A sonic impression of a panic attackRead more
Creating a sense of place through sound - a collection of audio shorts for the D&AD Inspired by Audio website.Read more
In a week’s time In The Dark will be hosting a special listening event at the Wellcome Collection, as part of the larger Voice event. We will be curating an evening of listening that taps into our complex relationship with the voice, featuring a rich chorus of vocalisations, speech and other oral oddities.Read more
Seeing with your ears.
An audio feature I produced over the summer for Pod Academy, exploring the development of the vOICe technology and it's impact on blind users. The vOICe is a computer program developed by dutch engineer Dr Peter Meijer which essentially converts images into sound. Through training and experience blind users can learn to interpret these sounds as a sort of 'synthetic vision'. The piece explores the technology from the perspective of blind user Pat Fletcher, and uncovers some of the science and technology behind its use with it's creator Dr Peter Meijer and cognitive psychologist Dr Michael Proulx (University of Bath).
It was my thought that technology and the computer would be my way out of blindness.
-Pat Fletcher, vOICe user
Download it HERE
Essentially, the software takes spatial information captured by a camera and converts this into a coded soundscape. Users can then learn how to decode this auditory signal into a visual one thanks to a process known as 'sensory substitution', where information from one sense is fed to the brain via another. Fundamentally what the vOICe is doing is re-routing information usually obtained by the eyes and delivering it through another sense organ, the ears.
Although the neuroscience and psychology behind the technology is still largely unknown, it is thought that the visual cortex is eventually recruited to process the incoming auditory information and through experience, is able to decode it as spatial / visual information. There's a great article over at New Scientist that goes into greater depth about the neuroscience behind it - including a useful diagram depicting how the technology works.
The software is currently freely available and can be used with virtually any imaging device, from webcams to camera-mounted glasses – there’s even an android version available for mobile devices! With the increasing prevalence of mobile computing, the vOICe technology is liberating users from their blindness, allowing them to step outside and experience the world through a completely new visual perspective.
For more information visit: http://www.seeingwithsound.com/ where you can experiment with the vOICe for youself and learn more about how it works. I've also prepared a page with a collection of images as heard through the vOICe software, including some featured within the piece above.
- Hypermagic – Start Again Start
- Ed Prosser – Untitled
- - – b31
- No Color – L’Aube
- Hpermagic – Pico Bisco
- Ed Prosser – Untitled
- Marcel Pequel – Four
Freesound Credits (freesoundarchive.com)
- Alarm Clock – 14262__xyzr-kx__alarm-clock
- Camera Shutter – 16071__heigh-hoo__nikonf4
- Data sound - 3647__suonho__futuretrocomputing-10-suonho
The latest In The Dark listening event: 'One Night Stand' took an unusual step into the murky world of erotica, featuring pieces exploring sex across the animal kingdom; from humans, to snails, to fish and finally to whales. The night proved to be so popular that we had to put on a second sitting, suggesting that sex really does sell, even when it comes to curated listening events.
Sofia Saldanha and I mixed and compiled the audio for the night, including the production of new material to interweave and transition between pieces. Audio featured included a beautiful and emotionally charged interview from the Dialogue Project, a rather unsettling but humorous piece from Canadian radio show Audio Smut (about masterbating in public places) and and a personal favourite from Danish producer Pejk Malinovski whose piece made reference to the artist Matisse by exploring the reproductive behaviours of snails (can be heard here).
We were really keen to move past a linear playlist which simply presented the pieces rigidly, separated by silence. Instead we experimented in blending all the pieces together into a seamless mix. In many cases we produced short interludes and transitions to help take the listener smoothly from one piece to the next and to keep them immersed within the general narrative of the night.
Finishing off the event was 'Porn Whales' - an audio short I'd produced, manipulating the sounds of pornography to resemble the calls of whales (below).
After a bit of whale sound research I worked to manipulate these sounds until they modelled the range of sounds associated with whales. From the high-pitched clicks, squeaks and squeals to the lower frequency rumbles. The sounds of the sea were added to provide a little context (recorded in Brighton on a zoom H4n) and the gentle, soothing music came from Kevin Macleod.
I am delighted to have a selection of my audio works featured on basic.fm, a new broadcast project being undertaken by the Pixel Palace at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. Throughout the next couple of weeks the station will be playing a special eight hour show, composed from a collection of audioworks produced by international artists.
Have a listen - there's a great variety works being featured and the programme is continually cycling so you're always going to tap into something weird, wonderful and interesting.
