Making Sound Diaries as Sonic Fieldwork: 25th October, Centre for Musical Research, Bath Spa University

At 1pm on 25th October at The Centre for Musical Research at Bath Spa University, Felicity Ford will give a presentation entitled Making Sound Diaries as Sonic Fieldwork. The CMR’s Research Forum series takes place on Thursdays from 1-2pm in Room G18, next to the Michael Tippett Centre.

Focussing on the UK Soundmap project, the creation of a “Sonic Time Capsule” for the sound diaries website, and the composition of a soundtrack for a 1930s silent film for the Wellcome Library and The British Film Institute, (Bathing & Dressing, Parts 1 & 2) this presentation will explore:

  • The production of Sound Diaries as an aid to composition
  • Sounds as descriptors of history/the sonic texture of different eras in time
  • Working with institutions/sound as information, text, data and record
  • Emergent listening cultures/the iPod or mp3 player as a reference library
  • The street and the house as the sound artists’ studio/field-recording as drawing or note-taking
  • Participating in other people’s work/getting people to participate in your work

A key focus will be how disparate creative activities – consultation, listening, making field-recordings, running websites and blogs, archiving files and participating in other people’s projects – can inspire new compositional approaches and new contexts for the sound artist to operate and present work within.

Bibliography / URLs

Schafer, R. M. (1994). Our Sonic Environment and The Soundscape, the Tuning of the world, Vermont: Destiny Books, (originally published 1977)
Kim-Cohen, S. (2009). In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-cochlear Sonic Art, New York: Continuum Press
Bijsterveld, K. and van Dijck, K. (eds), (2009) Sound Souvenirs: Audio Technologies, Memory and Cultural Practice, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press
Bandt, R., Duffy, M. and MacKinnon, D., (eds), (2009) Hearing Places: Sound, Place, Time, Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press

Muhu Pink (Kiperoosa) and Berkshire Blue (Woad)

Muhu is an island off the Western coast of Estonia. The women who inhabit this region are renowned for their production of accomplished, elaborate, multi-coloured textiles. A vibrant shade of pink is prevalent in many examples of handiwork from Muhu, as can be seen in these socks, which are held in the collection of the Estonian National Museum.

Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island details the distinctive textiles of Muhu Island and was written by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink and Mai Meriste, and published by Saara Publishers Ltd.

Kata is an Estonian knitter with very quick fingers and a talent for colour. She has created a recipe for Muhu Pink, and kindly allowed Felicity Ford to record the sounds of colouring yarn in this distinctive shade. Kata’s family live in the same district as Saara Publishing Ltd., so after dyeing the yarn, Kata took Felicity to meet Anu Pink. At Saara, the intricacies of the Muhu Island book were discussed, as was the accuracy of Kata’s version of Muhu Pink, which is known in Estonian as Kiperoosa.

You can hear below the sounds of Kiperoosa yarns being dyed, and you can see Anu Pink comparing a photograph on her computer with Kata’s colour. The recording details Kata’s thoughts on Muhu Pink; the rinsing and washing out of the dyepot in Kata’s shower-room; the weighing out of the dye chemicals; the addition of yarn to the dyebath; and the addition of vinegar to the dye-bath to fix the acid dyes.

Finally, here is a close-up of some gloves which – in a style characteristic of Muhu’s talented needlewomen – combine cross-stitch, crochet, embroidery and coloured knitting in a single garment. They belong in Anu Pink’s collection of Muhu textiles and were in all likelihood made to demonstrate the skills of the maker (and her suitability for marriage) than to be comfortable or practical garments!

In exchange for this Estonian textile sound, some sounds from the UK of yarn being dyed with Woad are additionally presented below. To create this recording, Woad was grown in Felicity Ford’s garden in Reading, Berkshire, and was used to dye some plain white yarn a range of different blue shades. The resulting blue yarns were knitted up with other yarns dyed with plants from Felicity’s garden, in order to create a kind of knitted representation of the plants (both wild and cultivated) growing in her particular region of the world.

The recording details the picking and washing of Woad leaves; the squeezing out and rinsing of those leaves into a dye bath; the addition of bicarbonate of soda to the dyebath (for alkalinity); the aeration of the dye-bath in order to introduce oxygen; and the gentle simmering of yarns in the dye-bath. Above the sound-recording you can see the yarn dyed in the Woad bath and the scarf that was knitted with it.

The scarf was designed to be both serviceable and useful, acting as a reference for future plant-dyeing projects, and as a warm scarf. There is no distinctive tradition of knitting lace scarves in Berkshire, but the plants used to make the colours in the scarf relate to the landscape in a very literal manner, being directly of and from it.

OX-LDN return – other fields

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.


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

20.26 …somewhere in the middle

On a recent visit to Berlin to perform it pays my way and it corrodes my soul with Stephen Cornford at LEAP, I made these recordings. Whenever I could I stopped and recorded my situation from the raucous queue outside a nightclub in Oxford to the escalators at Stansted and a Mexican dinner in Berlin. The recordings were made using an Edirol R-09HR.

Extra context here.

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20.26 …somewhere in the middle