Tallinn, Estonia, 2013. Early in the morning listening to the traffic below the hotel window. The sound of the quotidian sounding exotic in this unfamiliar terrain.
The act of recording that morning has deeply imprinted that simple moment into my memory. I remember a light layer of snow in the gutters slowly melting under a weak winter’s sun, the sound of traffic drifting according to the changes in the traffic lights.
It was the only recording I made while in Tallinn. I preferred to walk the streets without the feeling of urgency to capture sounds.
Years later, on the other side of the world, I listened again to that recording. With the aid of filters I pushed the recording beyond its original form. The traffic droned and washed past in previously unrealised pitches and tones. Somehow this distortion mirrored the evolution of memory, it established a new truth.
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.
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 …
In this, the final episode of the primary colour series, we listen to the story of Russian composer and synaesthete Alexander Scriabin. Scriabin claimed to hear colour as different tones on the chromatic scale. He heard the colour deep red as “F” on the keyboard.
Over the next few months I will be working on the other colours in the ROYGBIV spectrum. Until then please visit Radio National to listen to Red, Yellow, and Blue.