Open Call 2023

In 2008 Felicity Ford and Paul Whitty set up a project with the aim of recording everyday life in sound – to meet the world and its abundant soundings of vending machines, luggage carousels, toasters, escalators, boilers, garden sheds and wheeled luggage. They followed the writer Georges Perec’s instruction to exhaust the subject, not to be satisfied with a cursory glance, not to be satisfied to have identified what we already know – what we have already heard – but to look again, to listen, to keep listening, long after it would probably have been more sensible to stop. That project was Sound Diaries. The premise has been that the sound made by a dishwasher cycle is likely to reveal as much to us about our society and culture than the sound of the extraordinary. 

Sound Diaries continues to extend awareness with regards the myriad roles of sound and listening in daily life by exploring the cultural and communal significance of sounds, and has formed a research basis for projects generated both locally and Internationally, in Beijing, Brussels, Tallinn, Estonia and Cumbria; within local institutions in Oxford including Schools; and within cultural organisations such as Sound and Music and BBC Radio.

Call for participants:

For our second Open Call (to experience some of the work that developed from our first Open Call please visit HERE and HERE) we are looking for participants to document the sounds of everyday life (however this may manifest for them) and to contribute to a public event and publication.

We are interested in everyday sounds and sounding contexts from cutlery drawers to bus stops to self-service checkouts be they domestic, public or private. Potential participants will need to submit:

  • A proposal (500 words maximum). The proposal should outline the work you hope to make during your time working with sound diaries. If you are at an early stage of your career you may like to explain why this project would be of particular benefit to your practise and current development. It is likely that the proposal will include detail of the context in which you intend to work, the nature of the sound material that you will collect and the methods you will use for collection.
  • A brief CV (maximum one side of A4, 11pt type)
  • Links (maximum 5) to relevant creative and documentary projects or sound files.

Projects can take many forms but should focus on documentary recording of everyday sound. This could be sound from your own everyday or from another context that you want to investigate. It might help to look at some existing Sound Diaries and Sonic Art Research Unit projects. For example Get Rid! An investigation of the everyday sounding culture of grassroots football; the audiograft festival, the Berlin Sound Diary a document of the everyday sounds of travel; the on vibration lecture series, the sonic art research unit journal, a row of trees, and the UK Soundmap Sonic Time Capsule.

The deadline for application is August 20th 2023 at 11pm (bst). Successful applicants will be informed by September 15th and invited to attend an informal meeting in Oxford during November (date tbd) to discuss their project ideas. We’ll endeavour to send feedback on all submissions, though this will depend on the volume of applications we receive. 

Project Support:

  • Materials and Expenses budget £300ea
  • Travel expenses and accommodation to attend project discussions (November 2023).
  • Travel and expenses to attend project publication launch event (April 2024).
  • Project Publication (5 x copies per participant).
  • Mentoring from the Sound Diaries team, and other participants in the Open Call, if appropriate.

What Sound Diaries will expect from you:

  • Sound files for publication on sound-diaries.co.uk
  • A text and/or images as appropriate to your work investigating the context of your project and the methods used in collecting the sound material (Maximum 1000 words/ten research images, sketches, diagrams).
  • A presentation/performance of your project at the final event in April 2024.

If you have any questions please get in touch with Paul Whitty and Patrick Farmer at the following address: pfarmer@brookes.ac.uk 

Final submissions should be emailed to both pwhitty@brookes.ac.uk and pfarmer@brookes.ac.uk by 11pm (bst) on August 20th 2023.

Against Watching

The men’s World Cup ended yesterday, hosted in Qatar, and whilst I would usually have been slowly obsessing about the minutiae of every game and taking joy from the possibility of watching football for 360 minutes a day during the group stages – plus the considerable added time that became a feature of this tournament – this time I didn’t watch. I was against watching. Why? Well, it’s the least I could do to express solidarity with the migrant workers who suffered under the employment conditions in Qatar; and the least I could do to express solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar. Was this a futile gesture? Of course it was. Did it create change, no, but I just couldn’t watch. FIFA’s process for awarding the tournament is now widely regarded as a corrupt process. Reasons for looking away were many.

Simon Critchley writes about the contradictions of modern football in his book What We Think About When We Think About Football (2017):

And here is perhaps the most basic and profound contradiction of football: its form is association, socialism, the sociability and collective action of players and fans, and yet its material substrate is money: dirty money, often from highly questionable, under-scrutinized sources. Football is completely comodified, saturateed in sponsorship and the most vulgar and stupid branding…

And this is how we end up with Gianni Infantino front and centre at every match, at the final, pushing himself forward, associating himself and the corruption of FIFA with the beauty of the game. Stepping into the healing waters of football and hoping that they will wash away the stains of corruption.

