Today I took over from Kathy Hinde to deliver my first Echo-location ‘walkshop’. As a studio artist at Bedford Creative Arts I learnt about Kathy’s project early on and have been helping out along the way. Before I met Kathy my exposure to the wide world of sound art had been limited. I came to the project inexperienced but curious – like many of those who have consequently participated on the project. Being a little green helps as you can ask what I feared might be ‘stupid’ questions. Thankfully Kathy was great at opening up the science, theory, and technology in a way that I found easy to understand.
I immediately found the whole idea of mapping the sounds of Bedford engaging and tantalising. I have lived in and around Bedford most of my life and as it normally goes I often find myself saying Bedford is weirder, more diverse, more charming, more underrated, than town A, B or C. But as an artist I often find it hard to separate the subjective from the objective. All of this often results in my occupation as the the AWOL Tourist Guide of Bedford when I stumble into other towns and countries. I reel of facts and conjectures avidly in an attempt to paint the town as the toughest, knarliest diamond in the rough that there ever was. Peppering normal conversations with exaggerated anecdotes of Wilko’s Sicilian checkout mafia, ‘unbelievable’ Midland Road visions, or our resident and untiring mobile street preacher.
As a result if anyone innocently compares Bedford to some-other-town or seem underwhelmed by its charms I can’t help feeling dashed and slightly embarrassed. Like many others I have adopted Bedford as ‘my town’. Like anything close, Bedford is ingrained, it irritates and I’m extremely fond of it. So a chance to map Bedford is like traversing into my own psycho-geography and history to pull out some pearls and ‘show-off’. This project gives you a platfrom (and a mic) allowing you to map your personal and often intangible experience of a place. What results is a fluid symphony of the noise, mess and everyday magic flowing from the flood of people, things, processes and preoccupations of Bedford. I think it sounds brilliant. But then I guess I would…
I had a great time on this workshop and meeting the students of PLACE. We roamed Bedford in an attempt to capture the fleeting moments of the weird and wonderful it often offers up. We managed to serve up; The Horror Gate, just off Horne Lane, the Feeding Frenzy of the winged visitors along the Ouse, the automated tones of the pop-up marketing campaign (for the Hands Free Bin temporarily resident in the Harpur Centre), Thomas and his ‘commercially marooned’ Tank Engine, as well as a scattering of Squawks, Rattles, Clicks and Drops.
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.
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.
I have just spent 2 days in Bedford preparing for the next round of public ‘walkshops’, (Nov 9th & 12th) and also gathering material for the installation at the Pad (Dec 10th). Whilst out and about with my sound recording kit, I struck up conversations with quite a few local Bedfordians, and again had some fascinating conversations about the town – (dangling a hydrophone over a bridge into a weir does seem to prompt the inquisitive passer-by to ask what I’m up to). I was slightly taken aback when a man called Brian Meares who came up to me to ask if I was interested in Ludwig Koch, an early pioneer of wildlife sound recording. I was surprised, because I don’t often get a chance to have a conversation about Ludwig Koch – he was believed to be the first person to record a bird – using an Edison Wax cylinder in 1889 when he was only 8 years old. Coincidentally I had recently listened to a wonderful documentary on Ludwig Koch on resonance FM – which was a repeat of episode 57 of “Voice on Record” currently available to listen here and is full of beautiful bird recordings. I also found a radio 4 documentary here…. and more info here.