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Bongs, bangs and broken bells: why the sound of Big Ben resonates in British culture

It's Londoner's favourite sound by far, familiar from nursery rhymes and BBC bulletins. But Big Ben's iconic tone is actually due to an eight-foot crack the bell sustained in the nineteenth century

By Caroline Crampton  

Big Ben will fall silent for four years. But why are people so attached to the sound of the bell? Photo: PA

In 1998, the artist Peter Cusack took part in an inquiry into London’s soundscape. Hundreds of Londoners from all over the city shared their favourite sounds, and then Cusack made recordings of their choices. The subsequent album—Your Favourite London Sounds—contains 40 pieces of audio, with subjects as diverse as “onions frying in my flat,” “rain on skylight while lying in bed” and the call to prayer from an…

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