Final Reflections (9th November)

I am surprised how much the work has interested me, and I think it really helped to throw myself in at the deep end with attending Chris Watson’s soundscape performance at the beginning of the year. Doing this meant I had a point of focus to beginning my listening research. I also found that going to the performance allowed me to experience soundscapes in a completely different way to any ways in which I had previously been exposed to them. I also found the principle of soundwalking very useful in my own research. I have done a lot of reflective and listening-based research and so I feel that the research piece has changed my perspective on listening, particularly to sounds around me that I would otherwise ignore. I have found that listening intently to my environment is a worthwhile endeavour and that listening to a sound for its own merits without considering its sonorous object is rewarding, relaxing and fascinating.

One of the biggest changes I have noticed in my work as I have gone through is my initial rejection of the idea of a hi-fi and lo-fi soundscape as outlined by many acoustic ecologists. As I have pointed out in my draft reflections, I found that actually making going out and making recordings and then listening back to them and discovering the noise level (lo-fi sounds) was so high, made me actually appreciate what acoustic ecologists are talking about, and I hope my soundscape demonstrates the noisiness of even relatively quiet suburban areas.

I have enjoyed spending time listening to the world around me and trying to capture it on my field recorder. I feel that not only have I learnt a lot about listening techniques and soundscape composition, but I have also learnt a lot about recording and am glad I started trying out field recording before I made the recordings necessary for my final soundscape.

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Soundscape (Final Draft 8th-9th November)

This is my final soundscape. I’ve uploaded it to my main CMC page here (Edit 7th Jan – as this is now simply a draft, I have re-uploaded this version of the soundscape and it can be heard here):

It is mostly similar to the soundscape I created in draft 2. I got rid of some sounds I didn’t like, including a couple of points where the wind noise was very loud and a few points where my handling of the mic was a little too obvious. A few ‘human’ sounds (people walking etc) have also been added.

I am quite pleased with how it’s turned out, despite the fact that it is quite different from my own vision. Actually going to Paradise Lane and starting to record there made me aware of just how noisy the traffic is, but this was further proved to me when I listened back to my recordings and found the traffic sound had penetrated everywhere I tried to record. This has led to a reasonably significant direction change, with the traffic noise playing a much more prominent role that I had originally planned for it. I think it’s difficult to hear a lot of what is going on and you really have to concentrate when listening to the soundscape to find the hi-fi sounds in it.

I have kept in mind the ‘listening body’ and have made sure a range of frequencies are accentuated at various points (like the bass while trains and cars go past). Mainly, I just made small changes to the mix in the edit room as I had done all previous mixes on headphones.

As I pointed out before, the ironic title ‘Paradise Lane’ is supposed to be thought-provoking: this place, is given the name ‘Paradise’, but is it really sonically paradise?

This piece is constructed as a sound walk down Paradise Lane. These are some things to listen out for:
00.00 – The A27, very close, some birds can be heard further away

00.24 – A train goes past in the distance

00.57 – Birds can be heard in the tree on the track

01.08 – Someone walks past

01.48 – A train goes past, this time closer, there are lots of trees and birds and a squirrel can be heard in them

03.04 – On the bridge as a train goes under it

04.12 – Heading towards the green, can hear birds

04.32 – A lady’s walking stick hitts the ground as she walks past

04.51 – A car passes the green

06.11 – The A27 can be heard in the distance, but also closer, at the bottom of Paradise Lane

06.28 – A train goes past, further away now

06.50 – Someone walks past

08.08 – Sirens in the distance

08.26 – A car drives up Paradise Lane

Soundscape (Third Draft) (7th-8th November)

I have been working on a different draft of my soundscape:

The main difference is that I have added in my footsteps to create a more phonographic soundscape. There is more evidence of mic handling in this one than previously and it places me in the soundscape. I wasn’t sure about this idea, but I thought I would try it out as I have fostered an interest in soundwalking. I think it detracts from the layering I have done in my other drafts and I also think it makes it harder to hear some of the more intricate sounds in my soundscape (which are hard enough to hear over the constant roar of traffic!).

I don’t really like this draft, but I thought that since I had made the recordings and have become quite interested in soundwalks, I would try it out. I don’t feel that it has been a waste of time because I have learnt something – I don’t want to include my own footsteps in the piece.

I think the final draft will be a slight rework/remix of my second draft. It will still be a soundwalk but my presence in it will not be as defined as in this draft – I like the way it slowly transitions (the traffic gradually gets quitter, the trains get louder, more individual cars are heard and less nature sounds are heard as the walk progresses from the top of Paradise Lane to the bottom of it).

Soundscape (Second Draft) (5th – 6th November)

Yesterday and this morning I have worked on producing a second draft of my soundscape:

The immediate difference is that it is significantly shorter. I felt that the length of the first draft was too long and basically, for much of it is ended up being sparse and not very interesting. I didn’t want to limit myself time-wise, but when I actually started listening to what I had put down in Logic, I realised that it was going to be much better to speed up the movement of the piece, and now there’s less time where not much is happening. Interestingly, I usually find the opposite when I’m composing music, so I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson in that I’m not going to worry so much about the length of a piece and just let my ideas develop – I can always come back to a piece and cut it back later if it’s too long, but it’s more difficult to come back to a piece weeks or months later and try to composer more material for it.

I have also made some sounds more prominent and added more processing such as compression and the Adaptive Limiter to help prevent clipping. I have also considered how to address the ‘sound body’. I have added EQ boosts at the low end on the car and train sounds and although it’s not terribly clear on my headphones, I hope once I listen to it through monitors, I’ll really be able to feel the rumbling bass sound.

