2. ii) What observations were made during preparing and working on recorded material?

April 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

As I began working with my sound material I became interested in how audition would allow me to revisit a previous space and moment in time I had experienced within my minds eye. Often the sound would trigger quite clear and detailed images, akin to the experience of recalling a vivid dream upon awakening. One slight problem is that I am now finding it somewhat difficult to separate my minds eye from that space and position myself as a listener who hasn’t experienced those spaces. That’s why the group critique was so useful the other day!

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I watched a Horizons documentary on memory the other day. I was interested to find out that we use exactly the same part of our brain when remembering as we do imagining. Whilst making evolutionary sense (i.e. better equipped for survival through learning), what fascinated me were the implications. If memory and imagination is initiated by the same part of the brain, does this mean we actively construct memories rather than simply recalling things ‘as they were’? Apparently so – if I recall correctly. When we experience something the nerves in our brains connect, effectively recording experience, but of course these connections die out with time, if not re-stimulated or revisited. Our memory is essentially fragmented; we remember the key things that happened, and piece together the rest. Old details disappear, and perhaps new ones are created.

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I want to look in to how sound exactly relates to memory, and in turn how these relate to space and our identity. Sound can make us revisit certain points in times in our lives, certain places, acting as a catalyst to relive those moments. Past experiences and feelings can leap forth from the depths of our mind and be experienced once more, sometimes regardless of whether we want to remember them or not. I’m fascinated by how spaces we’ve experienced in our conscious lives translate within our subconscious, in our dreams, our imagination. Dreamt of spaces carry with them a rich, individual symbolism. Within my dreams I experience familiar spaces, slightly mutated, but still recognizable. Often these are places I’ve lived and worked in, imbued with identity through my experience of them. Other times dreamt of spaces appear to be constructed from fragments of places experienced; vaguely familiar territory but entirely free-form, a stream of consciousness that seamlessly weaves together and ‘works’ for us in the most imaginative way, despite irrationality and randomness.

Researching and learning about the above (from a theoretical/scientific point of view) in as much detail as my mind desires, is perhaps beyond the scope of this project. So, I will gather what I can and rely on my own observations as I remember and imagine.

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As I’ve typed these reflections, I’ve been listening to a random selection of my recordings. It’s interesting that whilst certain sounds will trigger particular spaces quite clearly, most of the voices of people I’ve recorded stimulate grey, nondescript faces. They appear ghost-like, a trace that’s fading from my memory, whilst the space remains, or rather, whilst I can still piece it together…. To my disappointment I’m yet to dream of any spaces experienced during my journeys. I wish my subconscious would be a bit more helpful with my research!

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How should one treat sound when composing?

April 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm (Research, Lectures & Contextualisation)

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2. i) What observations were made about the soundscape during my soundwalks?

April 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

I started to note recurring sounds within the soundscape:

Planes and helicopters,
Motorbikes, buses and cars,
Signals; traffic lights, police sirens and vans reversing,
Construction work,
Constant drones from various generators and fans
Chime of church bells,
Along the Thames Path;
Waves on the shore, water gushing through locks,
Creaking boats,
Various avian calls;
Seagulls, pigeons, ducks and geese,
Runners and cyclists,
In parks;
Parents and children playing,
Football matches,
Low hum of the City in the background….

The different dynamics of the journeys, in terms of decibel levels, differed dramatically at times. At certain points along the Thames path, particularly on the Albert Bridge North (ABN) journey, it was incredibly quiet and a solitary experience too. Coming off Great West Road and following the path to Barnes Bridge, I think I only encountered one person.

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It was only the sound of airplanes that were apparent in the foreground, the distant City revealing itself occasionally, where there was more open space (e.g. park – Riverside Recreation Ground). In fact, planes were quite a dominant feature of the soundscape. That said, their presence is easier to notice in quieter spaces, whilst in louder environments they may be masked by other sounds, and so glide gently in and out of our periphery without us necessarily noticing.

