begs to be explored further on the podcast. Two of the kinds of recordings I accumulate are field recordings and sound effects. I collect these because field recordings and authentic sound effects are associated with many forms of electronic music, going all the way back to musique concrete and Pierre Schaffer. Lately, I have acquired an abundance of automotive sounds, both in field recordings of various auto races but also in sound effects records going back to the early days of audio recordings on 78 discs. As a result, I was inspired for the podcast to create a massive remix of these sounds as an electronic music soundscape.

In putting this episode together, I edited together the captured sounds of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and scooters, plus ambient street sounds from various cities I’ve visited. There are some passages including race track announcers in both English and Spanish and a few miscellaneous sounds such as a fireworks exhibition which seemed to go well with the texture of motoring sounds.

Since this work is primarily a mash-up of many recordings, I will forego the usual playlist and only list the various records from which the sounds were all captured. There are also six tracks of street sounds that I recorded from various points of view in Paris, New York, and Toronto, the latter being the interior of a bus.

The sounds are roughly organized by the following categories: 1) sounds of automobiles and street traffic from vintage 78s; 2) mechanical cars sounds and motorway construction;3) sounds of race cars, rally cars, and grand prix racing cars; 4) miscellaneous automotive sound effects including sirens, ambulances, motorcycles and such; and 5) field recordings from various cities made by myself. These field recordings are generally longer an I used them as a kind of audio glue to hold the soundscape together.

Overall, in test listening to this podcast, I ultimately found it to be quite mesmerizing and relaxing. By the end, you will become familiar with various repeated sounds, rhythms, and patterns that give the work some shape. It’s not just randomly mixed. Even the scratches in the records add to the ambient loops that pop up from time to time.

Episode 116

The Sounds of Motoring


Track Start Times



Motoring Soundscape






For this episode, I created a soundscape based mostly on vintage recordings from the Archive of automobiles, trucks, construction equipment, mopeds and motorcycles, buses, street sounds and a variety of police and ambulance sirens. The work flows from sound to sound, often in tandem, and sometimes embellished with an effect drawn from the electronic music toolbox. This edition’s playlist includes recordings from all of the following, from which I extracted hours of audio material.

1.    Street Traffic Noises (Recorded at a London Street Junction) (circa 1927 Columbia). 78 RPM.

2.    Motor Car Noises (1931 His Masters Voice). 78 RPM.

3.    Sound Effects, “Taxi Cab Leaving,” “Ambulance Bell (with Traffic)” (circa 1932 Columbia). 78 RPM.

4.    Cuban Corners: More Sports Cars in Stereo (1957 Riverside).

5.    Tony Schwartz, “Outdoor Sounds” from Sound Effects, Volume One, City Sounds (1958 Folkways).

6.    The Sound of Sounds (1961 Directional Sound).

7.    Documentary Sounds, Volume One (1962 Folkways).

8.    The Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix, Challenge of Champions (1962 MGM).

9.    Sound Effects, Volume 5 (1963 Audio Fidelity).

10.Live Mechanical Sound Effects in Stereo (1971 Realistic/Audio Fidelity).

11.De Wolfe Sound Effects DWFX LP No. 9: Motorway Construction (1973 Music De Wolfe).

12.De Wolfe Sound Effects DWFX LP No. 1: Rally Cars (1973 Music De Wolfe).

13.SFX Sound Effects Vol. 6 (1979 Gateway Recordings).

14.De Wolfe Sound Effects DWFX LP No. 21: Transport Part 2 (1982 Music De Wolfe).

15.Thom Holmes, field recordings of city streets and traffic noise, including Paris traffic horns (2015), Paris, from the top of the Arc De Triomphe, “overhearing” the intersection of twelve streets (2015), Paris, backstreet from window (2017), Paris, street traffic (2017), New York, East Village, 6th St. (2021); and a Toronto, interior of bus ride (2016).

Opening background music: Thom Holmes, “Paris street traffic” (2017).

Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.

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Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.

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