3.15pm 25th April 2019
This transcription of sweeping was made at the beginning of the project and captures something of the interplay of sound and ‘thought-sound’ typical of my sweeping practice.
Underlying the internal monologue (in italics) and the more transitory sounds transcribed (in parentheses), is the sound of the bristles on laminate floor, the occasional knock of the broom against the skirting boards and the squeaking of its plastic handle. The low humming, whirring, clunking and squealing of the washing machine in the kitchen, is heard at first from the hallway then louder as I enter the dining room and kitchen. Its sound appears and disappears from the soundscape as it progresses through its washing cycle.
Sound of the sweeping
Not much dust
It’s where I hoovered
What’s that on the floor?
Umm, lots of cat hair.
(Broom knocks into microphone stand leaning against the wall under the stairs)
Oops. Don’t want to knock that over.
This floor hasn’t been swept for a while.
Just noticing how bent my back is.
Lots of cat hair. It’s very difficult to sweep.
Brush the door off.
Cat hair gets stuck to the bottom of the broom and drifts around in the air currents.
Just remembering the tea leaves I spilt from the caddy on my way out, as I sweep them up.
Is that a finger nail? Hmm.
I put the washing machine on, it’s always whirring.
(Broom knocks into the underside of the unit)
Umm, difficult to get underneath…some of the units.
Umm, there’s a hair pin. Should I pick it up? Should do really.
Oh…a spider? Nah.
(washing machine starts up again)
Washing machine again.
I’ll close the door to stop the draft coming through.
(loud clanking sound of door shutting and reverberating around the kitchen-come-dining room.)
Oh, gotta move this heavy chair.
(The broom handle bounces on the wall as it is leant against it. Loud, scrape of heavy chair being dragged along the oak-effect vinyl flooring)
Wow, loads of cat hair under there. Some stuck to the bottom of the chair leg.
Kids will be home from school soon.
Try and get this done before they get home, it’s just easier.
Gonna have to stop and take all of this cat hair off.
(brushing halts and is closely followed by sound of rustling, picking-off matted cat-hair from the bristles)
This floor’s done well. Karndean I think it’s called.
Expensive, but it’s done a good job.
Oh. Someone has left some shiny old paper under the unit.
It’s probably one of the kids.
I don’t think Sarah uses those.
Oh, a dandelion.
From Sarah’s lino cut.
What will I find under here?
Oop, I don’t know, but I can’t move it.
Oh, I think it’s the table cloth, cover.
Wow, there’s a lot of rubbish, a lot of dirt and dust today.
Oh, my back hurts.
Probably why the bottom of my socks are a mess.
I think Zen monks have special slippers they wear.
I wonder if they stop the dirt sticking to the bottom?
That’d be helpful.
Thinking about the project. (wondering how accurately I can capture my thoughts by speaking them)
There’s all sorts of hair, and dirt, underneath the radiator.
(sound of drilling noticeable in the distance)
I wonder if the speed at which I do this and the very methodical approach is something I’ve learnt from being at home, my mum doing that. Very methodical.
(stop to clear-off hair stuck to the brush)
Someone is doing some sawing or drilling outside.
Oh, forgot to pick up the cat food and water. Oh what a mess! Eat pretty messily these cats.
The thing with wearing these binaural microphones is that the cable gets in the way. I should have really tucked it in to my t-shirt… put it underneath.
I wonder if the recording level’s OK?
(washing machine starts up again)
There’s a lot of washing in there.
(Sound of drilling in the distance, noticeable when the washing machine stops)
That drilling again. I wonder what’s going on?
Swishing again. Quite a nice sound. Gentle. It has a softness about it.
(Broom knocks against the skirting under the kitchen units)
Is there a rubber part on the end of this broom? Sounds like it.
Haven’t done this for a long time.
It’s uh, really, really dirty. I suppose it was the Easter holidays.
I’ll have to clean that skirting or whatever they call it, under the units.
It’s always messy… where we prepare the food.
Better not tread in the pile I’ve just swept up.
Bran Flakes. Gor’, there’s all sorts in here.
What time is it. Half-past three. Kids’ll be home in ten minutes.
Must remember Phoebe’s appointment for parents evening.
Right, now can I put this in the compost bin? Yeah, I think it’s…. it’s all…
Cat hair and dust and food – it’s all organic.
(Sweeping pile of dirt into the dustpan. Rustle of a piece of plastic wrapper pulled from the dirt)
I’ll take that plastic bit out.
(Sound of emptying the dustpan into the compost bin)
The compost bin lid’s broken.
Phew, I’m done. Bit of a pain in my back after doing that.
Wash my hands I think.
(Sound of running water, depressing the hand-soap pump, squelching of lathering soap, rinsing hands under tap. It stops, exposing the whirr of the washing machine again)
Right! Put the chairs back. Think we’re done.
Extract from Sweep (below) featured in Recording Life In Sound (SARU 2019).
Richard Bentley is a musician and sound artist whose work explores the relationship between listening; quiet and stillness; field recording; listening exercises; prose composition and other contemplative arts practices. He is a practice-based researcher with the Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University. His current work includes a CoCreation community engagement secondment with European Alternatives in Paris and a four-month long project ‘Small Silence’ which explores the value of quiet spaces to local people in Reading, UK. Richard releases music on the Buried Treasure record label and has developed bespoke audio products for clients such as The Woodland Trust, Crisis, Intelligent Health, The Roald Dahl Museum, Nature Nurture and a host of community arts organisations. Richard is also an Associate Artist with the Jelly arts organisation based in Reading and Associate Lecturer in audio production at both Oxford Brookes and the University of West London.