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

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

“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?”


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


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.





Lecture Reflections (20th October)

I really enjoyed the lecture yesterday, a lot more than I thought I would. It helped consolidate my research so far and also gave me some new avenues to explore, particularly the website Framework which I will be visiting later today to get some podcasts for my iPod. I feel more aware of the purpose of soundscapes and where they fit alongside terms like ‘acoustic ecology’ and ‘soundwalking’. I’m starting to have some ideas for my own soundscape and I am also beginning to think about how I will do it.

One of the main things I felt that I took away from the lecture was the need to practise field recordings. I’ve decided that tomorrow I’m going to go out and gather some recordings and start honing my technique. Matt stressed the need for practising, and I fully intend to start ASAP!

I also found through the listening that I’m already leaning towards a more ‘purist’ approach. I like the idea of creating a sonic representation of a place and it’s interesting to consider how making a soundscape of a specific place would interact with listeners who may not have been there (like me when I went to the Tony Myatt/Chris Watson soundscape) and whether listeners who had been there would recognise the soundscape.

Immediate to do list:

  • Framework podcasts onto iPod + begin listening to them
  • Go on a soundwalk this evening
  • Begin making field recordings around Guildford

Soundscape Lecture Notes (20th October)

Creating Music Computers

Lecture 3 – Soundscapes


  • 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 –

  • 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
    • 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


  • 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