Filters, oscillators, each eliciting the hidden potential within one sustained note. Many an hour has been spent listening to the variations within synthesised tones and field recordings alike. Sitting in the darkness with headphones on it is easy to get lost between layers of sound. A gentle and gradual process of exploration where time is lost, the mind moving beyond the structure of the clock, instead we are transported by sound itself.
Ludwig Koch. Image supplied by the British Library.
In 2014 Cheryl Tipp from the British Library invited me to create a sound piece that would pay homage to the German wildlife recordist Ludwig Koch. Tipp’s project outline provided a brief biography of Koch:
Ludwig Koch (1881-1974) is one of the greatest figures in the history of wildlife sound recording. He made his first recording in 1889 at the tender age of 8 and went on to pioneertechniques for recording wild animals in the field. He championed projects such as the sound book, which combined text with audio recordings and published a range of titles from soundscapes to identification guides, first in his native Germany and then in Great Britain. His work at the BBCallowed him to bring the sounds of nature to a whole new audience through the medium of radio and he soon became a household name. In 1960 Ludwig Koch was recognised for his services to broadcasting and natural history and awarded a MBE by Queen Elizabeth II.
Cheryl Tipp and David Velez invited artists working with sound to create pieces based on a specific theme. Each theme was to be informed by material held in the archives of the British Museum. I was given the theme of “Night night”. Two photos of Koch recording at night were provided to me.
The photos suggested a sense of wonder, a new age of recording and listening to the world had begun. Looking at the men in hats and coats I also felt a slight sense of menace, perhaps this merely reflected my consumption of 21st century popular culture rather than what is really present in the photos.
The sound piece uses my own recordings taken at night in the surrounding forests. It also mixes a few of Koch’s recordings, those being a curlew, wolves, and incidental crackles and pops. Unfortunately the project never got off the ground. So here, presented in two parts is my own contribution, Night Night.
Light reflecting on a wall in Adelaide
Posts on soundslikenoise will be a little sporadic while I complete compositions for a number of upcoming exhibitions.
Dreaming, you glide is a work in progress, to be listened to in an exhibition featuring sculpture and sound.
Shitehawk by Rona Green
Rona Green is well known for her hand coloured linocuts of hybrid figures. Shitehawk exemplifies her interest in the hyper-masculinised world of men living on society’s edge. In this portrait Shitehawk is about to engage in a street fight where there can be only one winner.
Green’s larger than life figure required extreme sounds to amplify this narrative. Field recordings of a chaotic urban world merge with processed sounds to represent the scene that is being played out.
This is the final post relating to the Auditory Visions exhibition. Time for a much needed break over the holiday period. Thanks for your visits and comments this year. Till 2016 …
Atmosphere II by Michael Schlitz
Living in his Tasmanian bushland home Michael Schlitz is closer to nature than most. As a result Schlitz’s work depicts abstracted trees, landscapes and representations of the elements. The 5 prints which comprise the Atmosphere series continues this practice with each work illustrating the different patterns of weather that envelope and affect us.
Schlitz’s striking woodblock prints are at once alien yet recognisable. Fine black lines cut through the air in a tempestuous yet balanced manner. Atmosphere II depicts snow drifting and swirling on its descent to earth. It is a quiet scene which needed to be reflected in its auditory companion piece. I used a field recording of snow dropping on fallen dried leaves (from my Estonian residency) to form the central feature in the composition. Subtle tones fade in and out, moving with the wind, in an attempt to position the viewer high in the atmosphere in a place of solitude or isolation.
Auditory Visions continues till October 24th at Lismore Regional Gallery. For those of you who aren’t in the local area please visit the Auditory Visions website to access the prints and sounds from this exhibition.
When we think of the concept of “place” we often do so in a context that focuses on vast exteriors. As field recordists we regularly position ourselves in grand locations with microphones directed towards the sounds of exotic forests, river systems, mountain ranges or the frozen Polar Regions. But what of the place in which we live – our domestic sphere. How do our smaller private worlds connect with these public exteriors?
In my new composition commissioned by Galaverna I have attempted to convey the relationship between home and its outer perimeters. This has been done primarily through recording the sounds of electricity that run between my home and the local farming community. Here electricity is an invisible, and often inaudible, thread that holds us all to a bigger notion of place, a grid that dissects and connects the earth beneath our feet.
“AC” (alternating current) is comprised of multiple layers of electrical recordings. I used a coil pick-up microphone to record the pulses and white noise emanating from domestic appliances around my house. Computers, phones, battery rechargers … each appliance connected to a larger world through wires running to an electrical grid. Each appliance with its own idiocyncratic sound, a sonic fingerprint signifying the state of domestic technology in the early 21st century – a subject worthy to be recorded and heard. That these sounds exist in most modern homes creates a sense of community, albeit an inaudible one.
Mixed into the composition is the sound of insects, their electrical-sounding stridulation providing a parallel between the manufactured and the natural. A recording of a Japanese tour group walking through a local forest at night is also included, the incongruity of the tour guide’s voice amidst the sub-tropical rainforest emphasising our own dislocation from the natural world.
“AC” is free to download through Galaverna.
Below are a few short samples of the electrical recordings which are used in “AC”.
This from an electric blanket:
This from a tablet while in use:
This from a smart phone:
This from a battery recharger:
This from an external hard-drive:
Please visit the Galaverna website to download “AC” and to listen to works by other people working in sound and field recording.