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Ambient Workspaces - Travelling with Sound

April 08, 2021

Lauren Knight is a School of Communication MA student. She recently wrote an article for Breathe magazine on the meditative nature of soundwalking. Pick up your copy of Breathe magazine at Indigo, Whole Foods and Michael Craft stores.

By Lauren Knight, MA student

When I began my master’s degree at SFU I had compiled a list of 30 coffee shops that I had intended to visit while working on my thesis. One part of me hoped these places would spark creativity as I had the ability to move from my stagnant home working environment to a lively co-working space; another part of me was accepting my new coffee addiction and so I was eager to explore the best that Vancouver had to offer. Since the start of lockdown, I’ve had to tuck that list away and adjust my plans to create a safe and motivating work environment at home. While the first few weeks working from home were exciting, I’ve been missing my travels to my local coffee shops or creative co-working spaces. However, as a master’s student studying within the field of sound and acoustic ecology, I knew that the feeling of travelling was not solely tied to a physical location but could be replicated through soundscapes and ambience recordings. I’ve found some amazing websites that have helped me to sonically travel to new working locations. Here are some of my favourites:

  1. Ambient Mixer: This website offers a range of soundscapes such as local cafes, a lively forest, or a crackling fire; however, I find this website to be best for anyone interested in fandoms. My personal preference on this site are the Harry Potter themed ambiences, ranging from the Gryffindor Common Room to the Great Hall. Another great aspect of this website is the ability to edit and adjust the audio mix directly. For example, you can increase background conversation or decrease the sound of the fireplace to create your ideal sonic working environment.
  2. My Noise: Much like the ambience mixer, ‘my noise’ offers a plethora of pre-mixed ambient soundscapes for listeners, but the user has the ability to adjust the volume of specific sounds in the mix. My favourite part of this website are the categories of mixes that suggest certain soundscapes depending on your desired result. For example, they have categories entitled “I need to calm down”, “I am a student with ADHD”, or “I’m a writer in need of inspiration”. The ambience tracks within these categories are suggested to help you reach your desired outcome.
  3. Coffitivity: This website (and downloadable app) offers a collection of ambience files that replicate the sound of a coffee shop. They are pre-made and ready to be played. While this website doesn’t have the option to alter specific sounds in your mix, it is an easy-to-use platform and you only need to press play to be transported to a new sonic environment.
  4. YouTube: While all of these websites offer unique soundscapes to help you escape, many sound artists also upload ambience pieces to YouTube directly. This is another great option if you are a fan of a specific book series or movie, as many fans upload their soundscapes to this platform (ex. Twilight Forest Ambience or The Chronicles of Narnia Ambience). Some of the ambience files on YouTube offer 8 hours of sound, an ideal length if you are planning for a full day of working.

Hopefully we’ll be able to return to our favourite coffee shops and co-working spaces soon (I do have another 25 coffee shops I intend to visit before the end of my master’s degree), but for now I hope you grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some new and unique working soundscapes from the comfort of your home.