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.
The next Bedford Listening Walks with Kathy Hinde and Bedford Artist, Aaron Head, are now available for bookings. Record the sounds you hear, some familiar, some unusual, on our simple to use digital mini-recorders. No experience is necessary. Your sounds will be uploaded to the Echo Location soundmap and also form part of other Echo Location artworks.
Wednesday November 9th 1pm - 4pm
Saturday November 12th 1pm- 4pm
Meeting Venue: Bedford Creative Arts
Please dress according to the weather, wearing comfortable footwear.
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.
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
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.
The first event will take place with Friday in Bedford with the board members of Bedford Creative Arts. This will be a test drive of an Echo Location walk, and we will be exploring Bedford with various types of sound recording equipment and then uploading our recordings them to the map. There will be a series of walks in Bedford over the summer, including one at the busking festival on the weekend of July 24th, and one that focusses on the parklands and watery areas. Both should reveal interesting, and possibly contrasting soundscape.
By creating these sound maps, we are interested in mapping the changes in our sonic environment over time, and to enliven people’s imagination by listening more closely to the world around us. John Cage said his favourite composition was the one that surrounds us all this time, all we have to do is open our ears and listen