Audiograft 2012 Sound Diaries

Extending the idea of the Audiograft 2011 diaries, a documentation workshop ran throughout Audiograft 2012, exploring issues around documentation and storytelling in sound. Throughout March 2012, this site became an online sketchpad for sharing the workshop’s explorations of sonic documentation.

Kim Laugs, Toby O’Connor, Christina Bringmann-Smith and Charlotte Heffernan attended the workshop, which was co-led by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini. Participants listened to the many sounds of Audiograft, explored how they might be documented, and created field-recordings of the work and the sites where the work was shown.

The outcome of the workshop was ultimately a radio show for framework:afield, which can be heard here, however the workshop also considered how the soundworlds of the work presented at Audiograft related to the soundworlds of the contexts and sites involved in the festival – for example the sounds of the campus where the installations were presented; the acoustics of the buildings where concerts were held; and the sonic qualities of the objects used in performances throughout the festival.

This workshop extended the theories and ideas explored during the Framework Radio Documentation & Production workshop led by Ford and Merlini in Tallinn, 2011. One output from this workshop was the aforementioned framework radio show; the other was a series of mini-shorts and miscellaneous audio recordings presented here, in keeping with the Sound Diaries mission, which is to explore recording life in sound.

Micro sound diaries

These shorts are comprised of recordings made on Wednesday 29th February, and feature the following sounds from the Audiograft programme:

Lee Riley’s guitar installation
plucking the strings of a gutted/broken piano in the Richard Hamilton Building
excerpt of amplified sewing machine from “Towards an Excellent Finish” by Stavroula Kounadea and Felicity Ford
excerpt of “Guitar Drag” by Christian Marclay, performed and adapted by Lee Riley (outside)
doors opening and closing in the Richard Hamilton Building
high heels exciting the acoustics of all the spaces around the Headington Hill Campus
excerpts from inside and outside the Drama Studio, where John Cage’s “Cartridge Music” was being performed by Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Lee Patterson, Robert Curgenven, Patrick Farmer, Ferran Fages, Daniel Jones and Stephen Cornford
the audience applauding inside and outside buildings around the Headington Hill Campus
excerpt of Joseph Cox’s installation, “Selection of prepared Records”
the audience leaving the Drama Studio
a heavy trolley being dragged around the Headington Hill Campus

These sounds were recorded by all the participants in the workshop, and then selected as a shortlist of sounds to represent this night of the festival programme. To demonstrate how the editing process can change the way we perceive sounds, Valeria and Felicity made individual remixes of the shortlisted sounds. The group then discussed how different sounds and editing ideas might be extended or changed in order to build a longer radio piece. Apart from being cut and pasted together, and some volume boosting or reduction in places, these sounds are as they were heard on Wednesday 29th February, 2012. It is hoped they convey not only the essence of the works included, but also something of the experience of encounter; of the ear being led through a space in which the sounds of the world collide with the sounds of art.

Valeria Merlini’s mix

Felicity Ford’s mix

Found sound; Lost recording

During Catherine Laws’s performance, featuring work by Juliana Hodkinson, I recorded a breathtaking combination of sounds, a melange of performance sounds, audience noises and sounds of the Building. Almost inaudible, gently touched, piano keys/tones, a crescendo from a squeaking toy pig – woven together with the sound of exited shuffling feet, singing creaking floorboards and the bell-clear laughter of a young female audience, captured in a moment and lost forever. I did not realize that the flash card had only very limited capacity, recorded generously and when full, thankfully accepted a spare card from a workshop member. I did not check before use and recorded happily on a full flash card. My recorder did not indicate the full card.

– Christina Bringmann-Smith

This text recording is by Christina Bringmann-Smith and is a text-based recording of sounds heard during the Lost & Found Concert at the Holywell Music Room during Audiograft 2012

Acoustic vs. Desk recordings

At Audiograft 2012, Felicity Ford and Stavroula Kounadea performed their new work, “Towards an Excellent Finish”. This piece included a sewing machine, a hand built Atari Punk Console, and a Dictaphone containing a software cassette for creating “classic knitting patterns” made for the Spectrum 48k computer. A light-sensor attached to the sewing machine, 2 contact microphones, and an electronic coil were also fed into the mixing desk where Ford mixed the sounds, while Kounadea employed scissors, pins, fabric, and her sewing machine to make the piece.

