Category: Announcements

Recording Life In Sound

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out.

(Georges Perec; Species of Spaces; 1974)

On a rainy day in Oxford more than ten years ago Felicity Ford and Paul Whitty set up a project with the aim of recording everyday life in sound – to resist the overwhelming tide of visual images of the everyday and to meet it with the abundant soundings of vending machines, luggage carousels, toasters, escalators, boilers, garden sheds, wheeled luggage. We 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 knew – what we had already heard – but to look again or in our case to listen, to keep listening, to listen long after it would probably have been more sensible to stop. That project was Sound Diaries.

This project celebrates ten years of Sound Diaries with contributions from twelve artists who responded to our open call;

We are interested in everyday sounds and sounding contexts from cutlery drawers to bus stops to self- service checkouts. Projects can take many forms but should focus on documentary recording of everyday sound.

Sound Diaries expands awareness of the roles of sound and listening in daily life. The project explores the cultural and communal significance of sounds and forms a research base for projects executed both locally and Internationally, in Beijing, Brussels, Tallinn, Cumbria and rural Oxfordshire.

We have invited twelve artists to create new projects and you can hear the artists present their work on July 13th 2019 at The Jam Factory in Oxford. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Here’s the programme:

11:00 – 11:20 Richard Bentley Sweep

11.25  – 11.45 Hannah Dargavel-Leafe Conduit

11.50 – 12:10 Kathryn Tovey Walking with another

12.45- 13.05 Aisling Davis Uisce

13.10 -13.30 Jacek Smolicki Inaudible Cities

14:10 – 14:30 Atilio Doreste Muffled Sounds

14.35 – 14.55 Beth Shearsby

15.00 -15.20 Lucía Hinojosa Forgetting 1993

15.45- 16.05 Fi.Ona SoundStamps

16.10 – 16.30 James Green Sounding 24h

16.35 – 16.55 Marlo De Lara aural investigation of everyday britain

Open Call Artists Announced

We had an amazing response to our Open Call with many fantastic and innovative project proposals – thanks to everyone who responded. The successful artists are:

Richard Bentley
Hannah Dargavel-Leafe
Aisling Davis
Atilio Doreste
James Green
Lucía Hinojosa Gaxiola
Sena Karahan
Marlo De Lara
Fiona AR Patten
Kathryn Tovey
Beth Shearsby
Jacek Smolicki

The successful Artists visited audiograft festival in March to introduce and discuss their projects and we are looking forward to welcoming them back in July to present their work and to launch the SARU publication celebrating ten years of the Sound Diaries project.

Watch this space for more information about our event in July and the publication!

Unspectacular February 2019

In 2009 I contributed a project to Sound Diaries awkwardly titled Unspectacular February. We had just published a series of recordings from the first minute of 2009 full of fireworks, excitement, and new beginnings and so it seemed like we should follow this up with something from the everyday business of being. The result was a series of one minute recordings capturing the everyday activities of the kitchen – the sound of the dishwasher, kettle, fridge, toaster, cutlery drawer, microwave and the more distant sounds of the house – television from the next room, footsteps upstairs, the washing machine in the shed. I thought that I should mark the passing of ten years by doing this again. I’m in a different kitchen now but many of the objects are still the same.

The ideal way of presenting this would be to have the two recordings presented next to each other but, well, my filing system isn’t all it could be and so far I can only find six of the recordings from 2009. So here’s the first recording from 2019. I cleaned the dishwasher recently and for whatever reason the sound it makes has changed considerably.

(February 1st 2019 Dishwasher interrupted)

Get Rid! Anthology


Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (1974)

To listen to the sound of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds, playing fields and village greens is to listen to the fleeting traces of a rich sounding culture. The iterative ritual of marking out the pitch, cutting the grass, fixing nets to goalposts with cable ties and driving corner flags into the earth. Then the distinctive practices of on-pitch communication; the whistle; the sound of football boot on ball, of the ball as it lands; the struck crack of the crossbar; studs compressing the soil, brushing the grass, slicing through the turf. Grassroots football is a game of noise, silence, presence, absence, activity, inactivity. The sounding comes in waves — building, receding. Pitches stand empty for days then startle into exuberant sound-making action. Football is present. Football is happening. A substitution is made; the ball takes a wild deflection from a corner — disappears into a garden — and is followed by a player who climbs over a fence and into undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; the goalkeeper argues with his left-back about how many players should be in the wall; the central defender argues with the ref about the infringement; the assistant referee checks his phone for messages. There’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or lost in their own thoughts. Then the game crackles into life with a high tackle; a controversial decision; a header that slaps against the post; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who, instead, ends up kicking the dugout. The final whistle. The everyday sounds of the parish recreation ground, playing field and village green return. Football is absent. Football isn’t happening.

