Listening – Thinking – Walking

Happy New Year !!… I’m very excited about the fact that 2012 is Cage’s centenary year and so I expect there will be a lot of Cage related events… there is a website dedicated to Cage’s birthday here. I have just been reading about Cage and his inspiration for creating his famous ‘silent’ composition of 1952, and his assertion that all sound can be music. I thought I would share this quote about listening from Brandon LaBelle’s book “Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art” 2006, page 13 - referencing Gemma Corriada Fiumara’s book “The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening” 1990.

” For Fiumara, to recover the verb logos, over its noun, is to reinstate “listening” within the tradition of Western thought, which “starts out to say and not to listen,” underpinning her call with an ethics, for ” we are not sufficiently conversant with the attitude of openness,” which listening supports; rather, knowledge makes claims on territories of thought. “A philosophy of listening can be envisaged as an attempt to recover the neglected and perhaps deeper roots of what we call thinking, an activity which in some way gathers and synthesizes human endeavours” In the same way, a philosophy of listening for Cage is an attempt to recover neglected and perhaps deeper roots of what we call “music,” for listening may gather in the total situation of not only sound but its context, …”

Which leads me on to thinking about the ‘listening walks’  we made on the Echo location workshops.  If listening can be thought of as an attempt to recover the deeper roots of what we call thinking – then walking can also be seen in this light.

A quote reflecting this from Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust, A history of Walking” p5

“Walking, ideally, is a state of mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes of the same chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without wholly being lost in our thoughts…  The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.”

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Echo Location ‘Walkshop’, 12th November

The 4th walk in 4 days – out and about Bedford recording sounds… what fun. Today we had another enthusiastic group of people come together with a thirst for interesting sounds. We took ourselves down to the river where we noticed that the cygnets made ‘snorting’ sounds when you got up close to them… we roamed through the market and made our way to the auction house to get some recordings of the rhythmic sound-poems of the auctioneers. Everyone was up for trying to find unusual sounds, so we popped into a barbers to record hair clippers, into the post office for ‘cashier number 7′, into Lidl for tills and trolleys, we invested 60p to hear the pay & display meter give us a ticket, were relaxed at the sounds of windchimes at Froggy’s gifts and invited a waiter from ‘Chef Beijing’ to speak a bit of Mandarin for us… for which we are most grateful! Thanks everyone for a great day!… here are some pictures – … unfortunately donuts resting on pillars don’t make sounds, but hats off for checking…

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Out recording with North Herts College

Today we went out to make some recordings with students from North Herts College – based in Hitchen… I was really pleased to see thm because they had the added inconvenience of their minibus breaking down, so they came on the bus!… we went for quite a long and fruitful sound exploring walk, however, due to bus timetables we didn’t have time to edit and upload the sounds as a group. Everyone who took part has a copy of their sounds, so I’m looking forward to hearing the highlights appear on the soundmap over the next few weeks! Thanks for making such an effort to travel over to Bedford, I think we got some interesting sounds – including going up lots of flights of stairs into the gym opposite Debenhams on the Midland road, and recording a flying pig in Hawkins Bazaar… stranger things have happened…Thanks to everyone for taking part, and I look forward to listening to the NHC version of the Bedford soundmap.

 

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Out recording with Beds Garden Carers

A really enjoyable day out with Beds Garden Carers recording new sounds for the Echo Location Bedford soundmap. We decided to take a fairly short walk around – so we could spend time at various locations. Our first stop off point was a children’s playground, which provided a lot of interesting fodder for sound recordings – especially the squeaky gate. We then went to listen to the geese and ducks by the river, before heading back through the Harper centre, investing £1 to hear the childs toy bus ‘perform’ with plenty of beeping horns and bells! We then popped into the key cutting / shoe mending store and the man working behind the counter was happy to let us record him stapling a heel onto a boot and the sound of a key being cut. We were very pleased to be accommodated by such friendly shop keepers. After a break for lunch we got stuck into editing our recordings on Audacity and choose our favourite sounds to upload to the map. To listen to the soundscape from this walk – select BedsGardenCarers from the ‘Filter by User’ menu….Thanks very much to everyone who took part.

 

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Echo Location ‘Walkshop’, 9th November

Great day today with a really enthusiastic group of people who signed up for the Wednesday afternoon Echo Location ‘Walkshop’. Many more interesting and musical sounds uploaded to the map… it is expanding!… we went through town to start with and got all sorts of different sounds including the steam iron from the dry cleaners – then we divided up into smaller groups to explore the sonic delights of different parts of town. I was with a group down by the river and we used my hydrophone to listen to underwater sounds, which was really interesting… select hydrophone on the tag cloud and find out what it sounds like.

Remember – if you can’t make it along to an organised walk, you can take part at any point if you have a smart phone. Simply download the free app. ‘audioboo‘ onto your phone, set up an account – then make some recordings and tag your uploads ‘echoloc’ and they will be part of the Bedford Soundmap… go on – you know you want to!… the user name filtering is really starting to become interesting. If you select a particular user, it reveals their own personalised version of Bedford’s soundmap.

 

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First Listening Walks

This weekend, we had our first Echo Location listening and sound recording walks to add to the ever growing and rich soundmap of Bedford.

It was great fun, and I was impressed with how many interesting sounds were recorded. We did end up running out of time, so not all the sounds have been uploaded to the map yet – but will be soon…. please keep checking!!