A phono-cable from the main output on the mixing desk to the line-in on a FOSTEX FR-2LE allowed Ford to capture the sounds of the electronic signals of which the piece was ultimately comprised, but Valeria Merlini made some recordings from the point of view of the audience, using a Zoom H4, with an Audio Technica BP4029 stereo shotgun microphone. This set-up allowed Merlini to capture some of the ambience in the room, and also to focus in on specific sounds, such as the sewing machine pedal being put to use, the audience surrounding the performance, and the texture of the cheap amplifier which the duo used to amplify their sonic materials.

Comparing the desk recording with the field-recordings Merlini made during the performance is interesting; the desk sounds have an electronic purity about them and give a very detailed representation in particular of the electronically-generated sounds, such as those produced by the Atari Punk Console. However the desk recording also totally lacks any sense of space, air, or acoustics. Contrastingly, the field-recordings created by Merlini are full of atmosphere, and reveal many of the sounds heard during the performance which the desk recording failed to pick up. Examples include audience sounds; the sound of the sewing-machine pedal being operated; and the resonant sounds of the mechanisms inside the sewing machine reverberating as Kounadea used it. Both are useful for the future development of the work; the desk-recording gives an idea of how well the levels were mixed during the piece, while the field-recording is useful for showing how the performance sounded in a real place.

Roughly one minute of each recording is included here, for comparison and interest. What do you make of the difference?

Felicity Ford’s electronic desk recording of “Towards an Excellent Finish” (excerpt)

Valeria Merlini’s field-recording of “Towards an Excellent Finish” (excerpt)

Synchronised Recordings

ricercare [ˌriːtʃəˈkɑːreɪ], ricercar [ˈriːtʃəˌkɑː]
n pl -cari [-ˈkɑːriː], -cars (in music of the 16th and 17th centuries)
1. (Music / Classical Music) an elaborate polyphonic composition making extensive use of contrapuntal imitation and usually very slow in tempo
2. (Music / Classical Music) an instructive composition to illustrate instrumental technique; étude.
[Italian, literally: to seek again]

ricerca pl. -che /riˈtʃerka, ke/
(studio) research (su into, on);
(risultato dello studio) study, survey, piece of research;
~ sul campo field study, fieldwork;

This entry features 2 synchronised recordings made by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini during Audiograft 2012.

The idea behind these 2 synchronised recordings was to try and capture the specific qualities of the performance of Paul Whitty’s Ricercare at Modern Art Oxford. This version of the piece involved 3 performers, who would each take a score and a corresponding recording of that score. Picking a moment from each page of their chosen work, performers would then search through their recording in order to hear that moment. Once the phrase, chord, note etc. was played out loud and clearly heard, the performer would pick another moment from the next page in the score, and then search for that in the recording. After methodically going through one score and recording in this way, performers picked up another score and record from the pile in order to continue this process.

The performance lasted for 6 hours.

Performing in Ricercare involved intense listening – especially as the noise from the other performers searching on their recordings often interfered with one’s own listening process. The sounds resulting from this listening process were a discontinuous medley, featuring snippets of classical music, mixed with moments of beautiful quietness as notes were sought, scores consulted, or records replaced in their stacks around the table. The sounds of the records themselves and the technology used to play them were also a prominent feature of this performance.

To try and demonstrate the active listening involved in performing the piece, Ford wore headworn binaural microphones as she leant over her record player and craned her neck towards her speaker, trying and determine where she was in the work. At the same time, Merlini attached a contact microphone to the arm of the record-player, to pick up some of the materiality and surface noise of the recordings themselves, which added a patina of dust and time to this methodical, research-based creation of complex, polyphonic music.

Here is the score for the piece;

ricercare or where the f*** are we?

Paul Whitty

Sept 2008 rev. Sep 2011

for tim parkinson & james saunders

to be played by any number of performers with found scores; recordings; turntables; cassette players; CD players; and any other appropriate sound reproduction devices.

1. select a pre-existing score or scores – they can be of the same work in which case each performer should select a different edition – or of different pieces.
2. search out as many alternative recorded interpretations of the work or works as possible on a diverse range of formats.
3. procure the means to play the recordings.

1. select a single event from each page of your score – use a systematic method of your own choice. in this context an event is considered to be a single action – it could be a chord or a single note – the event or action ends when the next event or action is performed.
2. search out the chosen events on the recordings of the work – in performance you should be seeking out the events for the first time. searches should not be pre-prepared
3. do not seek to minimise the sounds resulting from your search – for example do not use headphones or turn the volume down to a level lower than the level at which you will finally play the selected event.
4. when the event has been found – play it once. as far as possible seek to isolate the event from the other events surrounding it.
5. once the event has been played begin to search for the next event on the same or an alternative recording and format.

