Author Archive

Remembering Joe Stevens

Last week our friend Joe Stevens sadly passed away.

Joe was a dedicated recordist of everyday life and a wonderful listener. His was an original voice in discussions about what it means to record everyday life in sound; he approached field recording with curiosity; and he was very sensitive to how sounds are intimately bound up with the lives of people. Many of his projects explicitly connected sounds with social history, and he was always inventing new ways to engage communities through sound.

Our Working Lives documents sixty years of changing work practices around Poole, and involved collecting many oral histories from local residents. The bus tour which coincided with this amazing project brought the voices and textures of those histories together with the landscape itself. Sounds of the Seaside – one of many shows produced for framework radio by Joe – opens with the sincere, warm reminder that people’s voices have been kept throughout the show, because they are an integral part of the soundscape. These examples speak of Joe’s generous and sociable focus in his work with sounds.

In a discipline where people often say we need more silence, Joe seemed to often say that we needed to talk more, and to listen better.


Creative Conversations #1 – Joe Stevens

Creative Conversations explored questions around funding for the arts, the cultural legacy of the London 2012 Olympics for the people of Dorset, the practices and ideas of local artists, and the thorny issue of how to make a living through creative work. The series is a DIY inquiry, both rich and practical. Unfunded and self-initiated, Creative Conversations were fueled purely by a wish to talk to other artists, to share knowledge, to address issues around public projects and community engagement. All of this seems somehow very Joe.

I will miss conversations with him immensely and am glad for the handful of times when we got to talk, record sounds, and wander round beaches and industrial landscapes together.

His life and work are remembered in the most recent edition of framework, produced by Patrick McGinley; the show makes for highly recommended listening, and includes several unreleased recordings and a fantastic introduction from among many that Joe recorded for framework.

Here are a handful of recordings that Joe made – little snippets of sound, connected with times shared with this wonderful sonic comrade.


This is a recording of some of Joe’s journey to the sound:site event which we co-organised with Martin Franklin at the Digital Media Centre at South Hill Park, in October 2010.






All recorded on January 9th, at Kimmeridge Bay, where Mark and I met with Joe, Ben from the National Trust and many other folk enlisted through Twitter, for a walk around the bay. I remember these sounds, and pausing in our conversations to listen to them.


This is a recording of the amazing Routemaster Bus tour of Poole’s working landscape, which Joe organised as part of the project, Our Working Lives.

Goodbye Joe: you will be greatly missed.

Bat diaries #3: Pipistrelle bats in the garden, 8th July, 22:09

Levels were set a bit higher this time, so it’s a louder recording, though I’m not sure that better. Two bats, seemingly very energetic.

Bat diaries #2: Pipistrelle bat in the garden, 27th June, 22:41

Just one bat this time.

Bat diaries #1: Pipistrelle bats in the garden, 25th June, 22:26

This summer I have been gardening a lot; the days are long and hot and my preferred time to do a few jobs is at dusk when things are cooler. I weed, water things, check on plants, pot on seedlings, tidy away tools. When I am done, I watch the sun set over the shoulders of the houses, and I listen to the sounds.

There is an amazingly regular sequence to the dusk;

First, the blackbirds make their announcements; alarm calls usually, because of a fox that has made its home next door. Then the swifts start moving in dribs and drabs across the sky. Their high pitched sounds drift down as they head home to roost, and sometimes they are joined by a lone seagull, its mournful cry unfurling on the air. To this mix are added police sirens wailing from the town, the occasional gate latch squeaking in our street, and the low, omnipresent rumble of the traffic. The suburban dusk, the sound of home.

Then, out of the inky trees, fluttering shapes appear, moving in crooked lines in the dark: bats.

There are at least two. They circle the garden nightly, hoovering up the moths and mosquitoes and sometimes skimming just over the top of my head.

One night, watching this lovely, quiet dance, I decided to make a sound diary of their comings and goings and to share my recordings here.

I got a Magenta Bat4 Precision detector to plug into my Edirol R-09, and shall make infrequent recordings with this set up throughout the summer. Sometimes my partner, Mark, will join me. The detector has a speaker on it, enabling us to listen to the bats together while I record, and as we don’t speak in the frequency range for which the detector is designed, we can talk without altering the recordings. This makes this one of the most sociable recording ventures I’ve ever embarked on!

This is the first recording, made on 25th June at 22:26 in the evening. We stood by the back door and listened, marveling at our tiny flying mammalian comrades, who are – like the blackbirds, the swifts, the fox, the sirens, the seagulls and the cars – another feature of the place that we call home.