The majority of main roads I encountered were busy, since I usually undertook my journeys between 12-8pm. Embarking on my ABN journey, I followed the main road West and came across Cremorne Gardens, a little park along the Thames Path. I stood on the peer, perhaps only 100m or so away from the main road, and only slightly sheltered by short building. The difference in perceived level of traffic was surprising, and I could clearly hear the sounds of seagulls in the water below, as well as the flutter of pigeons lined up on the railings. Even the delicate tinkling of shells and stones on the shore as the waves drew back and forth could be heard.

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The frequency of police sirens on some journeys was far greater than others. On my Vauxhall Bridge South (VBS) journey – through Camberwell, Peckham, Nunhead, and finally New Cross – I recorded a great deal. Police sirens are incredibly loud and a very distinct and dominant feature of London. I actually think they’re too loud and don’t seem particularly directional (i.e. you can’t always tell which direction they’re coming from until they get close).

I recorded a fair amount of footsteps; sometimes my own, sometimes other peoples. Sometimes I would follow a person’s footsteps, letting that sound lead me to the next. (I hope I didn’t freak anybody out… though I don’t think they actually noticed!) Footsteps are interesting when they accumulate, like in enclosed places of transit (underpasses, stations), where many feet meet to create a denser rhythmic texture within the space.

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A single pair of feet crunching and squelching through a wet pebble shore has a very different feel. A single pair of feet in a relatively quiet environment is a good way of hearing the acoustics of a space and how it changes when those feet make their way through different spaces; a narrow alleyway, a tunnel leading to the tube, a stairwell leading back over ground….

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1. What was the experience of soundwalking through London like?

April 27, 2009 at 9:58 am (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

After embarking on several journeys, I found it much easier to slip into a focused state of listening. Ears ‘open’, I found that my sensitivity towards my surroundings was amplified. This could also be attributed to the fact that I had no other objective on the journeys than to simply experience the environments I passed through and absorb them.

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The journeys themselves were interesting for me, in that I travelled through locations I had not yet set foot in. Just as my experience of physical space was a process of discovery, my aural experience was too. I would follow distant sounds, trying to uncover their whereabouts by navigating spaces with my ears. On occasions I’d decide to investigate spaces that might have interesting acoustics. Other times I would be drawn simply by the architecture of the space, or even just the feeling it seemed to emanate. Sometimes these decisions would yield interesting results, other times the interest would reveal itself indirectly; each decision made would effect the location and point in time I would find myself in next, so every decision, in a sense, was an important one.

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The chance occurrences of seemingly separate sounds during my journeys were stimulating. During my trails along the Thames Path, I remember getting this overwhelming sense of simply being; the things that were happening at that particular moment in time, at that specific location, as experienced by me, appeared so clearly before me. There was nothing within my perception that made me aware of anything other than the very moment I was experiencing.

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Every moment in time felt like it was being solidified by the sound I was listening to, it felt like it was grounding my experience. Time seemed to dissolve; memory & imagination, slowly drifting into the background of the present, lived experience. Part of me had become lost within that fleeting moment of clarity, but another was found; constructions of Self gave way to a more lucid being, a being ready to absorb experience of the Now. It felt almost like slipping from a passive dream-state into a lucid one; the veil concealing consciousness is lifted, the present revealed in all it’s vivid detail.

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This reminds me of something Hildegard Westerkamp said about soundwalking during her lecture at Goldsmiths. When on a soundwalk, after a while, one can begin to feel that the environment and oneself are not separate, but rather the environment is an extension of oneself. I think she was hinting at the kind of interconnectedness one can experience when immersed within a sound environment and ones sense are open. This perhaps is another way of describing my soundwalking experience; the feeling of losing ones self and being absorbed in an environment, an experience.

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Today, at the Southbank, I tried listening to the sounds that surrounded me intensely, closing my eyes. If one stays absolutely still and simply listens for a while, I believe one can start to feel absorbed within the sonic environment that surrounds them. This in turn reveals an awakened state of perception whereby experience of the environment becomes richer, more detailed; visual perception and aural perception retain a balance once more and experience feels more whole.

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Questions

April 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

To give myself a bit more direction when working on my compositions, I’ve been trying to define what I’ve learned from undertaking my journeys and what exactly it is I want to say about the Soundscape & its relation to urban space. I have decided to stop working on my pieces for the time being, instead asking myself a series of written questions to answer and reflect upon. The four initial questions I’ve come up with are:

1) What was the experience of soundwalking through London like?