So, what to do? I started to think about how I could explore the moment of not watching, of turning away. I thought about the spaces in which had usually watched the men’s World Cup. In France ’98 I watched the game v Columbia at a friends house in West London – he was an old school friend and I think that was the last time I saw him; I watched David Beckham score a penalty v Argentina in a colleagues office at Dartington College of Arts during a lunch-break; after that there was a lot of sofa watching. I guess I must have watched some games at the pub but I’ve never enjoyed the collective watching of international football. The last time I watched England play in a men’s World Cup game in a pub was the desolate 0-0 draw v Algeria in 2010. England’s failures accompanied by beer have never been a favourite occasion.

Now, in the house, the lounge is the football venue, on the sofa with a cup of tea, scrolling through twitter. So, well, thats it, I’ll document the lounge, the sound of football not being watched, of gentle conversation in the kitchen heard through closed doors, of the wind lightly sounding in the chimney breast, the dog, footsteps on the stairs, a delivery, voices from the street, the X-Box controller, a car passing, perhaps someone watching the game next door. And when?, well, of course, every England match, the guaranteed watch. Despite being Northern Irish I’ve been in England so long – almost my whole life – that I am a follower of English football so that’s the one, that’s the frame.

Listen without headphones on laptop speakers, bluetooth, on your phone. The sound should be lightly audible, a slight presence, insignificant, without note, the sound of absence, of not watching. Do not adjust the volume. Do not listen carefully.

England v Iran – Monday 21st November 1.00pm (GMT)

England v USA – Friday 25th November 7.00pm (GMT)

Wales v England – Tuesday 29th November 7.00pm (GMT)

England v Senegal – Sunday 4th December 7.00pm (GMT)

England v France – Saturday 10th December 7.00pm (GMT)

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #7 : Praa Sands, Cornwall

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Shirley Pegna
Location: Praa Sands, Cornwall, England
Time and Date: 09.30 08122020

Praa Sands, Cornwall

I was struck by how normal the sea sounded – although it was a pandemic..

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #6 : San Juan Atezcapan

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Lucia Hinojosa Gaxiola
Location: San Juan Atezcapan
Time and Date: some time in twenty twenty

Insect Poem

I started some time ago writing a series of thoughts, poems, scores, instructions called insect poems. During lockdown I was away in the countryside at San Juan Atezcapan and the sound of stridulation was fascinating and decided to make a composition-performance for the insects, or in collaboration with them. I only had a singing bowl with me so I tried to match its drone with the sound of the insects….

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #5 : Back Streets, Oxford

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Loz Colbert
Location: The Back Streets of Oxford
Time and Date: 05122020

The back streets of Oxford

The sound of the luggage bag on the streets has been largely absent – as has been my physical presence on them – since lockdown. So recording this sound on my first walking trip in the City Centre for many months felt like a beautiful moment.

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #4 : Hurst Water Meadow, Dorchester-on-Thames

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Stephen Eyre
Location: Hurst Water Meadow, Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire
Time and Date: 05122020

Hurst Water Meadow

I recorded this sound at the south-east corner of the meadow where the River Thame runs over a small weir and collects into a pool. The sounds of this and the birdsong are all but masked by the A4074 which runs directly behind. The effect is more pronounced in the recording than in situ but even in a pandemic and outside of a normal rush hour the road sound is dominant. Visually the site is wild meadow with some trees and bushes offering sight lines that contour the meadow into sections. It is possible to imagine you are in the New Forest, especially in winter when horses are put out to graze in the middle but the road noise is a reminder of the true order of things here!

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #3 : Redmires Reservoir, Sheffield

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Patrick Farmer

Location: Redmires Reservoir, Sheffield

Time and Date: some time in twenty twenty

Redmires Reservoir, Sheffield

Pretending to be a heron downstream from a weir covering everything‘.

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #2 : Leaning out of an upstairs window

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Paul Whitty

Location: Brightwell-cum-Sotwell (Latitude 51.615220 Longitude -1.158860)

Time and Date: 09.00 23042020

23042020

On April 23rd this year, during the first lockdown in England I began to document the sounds I could hear from my bedroom window each morning with a view to documenting the slow changes in the soundscape that the gradual easing of the lockdown would bring. The A4130 which runs East to West just North of the village usually delivers a constant white noise drone of tyres on asphalt. In this recording, however, you can hear the sound from the road dissipating completely on a number of occasions revealing the more delicate, slight and ephemeral sounds beneath. The sound of football being played in the garden is more detailed and intense than it would be if the usual wash of tyres on asphalt was at normative levels; and it is possible to hear the hushed sounding of a borrowed Ergo Rowing Machine being operated by one of my sons in the garage which blends with the slow phasing of the sounds from the A4130.

Somewhere near a field in Oxfordshire

You can read more about this project and listen to the other ninety-six daily recordings here.