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

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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)

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…

Field Recordings (22nd October)

I tried making a few recordings round my house and garden but I knew I needed to do more than that. So I went to University yesterday between 4pm and 5.30pm to collect some recordings by the lake on campus. I decided to go there because there are lots of different birds that gather there and then there are also man-made sounds coming from the road around the lake, the railway and, of course, the sounds from the University. I like the nature sounds mixing with the more man-made sounds and it’s interesting to listen to some of my recordings because the natural sounds are drowned out by, for example, a train going past, only to be quite audible again once it has gone.

I will point out that at this point, I don’t have a windjammer for my mic so there is some noise from that.

Surrey Lake:

This is an excerpt from the first recording I made at the lake. It was collected right by the drain in the lake so the bubbling water you can hear is from that. I think this sound is quite interesting but is quite noisy and unpleasant after a while! I was pleasantly surprised at how clearly the water sounds because it was quite quiet and I thought maybe the mic wouldn’t be sensitive enough. I liked where I was sitting because the road was in front of me, so occasionally you hear a car or bus go past, and the train line was behind me so you also get the sounds of that. Probably the best thing that happened was when a bird flew into the bush directly in front of me and stayed for a while, tweeting. I learned the importance of patience and I pushed myself to keep recording even once I began to feel like it was getting rather monotonous. I thought about turning off the mic but decided to let it run for a little longer and sure enough, a duck landed on the lake with a splash! I don’t think this recording works so well just on its own; I could probably use parts of it for constructing a soundscape, but it’s got too much going on and not enough space in it.

Near The Train Line

I walked further towards the train line for this recording. I think I prefer it to the first one because it’s less busy – the constant sounds are mainly just provided by the birds, with trains and buses providing some interest as they pass by. I also like the occasional rustling of the leaves in the trees and planes in the distance. I only had a very small tripod with me so I held the mic towards the train tracks (you can occasionally hear me move, which I don’t really like). I have a big tripod at my parents’ house so I’m going to try and get hold of that to reduce mic handling noise in future recordings. This recording is much more peaceful and relaxing, and I think it would almost work quite well on its own with a few enhancements.

Alarm

This is a much shorter excerpt and the recording I took was shorter than all the others too. After I had finished recording near the train line, I heard an alarm coming from the other side of the tracks, I walked over to where it was loudest and stuck my mic in front of the tracks. Its an incredibly irritating sound, so I decided not to subject myself to it for too long, but I think it was worth it – the second train that goes by (from about 2.45) sounds absolutely amazing, I especially like the buzz of the track that continues after the actual train has gone.

Ducks and Feet

I lastly went to the other side of the lake (where the footpath is) and sat opposite a group of ducks. I had seen them go over to people sitting on a bench while I was on the other side of the lake so I hoped they would come over to me too. I put the mic on its tiny tripod on the path and pointed it towards the lake. I managed to get one duck making some noise, and you can also hear their feet faintly slapping against the tarmac path as they walk across. Unfortunately, they didn’t gather round me though – nature is too unpredictable, but that’s part of the fun of field recording! There are several rather loud bouts of wind which ruin it a bit – I really can’t wait to get this windjammer! The thing I didn’t consider was that it was 5pm by this point and there were people leaving the campus to go home – the first footsteps, in fact, belong to the Music Department’s own Professor Allan Moore.

All in all, I feel that I’ve learned quite a lot about field recording, and it’s certainly improved my listening techniques. I started to get very involved in the soundscape around me – when I heard a bird, I would try and figure out where it was, or when I saw a duck flying, I got excited because I knew it might land on the lake and create an interesting sound on my recording. I also feel that I’ve improved my concentration when it comes to active listening – I pushed myself to carry on even after I felt like I should turn the mic off, and usually I was rewarded.

Soundwalk (21st October)

Last night, I went for a soundwalk after re-reading Hildegard Westerkamp’s piece on the subject. I used the following excerpt as a basis for my soundwalk:

“Start by listening to the sounds of your body while moving. They are closest to you and establish the first dialogue between you and the environment. If you can hear even the quietest of these sounds you are moving through an environment which is scaled on human proportions. In other words, with your voice or your footsteps for instance, you are “talking” to your environment which then in turn responds by giving your sounds a specific acoustic quality.

“Try to move
Without making any sound.
Is it possible?

“Which is
the quietest sound of your body?

“(If, however, you cannot hear the sounds you yourself produce,
you experience a soundscape out of balance. Human proportions have
no meaning here. Not only are your voice and footsteps inaudible but also
your ear is dealing with an overload of sound).

“Lead your ears away from your own sounds and
listen to the sounds nearby.

“What do you hear? (Make a list)

“What else do you hear?
Other people
Nature sounds
Mechanical sounds

“How many
Continuoussoundscontinuous Continuoussoundscontinuous

“Can you detect
Interesting rhythms
Regular beats
The highest
The lowest pitch.

“Do you hear any
Intermittent or discrete sounds
Rustles
Bangs
Swishes
Thuds

“What are the sources of the different sounds?

“What else do you hear?

“Lead your ears away from these sounds and listen
beyond—–into the distance.
What is the quietest sound?
What else do you hear?

“What else?

“What else?

“What else?

“What else?”

From: http://www.sfu.ca/~westerka/writings%20page/articles%20pages/soundwalking.html

I walked the following route (from my house on Guildford Park Road up to the Cathedral):

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At first I felt very self-conscious even though it was quite late in the evening and not many people were around. I tried to focus on the sound of my breath, my footsteps and the sounds my clothes made as I walked. I didn’t feel very ‘in the zone’ but as I walked up Ridgemont I started listening ‘outward’ (I.e. Not just to the sounds I was making).

At first it all seemed like noise, but then I was able to distinguish the different sounds. Most of what I could hear close to me was the trees rustling in the wind (it was a very very windy night). As the wind picked up, I could hear it rushing against my ears, not unlike the sound it makes on a microphone. It made me feel like the soundscape was interacting with me personally as I was the only person who could hear that particular sound.

Several aeroplanes went past overhead and there was a constant roar of traffic from the A3 which got louder and louder as I walked further up Ridgemont. Ocassionaly I would be able to make out one distinct engine from a motorbike or powerful car. Once I had arrived at the Cathedral, there were lots of interesting sounds in the soundscape – a bird was calling and I passed a dog and his owner. There were also electrical noises from the lights that light up the Cathedral and the flagpole was making a sound in the wind.

I gained a lot from the exercise because I now understand how to listen to the soundscape around me. If you try to view the world (or even just the bit of the world that you are currently in) as a massive soundscape, you begin to pick out and appreciate all the individual sounds. I can honestly say that I have never actively listened to the sound of traffic or aeroplanes going overhead – I am so used to tuning sounds like that out as ‘noise’. I think it is a bit like trying to watch a film and listen to the music – after a while, you just forget to listen and you almost tune the music out, hearing it subconsciously: all those sounds we hear on a daily basis that we tune out because they won’t have any impact on us are difficult to properly listen to because we hear them all the time when we’re not concentrating on them.

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