2) i. What observations were made about the soundscape during my journeys?

2) ii. What observations were made during preparing and working on recorded material?

3) How do the above observations feed in to how the soundscape may effect our perception; both of urban space and in a wider sense of processing experience.

4) In what ways can these ideas inform my compositional process and aesthetic descisions?

Hopefully answering these will give me a better idea of where to take things when composing, or at the least, they’ll give me a more solid foundation from which to build upon. I have, at times, felt somewhat lost during composing. I kept asking myself ‘What does this sound reveal about the soundscape?’, but I guess before asking myself that it makes sense to go back a step and ask ‘What have I learnt about the soundscape so far?’

 

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Terminology; Sonic Derive or Soundwalk ?

April 25, 2009 at 6:00 pm (Main Derives)

“A soundwalk is any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are. We may be at home, we may be walking across a downtown street, through a park, along the beach; we may be sitting in a doctor’s office, in a hotel lobby, in a bank; we may be shopping in a supermarket, a department store, or a Chinese grocery store; we may be standing at the airport, the train station, the bus-stop. Wherever we go we will give our ears priority. They have been neglected by us for a long time and, as a result, we have done little to develop an acoustic environment of good quality.”

Soundwalking

by Hildegard Westerkamp

originally published in Sound Heritage, Volume III Number 4
Victoria B.C., 1974, revised 2001

http://cec.concordia.ca/econtact/Soundwalk/Soundwalking.htm

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Group Crit

April 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

Us PT year 2’ers had our group crit this week.

It was great to get an update on everyone’s project, I think pretty much all of us are in a good position i.e. on track!

I found the session extremely useful. I borrowed my course mates ears (& minds-eyes!), playing them three of my compositions in progress.

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Before doing so, I explained that from my experience, soundscape composition is essentially a visual form music; it relies on the listener focusing their ears and engaging their imagination to picture the aural scene taking place. I asked my coursemates to be open/receptive to the spaces they perceived, how these spaces changed, and what they felt like…

Vauxhall Bridge ( I played about 2 mins):

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Rain . Wind – Natural scene pictured
Wind = Movement of the cars across bridge perhaps (?)
Rain = Trickling water from large circular drain

The UFO Siren . Imminant danger . Invasion

Apocalyptic scene; cold, desolate

No use of beats (rhythm) – in traditional sense – Using beats (e.g. Window Music) may capture the rhythm and repeatition within the activities in the City.

Rhythm is apparent within some audio used, it’s subtly repeated – the paving stone on Vauxhall Bridge perhaps helped identify this.

Transition from one space to another – second space ‘felt like inside a tunnel’. Muted sound of cars on the bridge ‘appeared above’ and water was dripping.

5 Sketches (I played the first 3):


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Structure built / composed seems more chaotic than the actual ‘real’ representation of the City.

Sounds like electronica, not the soundscape

Albert Bridge North:

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Bike – seemed aliened, obscure. When bird sound appeared, it made it seem like a normal day –  e.g. an alien purchasing milk from the shops!

Some sound too easy to identify – lost the listener’s interest.

More temporal, less spatial than Vauxhall Bridge composition.

The changes were much more abrupt than Vauxhall Bridge composition – seen as sudden ‘cuts’. Listener was in one space, then suddenly placed within another.

A bridge is an open structure, yet narrow, the direction is defined for us. Our experience of it is more linear, more whole perhaps – so the seemlessness of the Vauxhall bridge composition makes sense. The cuts in ABN could potential represents how we experience cities and the nature of urban space better – it’s fractured, discontinuous nature.

Voices passing by are unknown, anonymous – our relationship with people in the city.

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The feedback was excellent, everyone seemed to engage with the work and get something from it – which made me feel more positive about the direction I’ve decide to take things. I will reflect more upon what people said after I finished my other writing.

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Sound Drawings

April 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm (Research, Lectures & Contextualisation, Visualisations)

South Bank – Studies

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Soundscape performances @ Goldsmiths

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VBS – Ideas for composition

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