You can also listen to the pieces I have featured below:
Adam as Machine
Bury St Edmunds
The Wapping Project Bookshop (21/03/12)
On Wednesday night I curated a listening event for In The Dark, held within the intimate confines of the Wapping Project's Bookshop, which just happens to be in a Glasshouse. If you've never been to an In The Dark event before, think of it as a film screening, but for radio, sound and audio stories.
The pieces chosen were all tied to the theme of 'Cityscapes', tapping into the many stories, textures and soundscapes that resonate from urban environments. The selection spanned a range of styles and formats, from more conventional narrative / documentary pieces to the more abstract, capturing the essence of urban decay through sound.
The features were also blended together with a collection of field recordings which I'd taken from around London, as well as those taken elsewhere, including a Parisian recording form Soundlandscapes blog.
Some notes on a few of the pieces featured:
Out of the Blocks
Included on the playlist was a 7 minute edit of 'Out of the Blocks', as recently featured on the Third Coast International site. Produced through a collaboration between radio producer Aaron Henkin and electronic / Hip-hop producer Wendel Patrick, the piece presents a sound rich documentary profiling of an entire city block in Baltimore, 'documenting the stories, voices, and people who populate the 3300 block of Greenmount Ave.'. What makes this piece stand out is in its interesting use of music, which was scored exclusively by Patrick adding greater texture to the voices and the stories they tell. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj0JQF63lZQ]
You can listen to the short edit on the Third Coast site where there's also a nice interview with the pair. To listen to the original full hour edit of the documentary go on over to Wendel Patrick's site.
Gateshead Multistory Car Park
Towards the end of the night we delved into the darker side of urban decay, with an excerpt from the Langham Research Centre's menacing sound profile of the Gateshead Multi-story Carpark, originally produced for Radio 3's Between the Ears.
The piece was recorded entirely on location and laid down on reel-to-reel tape, where it was manipulated further, slowed down and looped. Everything heard in this feature was derived from sounds captured within the Carpark and you can really get a sense of the menacing and repressive tone that this concrete behemoth exuded:
The Dustbin Man Cometh
One of the regular noises I come across living in a city, is the early morning mechanical chaos of the dustbin collection. To finish of the night, I played a piece which I'd produced specially for the event - a heavily processed sound piece created from the single recording of a dustbin truck collection.
If you have ever been woken up in the early hours by this sort of noise, I'm sure you're aware of the complex mechanical racket that they make. It's a great collection of sounds - clangs, squeaks and crashes - I really wanted to capture and then pull out elements of this noise, turning them into an evolving, glitchy cascade of sound that would fill the listening space it was to be presented in. Anyway, have a listen below:
The next In The Dark event will be held on the 4th April, aboard the Lightship95 with guest curator Martin Johnson
Why is death such a difficult subject to talk about? From hospital mortuary to the grave, The D-Word explores our complex relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.
Recently featured on Transom.org, The D-Word is an audio documentary I produced last summer on the subject of death. I'd urge you to visit Transom and explore their excellent site, but you can also listen to or download my piece below:
[audio "http://dl.dropbox.com/u/13042873/The%20D%20Word.mp3"]Download (MP3) (right click)
The documentary was made in part for my MSc in Science Media Production and explores our relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.
The piece experiments with a braided narrative weaving between interview and actuality recordings, taking the listener into a hospital mortuary, inside funeral homes and across a church yard to explore the concept of death from a number of personal perspectives.
This documentary is also a response to my own experience in dealing with the death of a close friend and you can read more about this in my article over at Transom.org.
In addition to this piece, I also produced two further shorts from the material recored for this documentary. These short audio vignettes experiment with form and sound to explore some of the themes touched upon by pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton.
Chris is one of the worlds leading sound recordists and is well known for his work with the BBC Natural History Unit, including the recent Frozen Planet series.
There was a lot of interesting discussion during this interview about the nature of noise pollution and the considerable threat it poses to our quality of life. Worrying still, it appears that our noisy modern world is drowning out the natural soundscape and interfering with species of wildlife that rely on sound for communication.
What seems to be most alarming is that we're largely ignoring this problem - our world certainly isn't getting any quieter - and with more of us living in urbanised environments, noise pollution is fast becoming a significant health problem.
As only a portion of this interview was included within the Alder Hey piece, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the additional material. The interview was recorded at FACT in Liverpool, back in April of last year and explores some of the causes and concerns towards noise in the modern world.
- Further reading on the health effects of noise: a WHO report on the burden of disease from environmental noise
- Nature on BBC Radio 4 is recommended listening if you want to hear more of Chris and his stunning wildlife recordings.