Where possible use internal amplification – where external amplification is required the volume should be at a domestic level.

The performance ends once each performer has found an event from each page of their score or when a pre-determined number of events or a pre-determined duration has elapsed.

Lost & Found

You may remember the lost sound which Christina wrote about?

Here are some recordings and notes from other participants on the workshop.

The Holywell is a very particular acoustic space with its wooden floors, curved walls and special creakiness; it has an acoustic affinity with Harp & Things, which is all about exploring the resonant sonic possibilities of the harp (also specially creaky). There is a section in my piece where I rub the sounding board of the harp to produce a shuddering, groaning sound. I mix this with a field-recording made on Amroth Beach in Wales. The result is meant to have a slightly maritime quality. To attempt to capture this quality, I recorded the concert with a hydrophone placed in a bottle of water on the floor. The soundwaves travel along the wooden floorboards and are picked up by the hydrophone underwater. I’ve made a small mix to give you an idea of what I mean; in this audio-clip, we begin with a standard acoustic recording of that point in the score which I made with a shotgun microphone. This is so that you can hear the creaks as they sounded in the space. I then fade that recording into some of the sounds captured by the hydrophone so that you can hear what the sound was like travelling along the floor, and heard from a submerged position.

– Felicity Ford

In both my recordings I was interested in capturing the acoustics of the Holywell Music Room.

In the first recording, Tim Parkinson & James Saunders were setting up their set before the start of the concert. Two big boxes full of objects were taken behind the table and some tools were being organised. The sound of the space reacts to their movements getting ready to perform.

In the second recording, The Albion Players were smoothly moving in Holywell and playing with the resonance of the space.

– Valeria Merlini

This recording was made by placing a pair of binaural microphones inside a glass jar, which has a particular effect on the acoustics. It was made by Charlotte Heffernan.

Mike Blow’s Solar Work

Mike Blow installed a series of devices around the campus at Oxford Brookes University. They are solar-powered oscillators which emit a sound and which hang from the trees inside golden gramaphone horns.

The campus at Oxford Brookes where Mike’s Solar Work was presented during Audiograft 2012 is a very vibrant soundscape, containing the sounds of students talking on their phones and vehicles moving about the campus. The sounds of the grey squirrels and birdlife that live there mix with the sounds of traffic from the main road by the gate.

To document the relationships between this soundscape and the new sounds introduced into the environment by Mike, everyone participating in the Audiograft 2012 Documentation Workshop walked around the grounds listening to the work, and then created a recording, capturing some aspect of their listening experience. Here is one account of that process, from Valeria Merlini;

This recording was made shortly after a listening walk in the area.
With different equipment we spread out from our starting point (under one of Mike Blow’s pieces, near the main entrance of the Richard Hamilton Building where SARU is based) exploring the sounds of the installation with our recording devices.

With the directional microphone in my hands I was mixing the synthetic sound of the installation with its surrounding environment. Oscillating slowly between this two situations, I tried to find a nice balance between the different sound sources.

– Valeria Merlini

Felicity Ford also recorded an interview with Mike Blow, exploring how conversations between people can be used to bring extra information to sound recordings.


Ricercare recorded with omnidirectional microphones

In these recordings I was interested in the relationship between the town and the concert, and in the point of view of the streets around Modern Art Oxford where Ricercare was being performed, and the pedestrians walking nearby.

St. Ebbes Street was crowded with people walking with shopping bags, and with tourists enjoying the city and the sun. It was a Saturday afternoon. I was moving in the space, following the sounds, recording, and trying to find a nice balance between the different sound sources. I decided to perform different walks, each approaching the yard at Modern Art Oxford and the performance of Ricercare from a slightly different angle.

These recordings feature two different fade-ins leading into the concert from the perspective of St. Ebbes Street, with Bonn’s Square behind me. I used omnidirectional microphones in order to catch the sound atmosphere of that area of Oxford.

– Valeria Merlini

Footsteps from the peripheries

Performance #1: Lee Riley’s 2nd Audiograft 2012 version of Guitar Drag

Kit: A pair of Naiant X-X omnidirectional microphones and a Zoom H4 recorder

Recordist notes: I was waiting for Lee Riley’s guitar sound to come into Pembroke Street on his route into the town centre. After moving around the street, I found a good place for recording his arrival at Modern Art Oxford, and waited there, trying to avoid the drone of a nearby air conditioning system. I declared my recording activities by holding the recorder in plain sight and keeping it in my hands. I had a small talk on the subject of footsteps’ sounds with a man standing outside a nearby pub, and continued to wait for Lee Riley (and the sounds of his performance) to arrive.