from Get Rid! SARU 2018 ISBN 978-1-9996176-1-5

1. Bodkins Playing Field 20032017
2. Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves v Drayton FC 28042018
3. Brightwell Recreation Ground 03042017
4. Didcot Eagles v Marcham Reserves 01042017
5. Ashendon Playing Fields 03082017
6. Ludgershall United v Oving FC 17022018
7. The Lockway 09042017
8. Drayton FC v Hagbourne United 27012018
9. Steventon Green 20042018
10. Steventon Reserves v Hanney 66 Club 15042017
1. Oving Recreation Ground 27072017
2. Great Horwood v Long Crendon (Oving Villages Cup Final 02042018)
3. Horspath Athletic Ground 06112017
4. Horspath FC Reserves v Charlton United reserves 04112017
5. Stade, Condat-sur-Vézère 19082017
6. Condat-sur-Vézère FC v Limeuil FC 27082017
7. Sutton Courtenay Recreation Ground 17032017
8. Sutton Courtenay FC v Westminster FC 11042017
9. (Postscript) Hithercroft Sports Park

Listening to the River Exe

On my second visit to Fortescue Farm in February 2013 the flood waters had receded. I stood beside the seven-bar gate in Second Marsh and listened to the river. Here are some thoughts from  my blog:

I made this recording on my second visit to Fortescue Farm standing next to the seven bar gate at the former site of a ford across the exe. The river was running within its banks but was still very fast flowing and swollen. Several times during the recording you can hear trains passing on the mainline between Exeter St. David’s and Taunton and in the distance you can hear the sound of an excavator somewhere near Stears Cottage to the North of Stoke Cannon. Recently I have begun thinking that rather than record at the field I should consider how to create a permanent audio stream to the site perhaps because I see my recording activities not as creating documents of a specific moment – although they do – but of making the soundscape of the location audible beyond our boundary of encounter with the site. I’m looking forward to returning to the seven bar gate in April to see how the soundscape has changed in that time.

While I was making this recording I walked West across the site taking photographs of the remains of driftwood scattered across ‘third marsh’ and material that had become lodged against wooden posts of the fence that separates ‘second marsh’ from ‘third marsh’.

Listening to the wind through gate posts and violins

The fields that I have been exploring at Fortescue Farm are very exposed to the elements. There is a rise to the North that provides some protection for the field nearest the farmhouse – known as First Marsh – but the landscape is open to the East, South and West so the wind can sweep across the fields at a fearsome pace. This particular quality of the site provides a ready supply of aeolian sound as the wind activates gateposts; fence wire; tall grasses; the small copse of trees near the dry river-bed; and any other objects that might vibrate in the wind. Following serious flooding, which had damaged the fencing in the fields new gates and gateposts are installed. This is the blog post from a  particularly windy visit:

On April 16th I visited the site with Emma Welton. As we walked away from the relative shelter of Fortescue Farm it became evident that strongly gusting wind was going to be a strong feature of the day. The wind cut across the site making the sound of the wind in my ears the most prevalent sound of day. This always seems amplified when wearing headphones as the wind is channelled through the gaps between the headband and the earpieces. There’s very little shelter on the site until you get to the copse of trees in rough marsh so this made recording very difficult even with a blimp. We heard all manner of aeolian phenomena during the day including the crackle of dry grasses; the tapping of tree branches as they are pushed around; the flutter of boundary tape; and the rush of white noise as the wind got amongst the grass in rough marsh. The most distinctive aeolian phenomena of the day was the sound made by the passage of the wind through small holes in the new gates that had been installed to replace those damaged in the flooding earlier in the year. We set up next to one of them and spent some time listening.


Later that day we worked with the violin in the centre of one of the fields and listened as the wind activated the strings.


Listening to the River Exe in flood



These two recordings made with hydrophones (Aquarian Audio) provide different perspectives on the River Exe in flood. The first is one of the first recordings that I made as part of somewhere a field in January 2013 whilst the second was made in May 2014. During many of my winter visits to the field in the first two years of the study the River Exe was either lapping at the top of its banks or was spreading out across the fields.

The first recording was made by hydrophones cast into the flow of the river. This is what I wrote in my blog:

This is a recording i made on my first visit to Fortescue Farm. The River Exe was in flood and had swept away parts of the river bank and there was driftwood scattered across the fields. Riverside fencing had been washed away by debris and it was hard to tell where the river ended and the fields began. I used two hydrophones to make this recording. One of them i cast as far out into the River as i could whilst the other was closer to the bank. The river was moving very quickly and in the recording its possible to hear the clatter of small stones as they are swept along past the hydrophone. 


The second recording – as noted above – was made in May 2014. I arrived in the field just as the River was breaking its banks and stretching out across the fields. As I left the River was lapping at the top of my boots:

…the River Exe was just beginning to break its banks. As I arrived the water was seeping into First Marsh. By the time I left several hours later their was a foot of water across the field flowing swiftly towards the River on the other side of the fields and short circuiting the passage of the Exe – making small islands across the landscape. As the River rose I placed a hydrophone in the soil and listened. As soon as the banks were breached the water sped down the slope and eventually created a channel across the site linking up with the Exe again as it headed North West towards Brampford Speke.

Sonic Advent Calendar 2016

The sonic advent calendar is making a return this year, and will be meditating on thresholds and transitions of varying sorts.

You can listen to the sounds as they appear day by day here.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 #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

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