There were literally nine things that kept us up at five in the morning,' said a recent visitor to this city, in a voice groggy enough that I believed him. In case I didn't, he added: 'We made a list.' Some of the disruptive sounds came from within their own hotel, but the bulk of the noise was in the alley outside. A moaning-chanting-singing drawl left the weary travellers mystified. There were shouts, as if from a small-scale sporting event. A megaphone repeatedly broadcast the same, recorded yell. Large trucks and buses tried barging through alleys not designed with such vehicles in mind. There was construction clamour. And more. I explained that the moaning probably came from the recycling folks: alley-trawlers atop three-wheeled bike-barrows. They warble to themselves in a peculiar fashion as they collect cardboard, Styrofoam, used appliances and other useful junk. The shouting was probably the local Chinese-checkers crew, out for their early morning contest; or it could have been the ubiquitous game that involves throwing down playing cards with an intensity usually reserved for contact sports. The megaphone was at the local magazine stall, reminding passers-by to pick up the day's paper. If we didn't automatically blank out much of the noise around us, we would probably go insane in this raucous sound-experience of a city. Horn-honking and bicycle-bell ringing are usually where our minds begin the task of toning down the soundscape. In fact, Beijing's noises come to the fore, in my experience, only when outsiders point them out. When I am on the phone to family back home, the moaning from the alleyways becomes a topic of conversation. Now the British Council is looking to bring the sounds of the city back to the foreground. For the past several weeks, they have been asking Beijing residents to submit to the council website a 100-word paragraph on their favourite sounds, in an effort to document the city's contemporary urban soundscape. Later this month, British sound artist Peter Cusack will compile a CD of field recordings documenting the sounds residents have chosen. Installations from leading British sound artists will also delve into visiting artists' impressions of the sounds of Beijing. The visual identity of a city changes along with its man-made landscape. The aural landscape of favourite and hated sounds changes, too, and should be documented as a matter of interest. Yes, even those execrated noises are worth preserving in a soundscape, as much as we love to hate them - including the nine sounds that might keep us awake at ungodly hours.