The detector parses the echo location sounds produced by bats into frequencies that humans can hear. The Common Pipistrelles which visit our garden produce sounds at around 39 – 49kHz. I won’t edit the recordings apart from taking out silence at the start. Silences between sounds are left in, as these are the timings produced by the bats as they flit in and out of different gardens on their nightly insect rounds, and leaving them in gives some sense of the time spent, standing, at dusk and listening and laughing, in wonder.

– Felicity Ford

Christ Church Bells, heard from four directions

I thought today I could share with you 4 recordings which detail the bells of Christ Church, Oxford, being rung by the Oxford Society Of Change Ringers, as heard along the different trajectories of North, East, South and West. The recordists for this exploration of the bells’ reach were respectively Dimitri Batsis (N), Felicity Ford (E), Sam Kidel (S) and Victoria Bosher (W). The recordings are held on RADAR.


North – recorded by Dimitri Batsis


East – recorded by Felicity Ford


South – recorded by Sam Kidel


West – recorded by Victoria Bosher

The bells of Christ Church, as heard from 4 different compass points, and rung beautifully by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers. You can hear the final recordings through four pairs of stereo speakers coinciding with the compass points at Audiograft 2014, during the Sound Diaries concert on Thursday 13th March.

Sound Diaries Concert, part of Audiograft 2014

For Audiograft 2014, Sound Diaries is curating a series of events to take place in the Holywell Music Room on Thursday 13th March. Long-term readers of Sound Diaries will be familiar with most of the folk in the lineup; Patrick McGinley presented his own work and field recordings last year at our Symposium, and has showcased plenty of Sound Diaries material on the amazing framework radio show which he runs; Sybella Perry also presented her work at the Sound Diaries symposium in 2013; and Valeria Merlini AKA JD Zazie – with whom I co-ran “Documenting Sound” during Audiograft 2012 – has been building an archive of field recordings from that event on RADAR, several of which will form the basis for a special, site-specific DJ remix. We will write in more depth about these practitioners and their work in coming weeks, but today I want to discuss some of the recordings which we have been producing for this concert in order to realise an Oxford-specific version of Liminal’s piece, “Of This Parish”.

Liminal AKA David Prior and Frances Crow conceived “Of This Parish” during a residency in Portugal, in April 2013 during a Binaural/Nodar residency programme in the Gralheira mountain range, North Portugal.

The piece consists of organising a group of four field recordists to depart from ringing bells, and for each recordist to walk slowly in one of the main compass directions, recording the sound of the bells as they are heard in the changing acoustic environments of their trajectory. The bells are rung and the walkers walk to the edge of the sonic territory defined by the bells; i.e. until they can no longer hear them. The four separate recordings collected in this way are then configured and played together in a 4-speaker array, bringing together the expanse of the bells’ sonic range, and an impression of the total acoustic space that this sound occupies. The piece is about territory, the social and cultural significance of bells, and the new listening possibilities presented by field recording technology.

In the context of Oxford in the UK, a realisation of “Of This Parish” will be very different from the piece David and Frances created in Portugal, because of the tradition of bell-ringing in the UK which defines how our bells sound, and because of the note-patterns involved in change-ringing.

Developing this piece with a group of recordists including Victoria Bosher; Dimitris Batsis; Sam Kidel and Bruno Guastella is a very interesting process, made possible through the help and support of the Oxford Society of Change Ringers who have allowed us to access their world of change-ringing, at practices in Lincoln College and ringing sessions at Christchurch.

There are twenty bell towers within Oxford, and working on the practical side of this project – planning and exploring the field-recording side of things – has involved getting to know a little about all of them, and developing a new sense of the city’s rhythms and timings. On a Wednesday evening, for example, the bells of Lincoln college ring out around Turl Street and the High Street during the Oxford Society’s practice… on Sundays there is a sequence of different bell-ringing from Christchurch (09:00 – 10:00) to St. Aldates (10:00 – 10:30) up to Mary Magdalen (10:00 – 10:30) and on to St. Giles (09:45 – 10:30) – an almost continuous stream of change-ringing, drifting through Cornmarket and St Aldates – involving bell-ringers from the Oxford Society of Change Ringers; the Oxford City Branch of Church Bell Ringers; and the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers. Exploring the sounds of Oxford’s bells has also involved the discovery of the secret interior world of bell-towers around Oxford, and the degree of human skill and proficiency which produces the sound of bell-ringing so distinctive to the city.

Over coming days, sound recordings created in the process of developing this work will be appearing here! I hope you enjoy discovering the sonorities of the bells of Christ Church, Oxford, as much as I do.

Sound Diaries Symposium Lineup Announced

Sound Diaries Symposium: 3rd – 4th June 2013, Oxford Brookes University, Headington Hill Campus, OX3 0BP, Oxford
SARU presents the Sound Diaries Symposium 2013 which boldly asks “How are we using field recordings to change the world?”

