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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Ideas (28th October)

I’m still keeping my original idea of making a soundscape of Paradise Lane. I think the idea of hi-fi and lo-fi sounds (where hi-fi or nature sounds are considered good and lo-fi or man-made/mechanical sounds are bad) is interesting, but I don’t accept that  human-made ‘noise’ is ruining the natural soundscape. I think it is part of the changing soundscape and I would like mine to reflect the interaction between hi-fi and lo-fi in my piece rather than the destruction of hi-fi sounds by lo-fi ones.

I like the idea of calling the piece “Paradise Lane” because it will have several meanings, depending on your philosophy on soundscapes and whether you know the Fareham area or not, (for example, the title might sound ironic to an acoustic ecologist, because the natural sounds of the fields are being ‘ruined’ by the motorway, train line etc.).

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.

Listening Reflections (22nd October)

After listening to the playlist I created after the lecture, I feel a lot more knowledgeable about the different types of soundscape artist working today.

  • Francisco Lopez
    • Although I enjoyed listening to the soundscape “Untitled 164”, I don’t want to make a soundscape like this
    • I love the low frequency sounds and the way it changes subtly over time
    • The length is a bit off-putting: I was not able to listen appreciatively for that long
    • I like that although you have no idea what is being recorded, you are able to work out many of them yourself and are able to guess what the original recording may have been (although some of them are virtually impossible to work out)
  • Chris Watson
    • I listened to two Chris Watson albums and I really enjoyed it because it has a very ‘natural’ feel to it
    • I really like the recording quality and the detail he gets from his sounds
    • I am not particularly interested in bird song, and I think getting really detailed recordings of animals and birds might be a little out of my skill set and a bit over-ambitious!
  • David Rothenberg
    • It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t feel it gels well together
    • Some of the pieces are very relaxing and rather musical, which I do think is nice but they were quite forgettable
  • Star Switch On Album
    • A lot of this album has a very ambient feel to it and it’s got a nice blend of the two
    • Like Francisco Lopez, I enjoyed listening to it very much but I don’t think it’s a sound I wish to create
    • I would think that some of the tracks on this album are not necessarily a good example of what we’re supposed to be creating

Framework Podcasts (21st October)

I have downloaded the following podcasts for listening to on my iPod:

http://www.frameworkradio.net/2014/10/483-2014-10-12/

http://www.frameworkradio.net/2014/10/482-2014-10-05/

http://www.frameworkradio.net/2014/09/481-2014-09-28/

http://www.frameworkradio.net/2014/09/480-2014-09-21/

I am going to immerse myself in soundscapes for the next few days to try and really get to know what sort of thing I want to create.

Soundscape Lecture Notes (20th October)

Creating Music Computers

Lecture 3 – Soundscapes

Research

  • Think long and hard about the outcome
  • For creative, rich, process-based work, you need to do some listening, reading and analysis. You try ideas out and then snowball it from there. You must have evidence that you have done this process.
  • It’s not the sort of thing you can do overnight
  • Present the material in a way that Matt can mark it
  • The other element is the work itself which is a soundscape piece of work
  • Engage with getting hold of field recordings and incorporate them into a work that responds to and works with these field recordings
  • The task should help you learn to listen in a new way: listen to your environment, think how you would record that and then think about how you would translate it into something creative

Tony Myatt/Chris Watson Talk and Concert

  • When you encounter the soundscape you move through it we are “bodies in motion”
  • Sound walking can be done to further this idea of walking through the sounds
  • It also cancels the traditional concert format
  • Combination of instruments
  • Bodily sounds – the listening body is fundamental to CMT students. Electrified sound reproduction has the potential to address the body and as listeners, we listen with our bodies, so as a writer you should be writing for the body.
  • Having a narrative
  • You’re relying on your own resources and having some abstract material but you need to have some sort of form. It has to be meaningful and accessible and having some sort of order but being something that’s poetic and having some sort of ‘meaning
  • How can soundscapes fuel the imagination?

