Australian Sound Artist

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Urban London 2013: Sonic postcards L01-L03

:: L03 - London 28th May 2013. Skaters @ Southbank Skatepark ::

I have started gathering sounds for the 'Urban London 2013' collection. These will be posted on Freesound for you to access/comment as you wish. I will also be adding them here as Sonic Postcards.

Recording Technical Specifications are:
Recording device: Zoom H2n
Microphone: Rode NT4 (stereo)
London, May 2013

The recordings sound best on headphones with some beautiful movements from left to right in the Skatepark recordings (above) and again, along the Regents Canal (directly below).

:: L02 - London 25th May 2013. Peering through trees to Regents Canal below ::

The recording, 'Near Festival, by the canal', and 'Festival Inner' both feature the sounds of a festival in Victoria Park that started at about 11am that day. The former, was recorded at a position along the canal whereby the distant sounds of the music from the festival would come and go, between audible and inaudible as the wind would permit. The volume fluctuations are completely natural. Recording was done at a flat input level. The latter was recorded within the festival grounds.

:: L01 - London 25th May 2013. On the way to Festival @ Victoria Park, along Regents Canal ::


I haven't consciously recorded the sounds of a city for years and I was surprised at the inner conflict I had in doing so. Just to be clear - I have recorded the sounds of markets, machinery, live improvisations at night in inner city buildings and trains passing overhead as I am tucked underneath their rolling guts - but to stand in the thick of it, in the middle of the day as traffic and sirens rise to a level that twinges your ears is quite another matter...
- and I didn't really even do that - I still subconsciously discovered pockets of the city that were not completely sonically dominated by the sounds of traffic. 

But who can ignore it? I am standing there, at the edge of the Thames surrounded by swarms of tourists and weekenders and there is not a living critter apart from us, to be seen bar one - a solitary Canada Goose with only one leg remaining, standing remarkably close (too close for his own safety) to a young family who are exploring the shoreline. It was an experience that I can't shake. It's feathers were dirty and uneven and it was obviously tired and not well fed. It wasn't scared of the people only a few meters away - perhaps it's wariness was not as strong as its reasons for watching them. It stood there unmoving, staring at them with a stubborn desperation - I assume it was hoping for food. 

Please don't think I'm particularly targeting London with these thoughts - in any big city you'll find the small critters paying the price of our developed urbanscape. It was a moment of confrontation as I stood there with my microphone, watching this quiet tragedy run its course. I put the microphone down and walked away.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Looking at London

I have been doing a lot of walking around, through and amongst London - as is my travelling ritual. My sense of direction is somewhat questionable and if possible - even worse when my body clock is realigning itself to the position of the sun. Walking puts myself as direct master of my movements and allows me to figure out just where the hell I am in relation to where I plan to be, in the time as required to do so. It's also another good jetlag tip (how to avoid it, deal with it and encourage it to disappear). I will walk or ride a bike before I catch public transport - as a type of physical and mental meditation. Taking steps seems to fall into simpatico with the sorting of my thoughts and the turning cogs of my body's own time measuring mechanism.   

and then there is the element of discovering the small details that would be otherwise missed.....

The lean of buildings, the awkward corners and 'dead' spaces that exist as offcuts of building templates. They hang off the edges of prescribed wall fronts and lurk in the backgrounds of a buildings facade.

The more they are neglected, the stronger their presence becomes.


I am already regretting the fact that I did not bring more sophisticated microphones to record sounds with. Once again, I am immersed in a city and once again, I am inspired to listen and understand how I believe it ticks - to find, gather and select my desired sounds. A small and modest collection of urban soundscapes will be my alternate project while I am in London and I am enjoying the thrill of the hunt now it has begun. I don't know why I find it so rewarding to decipher a city - haven't quite pinned that one down yet - but I do know that ultimately - when I begin to plan my recordings of a certain place/time - that is exactly how I feel I am working - by peeling back the layers of a communities outer shell and taking the time to collect what is beneath in sonic representation.

An astoundingly effective snapshop of memory and meaning behind the cities motions.

Monday, May 20, 2013

British Library Sound Archive: Exchange - waking up in London

I have been fortunate enough to be selected for a staff exchange between the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) and the British Library Sound Archive. Time lapse between the notification of selection date and departure was barely 2 months - I arrived in the UK on the Friday just gone and feel a little like Alice might've felt at the bottom of the rabbit hole. I haven't been to the UK before and this year I will be making the journey to England twice (again in late October, to work under the expertise of Chris Watson and to head to the festival, 'L'Espace du Son'). I must say that the flight was the toughest I have had to do to date - I'm not sure if I was just overly sensitive or if - infact - it is a troublesome journey - either way - I'll be getting use to the experience with three more trips still left to go in this year.

To further mix my muddled thoughts - I will be contributing to two blogs during my time here - ultimately - attempting to split my identity into two - that of the artist and that of the archivist.
For the sake of clarity and to fulfil the exchange duties, I will dedicate the blog on the NFSA website to more technical and work specific details whilst general musings, inspirations and thoughts will be compiled here, on my personal blog.

Let's see how I go shall we... Crack on!! (learned that one today).

Some travel tips for you:

Fast, affordable accommodation: Airbnb. An incredibly helpful way of finding a place to stay when a hostel or backpackers won't cut it and homely touches and appliances such as washing machines, kitchens and quiet garden areas are required/desired. My stay in London is over three weeks - long enough to send you a tad barmy in a hostel (unless you don't mind pinning towels around a bunkbed to create your own, 'personal working space'). You will find all sorts of accommodation in all parts of the world on this website. I managed to find a room in an apartment, 30 min walking time from my work place - sharing with other similar aged and working individuals.

Travel sickness: XANAX. Never tried this before but it really does help alleviate anxieties that often amplify/spark travel sickness. I took minimal doses (half a pill) and that was enough to calm my nerves, settle my stomach and allow me to doze. I also took some tic tacs - found these helped too.

Pre-booked taxi from Heathrow airport to private address: London Heathrow Cars. While they are not particularly cheap - they are not more than a normal taxi and that is for a service that includes your own personal driver waiting for you at touch down. I knew I would be a bit fragile after the flight and so booked in advance. I did find some other cheaper options such as Shuttle Direct however, they would not deliver to personal addresses - only hotels. Well worth the money if your accommodation involves a couple of connecting trains and a few blocks walk to get there....

Compact, affordable and light (stereo) recording device: H2N Zoom. I haven't tried this one before but have heard many a good thing about its capabilities. At around $230, with 24bit/96khz I am happy. It has a stereo mic input of a single 3.5mm Jack so I have taken my own Rode NT4 to make things as easy as possible. For non complex - basic audio capturing minus the worries that come when travelling with expensive audio equipment - I'm sure it will suffice. Will keep you posted.

Small carry-on bag for laptop and gear: Crumpler Yee Ross. Isn't meant to fit a 15" laptop but it does (even with a padded pocket to protect it). In addition to the laptop, this bag can also fit a small handycam, microphone(s), books and all your usual small necessities as required in travel. It's hardy, waterproof and the smallest most convenient hand-luggage bag that I have found for my needs - to date.

That's all I can put to page tonight. Jet lag is a little overwhelming so to bed I go.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Moozak Festival: Call for submissions

My good friends of the viennese label, 'Moozak' are asking for submissions from artists, to present works at their Autumn festival in Vienna.

I was fortunate enough to launch my debut album, 'Selected Realities', at the festival last year and meet the men behind Moozak - Clemens Hausch and Gerald Krist, in person.