Over two days contributors from around the world will address how field recording practices have multiplied and diversified in response to increasingly affordable recording gear, developments in software, changes in how field recordings can be shared online, and evolving cultural theory. As field recording intersects with other disciplines – radio-making; composition; social sculpture; ethnography and the preservation of heritage, so do new frameworks for sharing sounds emerge. At the Sound Diaries 2013 symposium a diverse range of speakers including representatives from Sound & Music, The British Library, The Pitt Rivers Museum and Radio 4′s recently commissioned “Noise: A Human History” series will share different perspectives on contemporary field recording practices within these terms.

Themed panels include: Social relations explored through sonic praxis; Field recordings and education; Listening to the past; Can we really change the world with field recording?; The global picture; Radio and social change; Composition and field recording; and Mapping the field.

Sound Diaries is a project instigated by Felicity Ford and Paul Whitty in 2008 to investigate the relationship between field recordings and daily life.

www.sound-diaries.co.uk

Contributors

Dimitris Batsis, Colin Black, Efthymios Chatzigiannis, Peter Cusack, John Drever, José Luis Crespo Fajardo & Atilio Doreste, Patrick Farmer, Felicity Ford, Michael Gallagher & James Wyness, David Hendy, Ernst Karel, Christopher De Laurenti, Noel Lobley, Patrick McGinley, Udo Noll, Sybella Perry, Judith Robinson, Doug Rouxel, Cheryl Tipp, Claudia Wegener, Paul Whitty and Mark Peter Wright.

If you would like to attend either or both days of the symposium please email pwhitty@brookes.ac.uk or f.ford@brookes.ac.uk

Here is the full schedule for the two days, and a copy of the poster. Please redistribute around the interwebs!

Monday 3rd June 2013

09:15 – 10:00 WELCOME, REGISTRATIONS, TEA & COFFEE
10:00 – 11:30 PANEL ONE: SOCIAL RELATIONS EXPLORED THROUGH SONIC PRAXIS
John Drever, Christopher De Laurenti, José Luis Crespo Fajardo & Atilio Doreste
11:30 – 12:00 TEA BREAK AND Q&A
12:00 – 13:00 PANEL TWO: SONIC PEDAGOGY, FIELD RECORDINGS AND EDUCATION
Felicity Ford, Judith Robinson
13:00 – 13:30 LUNCH
13:30 – 15:00 PANEL THREE: LISTENING TO THE PAST
Cheryl Tipp, David Hendy, Sybella Perry
15:00 – 15:30 TEA BREAK AND Q&A
15:30 – 17:00 PANEL FOUR: INTERROGATING FIELD RECORDING, “CAN WE REALLY CHANGE THE WORLD WITH FIELD RECORDING?”
Michael Gallagher & James Wyness, Mark Peter Wright, Patrick Farmer

Tuesday 4th June 2013

09:15 – 10:00 WELCOME, REGISTRATIONS, TEA & COFFEE
10:00 – 11:30 PANEL FIVE: THE GLOBAL PICTURE
Claudia Wegener, Noel Lobley, Ernst Karel
11:30 – 12:00 TEA BREAK AND Q&A
12:00 – 13:00 PANEL SIX: RADIO AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Patrick McGinley, Colin Black
13:00 – 14:00 LUNCH
14:00 – 15:00 PANEL SEVEN: COMPOSITION AND FIELD RECORDING
Paul Whitty and Efthymios Chatziggianis & Dimitris Batsis
15:00 – 15:30 TEA BREAK AND Q&A
15:30 – 17:00 PANEL EIGHT: MAPPING THE SOUNDS
Peter Cusack, Udo Noll and Doug Rouxel

Sound Diaries Symposium 2013 Poster

Sound Diaries Symposium 2013 – Open Call

conference_call

Sound Diaries Symposium: How are we using field recordings to change the world? SARU, Oxford Brookes University,  Monday 3rd – 4th June 2013.

Field recording practices have multiplied and diversified in response to the new possibilities presented by increasingly affordable recording gear, developments in software, and the constantly changing cultural landscape of the Internet. Field recordings can be shared on Facebook, burned onto CDs, linked to on Twitter, and added to playlists; at no time in history have so many ambient recordings detailing the sonic textures of everyday life been available to us for usage and contemplation.

So who is listening to these recordings? What kinds of cultural practices are developing in relation to them? How are field recordings being used by different practitioners to explore ideas of place, specific cultural or historic contexts, and other contemporary issues? Put simply, how are we using (or how could we use) field recordings to change the world?

This symposium will explore some of these questions, looking at recent projects by practitioners who are working with field recordings to explore social or cultural contexts. The mornings and early afternoons will be given to presentations by practitioners, and then there will be informal skills-sharing sessions, in which practitioners working with field recordings will share their practical experiences and answer questions from the floor over tea and coffee.