We started the session by looking at a few interactive sound maps, and talked a bit about what we might expect to find by mapping the sounds of Bedford. Everyone then teamed up into pairs, and got kitted up with a zoom H1 digital recorder, with 2 sets of headphones attached. We  made a short walk as a group without recording, but simpley listening to the world through a microphone, for a heightened and amplified listening experience of the familiar world around us. We got to the river and stayed still for a while to listen together in one place, rather than walking through a soundscape. This gave a different perspective, as we could observer a ‘stationary’ soundscape in more detail, whist also listening for passing, intermittent and occasional sounds.  It is amazing how revealing just listening to the world through a microphone can be, and how muh more away of the sound environment we become. It is quite a magical and immersive experience. Following that, we split off into groups to make recordings.

Everyone went out in their pairs, ‘tethered’ together by the dual headphone arrangement,  accompanied by a BCA helper with a clipboard, map and logging sheet to make notes of where there recordings were made, in order to make accurate uploads onto the online map later on. We thought it would be interesting to tag the map by using red stickers for ‘human’ sounds, green stickers for ‘nature’ sounds and blue stickers for ‘machine / object’ sounds…. but of course, there is usually some kind of cross-over in this broad catergorisation, and therefore this exercise was simply to give us a rough idea of the kind of sounds people had recorded, and the distribution of the colours on the map was interesting to see.

here is a photo of one of the maps after a sound recording walk…

We then all had a go with the free sound editing software ‘Audacity’ to neaten up and edit our sounds a bit, ready to upload to the map. People then took their edited short sounds away to upload to the map from home as – unfortunately, due to the prolific nature of everyone involved –  we ran out of time…!

Thanks for everyone who took part – and remember – you can easily continue to take part and contribute sounds to the sound map if you have a smartphone and download the audioboo application. If you would like to take part in a future listening and sound recording walk, then do get in touch with Bedford Creative Arts, on 01234 818670.

 

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Echo Location Listening Walks

The first Echo Location listening walks take place this coming weekend – fully launching the quest to create a unique sound-map of Bedford.

here are the details – TAKE PART…. book your place by calling Bedford Creative Arts on 01234 818670

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World Listening Day!

This is an ideal opportunity to draw your attention to WORLD LISTENING DAY – which is tomorrow – July 18th.

The World Listening Project invites anyone to submit a LISTENING event for the week starting on July 18th 2011 …which amazingly coincides with the very first Echo Location listening walk in Bedford…. we have submitted the event…

 

 

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John Cage Quote

“Wherever we are, what we hear mostly is noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles an hour. Static between the stations. Rain. ….  we can compose and perform a quartet for explosive motor, wind, heartbeat and landslide.”

Quote taken from  ”The Future of Music: Credo”  Silence, Lectures and Writings by John Cage, published in 1971. This text was first delivered by Cage as a talk at a meeting of Seattle Arts Society organized by Bonnie Bird in 1937.

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Echo Location Sound Map Launches

Friday 10th June was the first test run of the Echo Location Sound Map. I was invited to the meeting of the board of directors of Bedford Creative Arts (BCA), to involve them in the process of how Echo location develops. (BCA commissioned Echo Location). I introduced the project by describing how the idea had developed, and went on to discuss how I plan to work in collaboration with BCA and local Bedford people during the creative process. I currently anticipate Echo Location to expand and develop to include a performance, an installation, and a number of soundwalks, plus developments to the functions of the online piece with digital artist Ed Holroyd… After the introduction, we prepared to go out into Bedford (in the rain!!) to record sounds from the local environment. I introduced everyone to a variety of sound recording devices…

We tried to follow a circular route, but from quite early on, it became apparent that people prefered to wander off and record / listen at their own pace, which was fine, and actually a better way to work. It was also very evident that differences between equipment really impacted on ones experience. Being able to monitor the sound on headphones, adjust levels and listen to the world through a microphone is extremely engaging as the sound feels ‘magnified’ and very immersive. If you have not listened to the world through a microphone before, it really can affect your perception of the sound environment. This means the Edirol R09 handheld recorder with built in mics, and the minidisc recorder with a mic attached were the most successful set-ups.

Some people recorded using audioboo directly on their mobile phones. The advantage of this method meant that the recordings were automatically geo-tagged. However, the sound cannot be monitored when recording, which is not as engaging as an activity. Surprisingly, the sound quality from the iphone was better than I had anticipated, and a number of audioboo ‘direct uploads’ are now on the map.

For future events, I would ideally like participants to use handheld recorders with built in mics and then work with the free software Audacity to select short sections of sounds to upload. This way, the experience will hopefully open up a new and refreshed way of listening to the world, and also allow us to go through the process of listening to the sounds back and decided what to upload. Following the event, I would encourage people to continue to interact with Echo Location by uploading sounds ‘on the fly’ using audioboo on their smartphone.

The board were very engaged with the task, and also debated many aspects of the project and this kind of approach to making work by involving other people in the process. It was an extremely stimulating afternoon, and has really helped me consider ways in which to develop the project and shape future participatory events. Mike (on the board) said it was like contributing to my sketch book as I shape and devise a new piece of work. I also took on board the aspects that were less successful (ie, feeling like the ‘group walk’ disbanded, and difficulties with some of the equipment).

We managed to populate the map with some interesting sounds! – most are uploaded by myself (@birdtwitchr), because we just had one computer, but they are all recorded by different people. Zoom into Bedford on the Sound Map and take a listen and play / compose with the soundscape that is emerging.

I’m really looking forward to the next Bedford, Echo Location event, which will be in July, to coincide with the Busking Festival. For this next event, I plan to start off by taking participants out for a ‘listening walk’ without any equipment, and see what difference it makes to purely focus on listening. Following that, I would ask people to choose an area from the map of Bedford, to go and make sound recordings from. I think this would be a more focussed task, and we would also then end up with more areas covered on the sound map of Bedford.

Some pictures from the day – thanks to everyone who took part.

 

 

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