News

Q&A: James Green to Beth Shearsby

With your recordings for the Sound Diaries project, were there any that evoked a sense of place to you? Either through their representation of the moment in which you recorded them or from your own perspective, bringing back memories, reminding you of other sounds, having a sonic identity…

I find the recording taken on the bus held the most sense of place personally to me out of all of the others, despite it I guess actually being a part of a transition between two places. Perhaps as it is such a part of my routine – the same bus, the same route, 2hrs a day, many days a week, with little else to focus on – all those sounds become embedded and so familiar; the rattling, the wind + you know the spots on the route when the road gets more bumpy, etc… Adding the electromagnetic element to the recording gave it yet another layer of strange familiarity, as the whining of the wheels matched with the sound of the wheels physically on the road, varying in speed/pitch at the usual spots. It all seemed to fit together, holding ‘place’ and almost a strange comfort. 

In your work you contrast the sounds of nature/wildlife and the sounds of mechanical/electronic technology, do you think these sound worlds live in conflict or a harmonious relationship?

They are definitely conflicting, at least to my interpretation of the two. Putting the two together has yet to bring a sense of harmony, very much the opposite, haha. However, they are so alike! With each sharing many characteristics + similarities. A fine example of this is with insects with their constant buzzing/hums; rumbles of thunder, rumbles on tarmac/engines; chirps and cheeps of birds, not too far from sporadic blips of circuit boards; gushing rapids, radio static. It’s all communication, transference of energy, transference of data… But still, they live well on their own, but the coming of the two together (at least to me) usually spells chaos. 

Are there any sounds that you’ve missed during the last few months as our lives have moved more indoors or any sounds you’ve sought out as the lockdown has eased?

I’ve missed the sound of friends’ actual voices in the space, unfiltered or distorted by dodgy Zoom connections + tiny speakers…

Now that lockdown has eased, I find myself seeking out the sound – or rather silence – of lockdown again, haha. The absence of cars, etc… completely changed the soundscape as I’m sure we all have witnessed, making way for/amplifying the natural environment. But now that it’s returned, seemingly even louder than before. I guess as we readjust to living the ‘new normal’, our ears have to also.

[Accompanying: A field recording taken mid-lockdown whilst out on a walk… Despite this, of course a dreaded jet still manages to interrupt the recording – at the time being a nuisance. On reflection, this is a nice little example of the two worlds conflicting each other, yet coinciding. As I walked further along the path from the spot, a transformer loomed overhead. A funny oddity against the green of the countryside. I didn’t have the electromagnetic pickup to hand, but it instantly brought with it imagined sounds that are not too dissimilar to the various insects I’d been recording shortly before… It’s probably humming/singing/screaming its metal electric heart out.] 

Q&A: Atilio Doreste to James Green

How do you think that the soundscapes, recorded as part of your Sound Diaries project, have changed during the intense weeks of the pandemic compared to the previous ones? Are you able to go back listen ‘in person’ these days?

Yes, I have been listening to the original ones a bit recently and they differ quite a lot! This is because I honestly haven’t taken many new recordings since the lockdown began. Instead for me, it has been a process of listening, reflecting on them and trying to figure out some ways to reimagine them instead of going out and making new recordings.

 Another way they have differentiated is their sudden significance in the new context we have been put under. With the project, and my approach as a whole, I have concentrated on spaces and areas that hold meaning due to their social use or the way people shape that area, so listening back to crowds, buskers, religious singing and nightclubs they almost seem shocking and absurd that these many people were ever allowed to occupy the same space. Overall though I’ve enjoyed using sound as the material to create something new rather than seeing it as an elusive substance I’m always trying to capture. 

If there are layers of attention and definition (or non-definition) in your sound experiences facing the landscape, how would you establish the relationships between them in terms of overlap, transparency, or murmur?  Do you consider the possibility of some leading role in a specific sound source?  If so, what character would it have in relation to its possible appearance of figure and background?

For me, what tends to take my interest are areas of non-definition, many particulate elements coming together to form a larger image of what that landscape represents. However, that’s not to say that sometimes sounds take the foreground. I think this is more to do with our conditioning towards those sounds rather than the actual sonic characteristics. Things like cars, alarms, announcements and unpredictable sonic agents (eg crashes and lary people) often make it into the recordings I’ve made. Due to these usually being warnings in our everyday lives they evoke a reaction and therefore bring themselves to the foreground whilst listening back.  

I really like your idea of transparency and overlap, when reimagining some of the soundscapes from the project I’ve been layering unedited recordings from different areas of Aberdeen which I think ties in with these ideas. The city in these experiments has been overlapping and merging with places too disparate to have ever come into direct contact before but still echo or contain murmurs of the region as a whole. 

What do you consider is the estimate and necessary time for a track as a piece for the public? Is very different the length of your listening and the final selection?

It has been dependent on what I’ve been making the track for but generally, I listen back and edit at the same time. By edit, I only really mean finding the length of recording I like or removing the low-end wind noise which always makes it in!  Most of the longer, hour-long tracks I have composed use 2 – 5 minute chunks of audio that are then brought together in a kind of generative system I’ve been working on. The process of listening here is also an on the job case, listening and running it through this system a couple of times and hearing which I like better. These longer tracks are more meant for installations and therefore the listener may only hear a couple of minutes but can drop in and out at any point and still get a feel for the place that they are listening to.  

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.

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #28 : Hithercroft Sports Park, Wallingford

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Hithercroft Sports Park, Wallingford