– Valeria Merlini

Performance #2: Cartridge Music, performed by Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Lee Patterson, Robert Curgenven, Patrick Farmer, Ferran Fages, Daniel Jones and Stephen Cornford

Kit: A pair of Naiant X-X omnidirectional microphones and a FOSTEX FR-2LE recorder

Recordist notes: I was waiting for the performance of John Cage’s Cartridge Music to come to an end, and listening to the interplay between the sound emanating from the Drama Studio (where the performance was taking place) and the environmental sounds around it. Low bass tones inside the performance mingled at times indistinguishably with the low drone of an aeroplane above, and a man pushing a heavy cart somewhere around the campus. I had the idea to spread my microphones out as wide as possible, trailing them over the railings outside the studio, so as to capture some fleeting impression of the crowd’s experience of the concert as they left the building, talking together. I heard applause, then the crowd began to exit, and then I listened to the footsteps.

– Felicity Ford

A few places at once…

On Saturday during Audiograft , Lee Riley was due to walk from the Richard Hamilton Building at Oxford Brookes to Modern Art Oxford in his second performance throughout the festival of Guitar Drag.

Meanwhile, Shirley Pegna had requested that someone from the recording group/documentation workshop record the sounds of Ghost Quartet using contact microphones.

The group divided up; Valeria remained at Modern Art Oxford to document Lee Riley’s approach; Charlotte and Lee travelled into Oxford with Lee to record the sounds of the journey; and Kim and Felicity went in search of Ghost Quartet in the Richard Hamilton Building, with contact microphones.

This is what was heard by different members of the recording group at different places on that Saturday afternoon…

Guitar Drag, Lee Riley – recorded with a pair of directional, shotgun microphones by Toby O’Connor

Guitar Drag, Lee Riley – recorded with binaural microphones by Charlotte Heffernan

Guitar Drag, Lee Riley – recorded with omnidirectional microphones by Valeria Merlini

I was waiting for the surprising sound to come, then recording the fade in of Riley’s performance within the sounds of the street at the back entrance of Modern art Oxford.

– Valeria Merlini

Ghost Quartet, Shirley Pegna & Wajid Yaseen

I attached a microphone to each of the 4 chairs involved in this installation, (see this entry for some context and background information) to hear the recorded sounds used in the installation travelling through the wood which amplifies them.

– Felicity Ford

Playing all the sounds in this entry at once is a bit like listening through all our headphones simultaneously, during the same hour…


Travelling from London to Oxford for the first day of the Documenting Sound workshop at Audiograft 2012 I was reading a small text about shock – Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire – in The Everyday Life Reader by Ben Highmore. I began listening to the density of sounds around me that affected my actions directly i.e. sounds which I had [?] to perceive in order to avoid collisions, or to connect with complex mechanisms and information systems. I tried to record every such instance between Kings Cross and Paddington using a voice recorder on my phone.

Two examples here of a bus conductor’s radio conversation and the bleeping of oyster cards at the tube entrance give an idea of the low quality of the content I captured which seems in some way appropriate.

The 50 or so clips have been put in sequence and the total 15 minutes of sound sped up / reduced to a 1 minute clip to give a bar-code like illustration of the journey. It would be interesting to experiment with other ways of composing these sound clips in order to think about the rhythm of perpetual shocks I experienced. I would also like to repeat the process and set more specific rules for recording different types of sonic encounter in crowded urban environments and specifically think about what spaces are available for silence, contemplation or indeed for conversation within [London’s] urban transport space – i.e. what pockets of time can be considered free from the impact of sensory signals and information that in some way demand a [conscious] response.

Shock/Rhythm by Toby O’Connor

This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

motorway / nature / maintenance

Arriving at the edge of Oxford I was struck by the presence of beautiful pockets of nature that lay adjacent to or intersected with the busy main road: quiet, empty allotments; spring enlivened birds; silent crocuses and a stretch of apparently tranquil [I couldn’t hear it from my vantage point on the road bridge] river on whose eastern bank stood a dozen council workers merging all the fences and walls into a continuous green surface – presumably for positive visual effect.