Framework – http://frameworkradio.net

  • Podcast radio show
  • Collections of field recordings and soundscape compositions
  • Listen to them and reflect on them
  • Spend a few days listening to them and you’ll atune to the style

Field Recording

  • Act of listening and recording at the same time
  • Going on a journey or “sound safari” going out looking for material
  • In The Field: The Art of Field Recording is a good book to get
  • It’s a growing artistic practice
  • It’s similar to photography – it’s become a popular domestic hobby
  • It’s not enough to go out with your iPhone once and make a recording of Guildford train station
  • You need to develop your field recording practice – you’re going to need to do a good few hours of it – you’ll learn a lot over time and the more you can do, the better
  • Attentive listening, skilful recording and representation
  • You don’t need expensive gear
  • Can approach it in a lo-fi way but you have to think about the aesthetics
  • http://aporee.org/maps
    • Maps
    • Field recordings all over the world
  • The purist approach requires accurate representation – the idea that a field recording can tell a story
  • The basis for this work is field recording

The soundscape continuum:

Purist (field recording)                                                           Abstract (more musical)

Abstract approach:

  • Francisco Lopez:
    • Takes field recording a abstracts them
    • He makes ‘sculptural forms’
    • He doesn’t label his work or provide any details
      • Because he doesn’t want you to think about the ‘meaning’, where he’s recorded it, what it was etc.
      • He thinks by simply listening to it you’ll be able to know something about its sonic source
    • You make the field recording + represent the place and that’s ok for documentary purposes but the more it’s in evidence, the less musical the work becomes (there’s a fine line between the narrative that could be too literal and the poetic which can be quite musical)
    • His work is ‘lost’ – it does not connect to the place and he claims that this makes it very musical
    • Abstraction opens the door for artistic creation – he believe it makes things work better
    • His work kicks against the ‘traditional’ approach (which Matt refers to as ‘Soundscape Composition’
    • Nature can be noisy i.e. if you’re living next to a waterfall, it’s noisy all the time

Purist approach:

  • Referential (i.e. it represents what you would hear in the world
  • Chris Watson Stepping into the Dark
  • Creating a ‘sonorous fog’
  • Play between recognisable representation of a place and that they are just lovely to listen to

Acoustic Ecology:

  • Lo-fi/hi-fi relationship
    • Urban = lo-fi and bad
      • The constant noise of machines and man-made sounds
    • Country = hi-fi and good
  • It’s about ‘tuning’ in to the world
  • They wanted to document soundscapes that are ‘disappearing’ and there is some value to this – there is evidence that some man-made noises are actually affecting people’s health in a bad way
  • They say that the rural environment is very differentiated
  • [Barry Traux’s definitions of soundscape]
  • There is an environmentally-conscious feel to it: acoustic ecology
    • You could make a piece that is about the environment
  • Make the piece longer if it needs time to unfold

Phonography:

  • It’s not sound recording or acoustic ecology
  • It does not adhere to commercial views of perfect sound recordings
  • You can hear the mic being handled, people talking in the background

Earth Jazz

  • Bug Music in Spotify by David Rothenberg
  • This is much more musical
  • Environmentalist
  • Making music ‘with the world’
  • It’s quite tacky
  • It sounds like someone playing ok jazz with field recordings, but some of it is very interesting, particularly Bug Music
  • You could do something like this which incorporates more standard musical ideas with field recording that interact with each other. But don’t make it just an ambient piece with some field recordings

Experimental Electronica:

  • Biosphere Starswitch On
  • Higher Intelligence Agency
  • Birmingham Frequencies by Biosphere (“Canon Hill”)
  • Field recording and electronic music such as ambient
  • Be careful if you do this though, there has to be a connection between the instrumental sounds and the field recordings

Things to consider:

  • How will you record it
  • Will you be present in the piece or absent
  • When will you record it
  • You can generate many hours of recordings but just a bit will be useful
  • Collage as much as you can, even if you’re trying to make it sound like a single take
    • That’s not to say that you couldn’t do it the other way
    • But consider what’s in it and whether it’s suitable and whether it will ‘mean’ anything to them
    • Listen to the podcasts and think about how your own recordings could sound like they could be in the podcast itself

Introduction

I’m a final year Creative Music Technology student at the University of Surrey and for the module, Creating Music With Computers 3a I am required to create a soundscape which makes use of field recording and demonstrates research has informed its creation. I am keeping this blog to document my research, listening and the field recordings I will be making.

I have to submit my research, and I didn’t really want to part with my notebook which has too many important notes to be without, so after a couple of weeks, I decided to document my research here. So there will be an influx of posts today as I type up my research and get this blog up to the same point I am, and then after that, I’ll update it every time I do some work.

I’m going to start right off and be honest: I am a sceptic. I am not particularly keen on experimental or academic musics and I find them a little hard to take seriously. However, I am going to try my best to approach the task in hand with an open mind and I’ve decided that I want to learn as much as I possibly can from the experience (even if it’s that I never want to do it again!). Therefore, I’m going to directly apply my research to the piece I make and I’m going to try and take all advice and tips from Matt and Jeevan on board and apply them to my own practice.