- Touch Music also releases sound work by Chris, you can browse his collection here.
This is a short audio piece which was originally created for the In The Dark Christmas party - however it didn't quite fit the bill in the end, being as it is, devoid of any Christmas cheer. Anyway, I thought I'd better not let it go to waste and instead make it available on here - I suppose this is the obligatory Christmas themed post.
It's another short piece (see Adam as machine) which has fallen out of The D-Word, a documentary I produced over the summer which will be appearing on Transom.org early in the new year. This piece features pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton and was recorded in the mortuary at the Sunderland Royal Infirmary back in July. The material I recorded with Stuart at the mortuary only forms a small part of the overall documentary, yet I think it's interesting enough to justify an entire piece on it's own, maybe I'll get around to it one day.
Dr Hamilton explained to me how winter was a particularly busy period for the mortuary staff, with mortality rates increasing in the elderly over the colder months of the year. Another interesting point was that they tended to receive an increase in the number of decomposed bodies at Christmas, but I'll let you listen to the piece to find out why...
I'm not going to go into a massive rant on how important it is to make an effort to spend time with family, because I'm particularly guilty of not doing so. It just seems that the mortuary staff gain a depressing insight into the mistakes we make and how we choose to lead our lives.
An experimental sound piece which takes recordings made during a vist to Bury St Edmunds and weaves them into a surreal narrative, morphing between lakeside walks, market criers, street performers and birdsong. Recordings made using a Zoom H4n, edited and assembled on Ableton Live.
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So today I was very excited because I got the chance to play around with Lotto Lab's Soundwall - a mammouth interactive speaker array, currently housed at the Science Museum in London.
The wall features a total of 77 speakers and is controlled via the use of a handy touch screen interface. The interface allows the user to essentially bounce sound from three mono tracks (or up to 8 analogue inputs) across the wall in realtime, much to the delight, or perhaps annoyance of everyone in hearing distance.
The simple touch screen interface includes volume faders for each of the three tracks, which are subsequently represented by one of three coloured balls. These coloured balls essentially represent where the sound is localised on the speaker wall; so as the user moves the balls across the screen the sound on the wall pans accordingly. This allows the user to throw sound across the wall in all directions, just imagine a ball of sound bouncing about inside your head and you're almost there... It's certainly very cool to play with.
So I tried out a collection of 'racket' themed samples which I have prepared for use during next weeks Science Museum Lates:
[soundcloud width="100%" height="81" params="" url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/23921324"]
... and here's a clip of me standing infront of the wall as David Robertson throws the sound all over the place, you can hear an interview with David in the next episode of Tomorrow's Tentacles:
[soundcloud width="100%" height="81" params="" url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/23925050"]
Although the wall's functionality is pretty limited at the moment, it will be interesting to see how its use is expanded. It could certainly do with a few more features, perhaps expanding on the user interface to include a selection of tracks or the addition of effects which could be controlled via the touch screen. Its use as a performance tool is certainly very attractive and I'd love to experiment with it further! - Watch this space.
On Friday I attended the latest In The Dark listening event which was held at the Folly for a Flyover venue (a peculiar pop-up cinema / art space) in Hackney, East London. What was particularly exciting about this event was that I was having one of my very own pieces exhibited / played and it was very humbling to hear my work alongside those from well established and respected radio producers!
If you've never heard of In The Dark, it's a fantastic organisation which champions and commissions experimental radio pieces. They basically encourage producers to play around with the radio format to create weird, yet wonderfully original audio pieces. If you're a fan of WNYCs RadioLab then this is definitely something for you.
The organisation regularly holds 'listening events' across London, bringing together a community of producers and listeners to hear a selection of audio shorts, curated by founder Nina Garthwaite. Although sitting 'in the dark' with a bunch of people, listening to radio may sound like an unusual way to spend the evening, it really is a great experience and I must say something very unique! Each of the pieces played are stylistically distinct and certainly always thought provoking, so you can never be sure what you might end up listening to.
On Friday, the night was arranged into three parts:
- Fragments, Apparitions & Visions.
My piece, entitled 'Adam as machine' (you can read more about it here), fell into the 'Structures' category and followed Leo Hornak's 'All You Can Hear is Breathing' - which explores the insane Empire State Building 'Run-Up' race. Favorites of the night included a piece by Sarah Cuddon called 'The Books' (an extended edit currently available on iPlayer) and the latest Hackney Podcast entitled 'Wild Hackney', produced by Francesca Panetta and Russel Finch (listen to it here).
I've re-posted my piece below if you want to have a listen...
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