A generator truck that powered the spray tools being used to prepare the fence for painting was resonating deeply in residential cul de sac nearby.

allotments recorded by Toby O’Connor

birds over crocuses next to road recoded by Toby O’Connor

tranquil river recorded by Toby O’Connor

This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

field, silence

The opening of an exhibition in the Old Fire Station Oxford featuring New Works by Manfred Werder and Ben Owen with a curatorial intervention by Patrick Farmer, functioned as the private view / opening of the Audiograft festival.

“The three paper based works deal with the intrinsic reality of a situation and question the assumptions we make concerning our reception of space.. Each of these artists is also a musician and a composer, and find a point at which their refinement and understanding of silence and vacuity reaches a balance between material and immateriality.”

We arrived from a car-park beneath the old fire station into a gift shop foyer space where a busy discussion was taking place, separated from the street by a pair of automatic sliding doors. In the market space outside people’s conversations could be deciphered as they walked past, whereas inside, music blared loudly from speakers overhead. The sound of the opening overflowed into the exhibition space below continuously filling it like a bubbly din in an artists’ bathtub.

1009 gift shop entrance context clip

1041 public voice

I used an electromagnetic pickup to record someone’s camera taking a picture of the work, and to listen to the work itself by scanning the electric cable and plug that that powered one of the pieces – a speaker linked to a contact mic stuck to the back of a textured surface hung on the wall. In a similar way I then recorded the repeated operation of the sliding entrance doors as people came in and out of the building…

1014 camera

1012 installation electric lead a

1013 installation electric lead plug silence

1018 electric doors

In the gift shop I spoke to Shirley Pegna about the nature of the exhibition space and about her work at the festival using transducers to play sound through people’s bodies. The artist Patrick Farmer came down to be interviewed, the presence of his voice seeming to wax and wane in the reflective sea of [gentle] cacophonous discussion descending from above where he had been. Recording with two mono shotgun mics enabled me to concentrate on and emphasise this mixing of voices as I tried to focus on and understand what was being said particularly in relation to silence.

1019 INTV shirley – 2 entrances

1019 INTV shirley – 2 spaces

1020 INTV shirley – sound materials

1021 INTV shirley – conductivity density

1027 INTV artist – silence

1027 INTV artist – sound in space

It would be interesting to integrate the recording of the doors and other electric fields with the interview of the artist[s] and think about how the Audiograft festival is at once a singular cultural event in itself which is to some extent consumed at specified times and places, while simultaneously being a complex body of individual artists / voices who’s activity extends independently and infinitely beyond this on many levels – time, space, method, intention / meaning etc.

This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

OX-LDN return

I then recorded the light from the oncoming traffic flow refracting through the wet windscreen in front of me on my phone camera. While the light and sound of the traffic shared a recognisable movement/rhythm, their materiality/texture, as mediated by the windscreen felt very different. The light recordings were subject to the vibrations of the road and they also revealed the inaudible presence of the motorway lighting that we were moving through. Thinking about this invisible field I began listening to the electrical flux in my phone held in different positions at the same time as feeling the vibrations of the body of the bus on different surfaces using a contact mic in the other channel / ear. I would like to try combining the videos with the sound files to experiment with how the light information from the video could effect an edit of the sound and vice versa.









This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

OX-LDN return #2

On the Oxford Tube after the exhibition and having read Manfred Werder’s extracted notes Field [] the bus driver’s voice commanded me in its comforting bassy tone to sit back and enjoy the sound of his voice over the deeply idling engine.

1044 bass driver intro

1046 begin journey

1047 slow acceleration

In listening to the rise and fall of the bass sound coming from the engine through the floor I became aware of the contrasting high rattle of the internal fittings and furniture. I then realised there was more enveloping background present in the form of a large wide hollow body of sound that felt like it was related to the internal air pressure of the bus and which seemed to be mixed with the sound of the constant flow of air moving past the external skin of the bus – or the other way round depending on how you look at it.

1049 bus air fittings traffic

Maybe it was less appropriate to think of the bus as an object causing sound than to think of a bus-situation of complex materiality…

…while there is such a thing as the bus travelling along the motorway there are also interrelated and constantly fluxing fields around [and within?] both the bus and me… In listening to the random flow of quiet quick thin sounds of individual cars passing in the opposite direction 20m away, each making its own v light whipped wishing noise it was clear that the situation changed significantly with only small changes to the position of listening particularly in relation to the windscreen.

1050 traffic space

This last entry is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

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