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.

Framework Listening Reflections (21st-27th October)

It seems like a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve actually been listening to a few podcasts and I wanted to publish my writings about them all together, so I’ve been writing this post for a while:

Framework #480

The first track is a study of different dialect and minority languages in Asia. It is interesting to hear and I love the idea that I can hear what’s happening in a country I have never been to and build a picture of it in my imagination. It is a very human-centric piece and as such it resonates, even though language is a barrier for me. After a while, you forget you’re listening to a person speaking and you just start listening to the sounds. I like the way the Hindu prayers (which are sung and instruments can be heard playing music) are slightly further back in the mix and the soundscape around it (mostly rain) is quite prominent, so you don’t lose sight (or hearing!) and just listen to it as music, but rather as sounds that are going on in a particular place.

Some of the recordings are so clear that you feel like you’re there and they have a wonderful crisp sound to them. I would like to have clear recordings in my soundscape (or as clear as my field recorder and skill set allow),

Framework #481

The track by Lopez stood out for me – again because his work is slightly more abstract. The birds mixing with other strange noises were really interesting, and at times they had an electronic sound to them. However, once again I feel that it is not the kind of soundscape work I would want to make. This does not detract from its value to be as a piece of work within the movement, but it’s not a route I see myself going down.

The first track on this podcast was interesting, it included audible human voices (speaking English) in what I imagined to be an office. It was a much more natural soundscape compared to Lopez’s contribution, but I didn’t really like it. I think it’s difficult to detach from human voices as they are such an important part of our experiences, particularly in terms of language. It would be a bit like trying to read this blog without seeing any of the words – language is so entrenched in our brains that it’s nearly impossible (probably impossible for me, at least) to switch off from it. Interestingly, a later piece had also had human voices in it, but it was clearly in a busy area and they were not so easy to pick out individual voices or words. I felt this worked better as the voices became a sound that wasn’t understandable in terms of language and therefore easier to detach myself from.

I liked the mix of different types of soundscape, there was more phonographic to purist to very abstract approaches and just about everything in between. One of the soundscapes had almost musical elements to them rather than just sounds, there were drones of high pitched noises interacting with the field recordings and it made it sound like a very unnerving ambient track!

Framework #483

The introduction was interesting, as the presenter pointed out. The intro was spoken by a group of children who are learning to sound out English phonetically, so have no idea what the words mean – they are therefore detached from the language and only listen to the sounds.

One of the first pieces is very unusual. There is a lot of processing and not an immediate story, rather some sounds all feeding into each other. There is some repetition of voices and phrases at the beginning although they are unintelligible. Later on in the piece there are sounds that are repeated. I think it makes it quite obvious that it’s been created by the artist and it seems almost clumsy in its execution. It’s got some really interesting sounds in it, but for me it’s too abstract and doesn’t seem to have a purpose. I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t like it.

Towards the end of this podcast, there was a more purist soundscape and I really enjoyed it. It was very nature focussed and has few man-made noises. It sounded great and I really enjoyed getting into it and imagining the landscape it was depicting.

Field Recording (26th October)

I made two recordings in my house and these are both excepts from them. I live on Guildford Park Road which is usually fairly busy with traffic. On two occassins I have set up my mic on its tripod on my windowsill, opened the windows and recorded the traffic. There are usually quite a lot of sounds as vehicles go past, people walk down the road, buses turn onto the University campus, planes go overhead, and the train line is further down the road opposite.

95 GPR Day

This recording was collected during the day on Friday last week (23rd October). I don’t think it’s particularly remarkable but it’s still good practise.

95 GPR Sunday Night

This recording was made this evening. I hadn’t planned to make one, but I opened my windows and could hear the Cathedral’s bells in the distance and I decided to set up my mic. The cars going past often drown the bells out, but because it’s a Sunday night, Guildford Park Road isn’t quite as busy as normal so there are breaks in the traffic when you can hear the bells. Some people walk past at various times and you can hear them talking. Other noises are mostly my housemates who were chatting in the living room. At one point a someone lets off a firework (now I’m thinking about going out on November 5th to get some more recordings!). It’s interesting to consider the idea of acoustic ecology here – the car and plane sounds are drowning out the more traditional sounds of the Cathedral bells and other “hi-fi” sounds.

Update (26th October)

I’ve been busy with other University work this week so haven’t had a chance to do any more field recording, but I’m hoping to get out this afternoon. I found the recording quite relaxing in some ways because although you’re actively listening to the sounds, I find you soon get lost in the soundscape around you and quite a surprising amount of time can go by.

I have been improving my listening skills – whenever I go somewhere on my own, I try and use it as an opportunity to do a soundwalk. I’ve heard some sounds that I would have otherwise ignored. I never knew how much man-made noise, for example, the University of Surrey has around it, especially near some of the science buildings! I really like Guildford’s soundscape so far because it’s such a mix of natural sounds and man-made sounds.

I’m currently putting together a post on my listening this week (I’ve listened to a few Framework podcasts) so look out for that!

I’m also doing some thinking about my initial ideas, but I’m not quite ready to articulate them yet…

Ideas (23rd October)

My current idea is to go to my parents’ home to record the soundscape. I like the idea of making a soundscape which explores the relationship between the natural sounds of the world and the man-made ones (not unlike the lake at the University of Surrey). I think Guildford is a good place to do this as there are are lots of more urban sounds contrasting with natural sounds (like at the hill overlooking the Cathedral), but I’d like to make something more personal to me. I’m going to continue developing my field recording skills here before going home to collect the recordings I will need to make my soundscape.

I live in a town called Fareham, which is not far from Portsmouth. There is a lane (Paradise Lane) that goes along the bottom of the cul-de-sac where I live. To the left it goes over the railway, turns into a grass track along the side of some fields which are backed by the motorway. To the right, it passes through a street and then turns into a gravel lane with houses on it and if you keep walking, you go over the A27, past Fareham Creek and then up into the town.

I like the idea that my house is the halfway point and to do a soundscape which has turning left hard panned left and turning right hard panned right, and seeing how they interact with each other.

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Map showing Paradise Lane (click for larger version)

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Paradise Lane to the right of my house

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Paradise Lane to the left of my house.