Contact microphones on a hollow metal pipe at the Story Bridge in Brisbane. A brief recording moments before the police arrived.
What is it about wandering around with headphones and microphones that raises suspicion from passersby? Walking with a camera in hand it is easy to dissolve into the surrounding crowd, but the sight of a microphone and attentive listening seems to amplify the field recordist’s presence no matter how discreet we try to be.
And so it was yesterday afternoon at the Story Bridge in Brisbane …
My recording objective was to attach contact microphones to the bridge’s support beams and listen to it creak and groan under the movement of the city traffic.
The sound of the traffic was so loud that it was impossible to hear what I was recording. A police car drove past flashing its lights. I tried a second recording, this time placing the microphones on a long pipe that ran along the length of the bridge, this being the recording in this post.
While packing-up my recording equipment I noticed two police officers walking towards me. Call it a guilty conscience but I instantly knew they were coming to “have a chat”. And so they did. After introducing themselves they asked what I was doing, having been monitored by cameras on the bridge.
I was asked to empty out my bag, show them my microphones and recorder and explain why I felt the need to record the bridge. And there, on a sunny winter’s afternoon in Brisbane, I had an impromptu discussion with the city police about field recording and “sound art”.
Questions were asked:
Did I appreciate how suspicious my recording looked? Yes, to an untrained and paranoid eye the cables probably looked as though I was setting-up explosives!
Did I make any money from my recordings? Yes and no.
Why had I driven 2 1/2 hours to come to Brisbane? To record the bridge.
What else would I be doing while in Brisbane? Not much, I just wanted to record the bridge.
Pause. Dubious look.
After my I.D was checked and recorded I then demonstrated how the contact microphones worked. I now like to think that the Brisbane City Police will call me any time they need to add sound effects to any of their training videos.
The police were quite polite throughout the interview, and I had a good laugh about it afterwards, but I wonder if any other field recordists have experienced similar interactions with the local constabulary?
As for the sounds I was seeking, they will have to wait for another day …