As I mentioned in my first draft, a lot of the sounds are difficult to hear on the original recordings due to the level of the traffic noise. I know I rejected the idea of hi-fi and lo-fi soundscapes in an earlier post, but I’m starting to think maybe there’s some truth in it. Having actually gone back to Fareham and listened to just how loud and over-bearing the traffic noise is, particularly then when I got my recordings and listened back to them, I think it’s actually quite shocking just how loud the traffic noise is and how much it is drowning out. I’d love to stop the traffic and make recordings in the same place just to hear what the natural environment really sounds like!

Soundscape (First Draft) (3rd – 4th November)

Yesterday and today I worked on my soundscape. This is my initial draft: I think it picks up towards the end, and I need to do more to make it interesting at the beginning. The concept, at the moment is essentially a soundwalk down Paradise Lane, starting at the top of the field (next to the M27/A27) and walking all the way down to where it meets Cams Hill/A27. I have not included my own footsteps, but I think tomorrow I will try a draft with them included. One of the things I have struggled with is the amount of traffic noise on my recordings, particularly of birds. I have used Logic X’s Channel EQ to get rid of the low frequency noise and boosted the frequencies at which the birds are singing to try and get rid of this. I think with a bit more precision, the sounds could be better, so I’m going to give that a go tomorrow.

Field Recordings (29th October)

On Wednesday evening, I walked up to The Mount in Guildford and made some recordings as the sun went down. My windjammer had arrived so despite the fact that it had been raining and was windy, I wanted to get some recordings. I only stayed for an hour or so because I got quite cold, but I found it quite a relaxing experience (until I came back down into the town again!). I have been busy with my other coursework so I haven’t had a chance to listen to them until yesterday and today. Here are some excerpts:

Rain on The Mount

This was taken by putting a microphone under a tree to record the rain as it dropped down on the leaves.

Guildford From Above

This is the most interesting field recording I made at The Mount. I pointed the mic towards Guildford and turned the gain up. Although there is quite a lot of noise, you can hear the town below and even a couple of airplanes overhear (the stereo mic has picked it up really well). There is a building site which is where the metallic sound are from and you can also pick out sounds from the train station as well as individual cars and faint voices.

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Field Recordings (2nd November)

On Sunday I went home to collect some recordings of Paradise Lane.

I started at the far end of Paradise Lane, which is a footpath that goes alongside a field. I then walked all the way back down towards the houses. I realised when I finished my recordings that I started and ended with the A27, which I thought was quite important and could be used as a possible theme in the piece. As you can probably tell from the photos, it was overcast and had been raining earlier in the morning so the ground was sodden (I decided to walk back up to the top of the path once I had gathered all my field recordings so that I could record my footsteps going back down.

Here are some photos of the area (click for bigger image):

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The A27 is behind the trees

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Capturing the wind rustling the leaves

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Looking down the track

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The bridge over the train line

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Waiting for a train…

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Looking up the track

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The horses’ field

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Recording my footsteps

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‘The Green’

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The bottom of Paradise Lane

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The view from the bottom of Paradise Lane (the A27)

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Now to start composing my soundscape…

Listening (31st October)

Following last Monday’s lecture, I looked into soundscape artist Janet Cardiff

I listened to the excerpts from Her Long Black Hair and read up on some of Cardiff’s other walks (no audio was available). Her soundwalks are interesting, they are almost like guided tours of places, but with an emphasis on the sounds. She ‘narrates’ them, and I imagine, if you were to do the actual walk, they would be very atmospheric. Listening to them, Janet Cardiff tries to create a personal connection between her and the listener/soundwalker – she asks questions and says how she feels at that point in the walk. The use of panning and layering is very important in her work and they really help build up the soundscape. One of the things I’ve noticed about her soundwalks is that she tries to give the listener some sort of historical context to the walk, through photos or locating the walk on historically significant sites. Personally, I don’t like the idea of narrating the soundwalk, but obviously for Cardiff’s pieces, it’s very necessary as her voice is guiding the listener. I might try arranging my piece as a sound walk, however, just to see what it would sound like. I like her use of layering and panning in particular because it sounds quite realistic.

http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/longhair.html – Her Long Black Hair

http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/bahnhof.html – The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk

http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/jena.html – Jena Walk (Memory Field)

Viewing (28th – 30th October)

Matt gave us some videos on soundscapes to watch, here’s my reflections on the two that stood out for me:

Listen: https://www.nfb.ca/film/listen#temp-share-panel

I thought this was a really interesting film. It gave an overview of a acoustic ecologist’s opinions on the soundscape. One part that particularly resonated with me was when David New recommended reducing the number of sounds in our life because there are too many in modern days. I had been up the hill to get some recordings that evening and it was quite quiet up there – although I could still hear the sounds of traffic and could make out the trains and a building site, it was at a much-reduced level. After spending about two hours up there, walking around, collecting recordings and watching the sun set, I adjusted to the quiet. When I walked back down to Guildford Park Road, it was still rush-hour. There were lots of cars going past, and an ambulance also went past with its full sirens on. Coupled with bright, artificial lights from headlights and streetlights, I experienced a sort of sensory overload. It did make me think about the impact of such loud sounds on my environment – even as I type this, I can hear the traffic loudly through my open window.

Whispering in the Leaves – an interview with Chris Watson:

Chris Watson said a lot of very interesting things in this interview. I like that he works in a home studio in his loft – he makes it clear that you don’t need a big studio to make good soundscapes (no pressure on me, then). He also says that the microphone is his instrument, his primary tool in his compositions. I’m going to try and think of my microphone like that, particularly at the weekend when I go to my parents’ house and make my Paradise Lane recordings. I also understood what he meant when he said he gets lost in a ‘sonic universe’ when he puts his headphones on and starts listening and recording. I’ve felt that on a couple of occasions of field recording, or even just listening back to my recordings.