We welcome submissions to present at this symposium about the following:

  • Online projects which use field recordings as a principal component
  • Workshops or other learning endeavours which involved field recording as a practical activity
  • Projects which used field recording as a main research tool
  • Experiments in listening to, and disseminating, field-recordings
  • Political uses of field recording or political field recordings
  • Measuring audience engagement with field recordings
  • Stories relating to the collection and production of field-recordings

Please send a 200 word abstract plus links to your project to pwhitty@brookes.ac.uk by 30th April 2013.

Keynote speakers to be announced shortly.

Sound Diaries Newspaper

As part of the Audiograft 2013 Sound Diaries festivities, we published a newspaper! You can download it here or read it below, and it contains our most recent call for conference submissions, drawings of Sonic Breakfasts by children at Fir Tree Primary School in Wallingford, interviews with James Saunders and Valeria Merlini, and some writings by Paul Whitty about the sounds that are imminent in the objects all around us, and working on the soundtrack for the film based on Roma Tearne’s book, The Swimmer. There are also some archives from the SOUND BANK republished in the newspaper, and a heartfelt essay about the EDIROL R-09 which has provided the necessary hardware for so many of the sounds you can enjoy here.

We hope you like the Sound Diaries Newspaper!

Sound Diaries Newspaper #1 by Felicity Ford

Make Sound Here

One aim of the HEARth programme is to celebrate the works of artists connected with Audiograft, and to introduce audiences to some of their projects. Works which are by nature participatory and inclusive lend themselves beautifully to this aim, providing forms for connecting the vast creative energies of the Audiograft festival with everyday life. We are therefore delighted to be able to include James Saunders’s “Make Sound Here” project in the HEARth programme as part of Audiograft and we really hope you will join us to explore it in more depth on Friday 1st March at 1pm at Modern Art Oxford!

This year James Saunders has launched a project entitled Make Sound Here, which makes use of the GPS and audio recording facilities on mobile phones, and the audio recording platform Audioboo, to create a map detailing the sonic potentials of places. Very simply, you go to a place, you make a sound there by whatever means you like, you photograph the situation with the label “Make Sound Here” displayed prominently, and you record the sounds that you have created there. If you use a smartphone to take the photo, record the sound and upload to Audioboo.fm, the sound will automatically be geo-tagged. However it’s also possible to create recordings using another device and to manually add in photos, geo-location etc. via the Audioboo.fm upload channel created especially for this project. All the instructions are provided here on the Make Sound Here website, where you can also download the labels.

As part of the HEARth programme, Stav (of STELIX) will be leading a soundwalk from Modern Art Oxford on Friday 1st March at 1pm, taking a route which has previously scoped out by us for its sonic potentials, using “Make Sound Here” as a basis.

Doing the walk with a view to “Make Sound Here” was a really wonderful experience; the project inspires a different mentality regarding your navigation of urban space. Where the normal use of the city involves thinking about where to go to meet someone or to buy something, wandering around in search of sounds leads you by the ears to new avenues, alleyways, paths and corners… places you wouldn’t normally go unless your ear spotted a sonorous-looking railing… or perhaps a wooden bridge, suggestive in its construction of a kind of xylophone.



The rediscovered childhood pleasure of trailing a stick across many surfaces created a lovely new way to hear and explore Oxford. An extremely lo-tech contact microphone, the stick allows surfaces and materials to be tested and heard… the qualities of the stuff that the city is made of (its bricks, its wood, its metal) thus become audible. We traced lines through the city with our walking, and our stick-dragging; we drew happy lines of experimentation and soundmaking lightly on one corner of the city.



Chance played a large part in our sonic investigations of Oxford. At some point I stumbled across some delicate seedpods; tiny rattles that could be activated by the slightest of touches, and which shed their seeds on my recorder as I shook them gently, listening to their miniature percussion accompanying the song of a nearby bird.



Less poetic perhaps in origin but just as interesting sonically was the chance discovery of some litter (which we of course tidied away after playing with it) being lifted and blown over a camber in a road by the old brewery. So began a process of deliberately placing the litter in the path of the wind, and documenting its journey across the tarmac, gathering momentum as it passed the highest point and tumbled towards the kerb.



We found other sounds, too. The splish of coins dropping into a very still place in the river; an especially brilliant ornamental gate, full of deep and complex metallic tones; the chalky sound of old bricks being touched with a blunted twig.

We really hope that you might join STELIX for further forays into “Make Sound Here”; you might find places in Oxford that are completely new to your eyes and ears! Special thanks to James Saunders for making a project for sonic-geo-caching. We had no idea there were so many musical surfaces and objects surrounding us in Oxford; our ears are open.