‘BEEFing Up’ Portland Square’s Subterranean Vibrations

1 portland square

This geophone ( a spiked microphone SM24) was picking up vibrations from under Portland Square.

Portland Square subterranean vibrations (listen with headphones)

The louder sounds heard are those of feet walking near the geophone. The softer sound is the ‘growl’ of the city and vibrations (audible and inaudible) from kilometres away in all directions.

Here in the new buildings of BEEF (Bristol Experimental Expanded Film) and on the day of the Launch of this new venture, several artists showed evidence of some of their experimental processes. Being new to Portland Square I read Bette. R. Burke’s book of the square’s long history and her recollections of living in this very building for over 40 years – Cinderella Square: A History of Portland Square. Listening under ground was my own initial exploration of the place.

https://beefbristol.wordpress.com/

3 front of building

The visitors to the Launch came through the front door and climbed the stairs to the second floor. The geophone cable however went up the front of the building and through a 2nd floor window.

5 in 2nd floor

Taking the vibrations live into the building via the cable could bring the experience of outside (and underneath the ground outside) to the inside of the building. Vibrations were being picked up from directly under the square and from down underneath the city, amplified with a preamp close to the geophone, run up the wall into the building (2nd floor window) along the corridor, into one of our new studio spaces, into an amp and subsequently into a couple of transducers placed on a table and chair.

6 in to the studio

The visitors were invited to come in and sit at the table experiencing the vibrations from the transducers, through the seat of the chair and the surface of the table.

8 instructions

They jumped when the transducer on the table rattled loudly, especially when someone walked along the pavement close to the geophone.

9 transducers on furniture

The power of the 3000W amp (Buttkicker) and transducers designed for extreme effect (Buttkicker) created some loud thumps along with the burr of the rattling lower frequencies. It was fed back to me that these oddly spaced and random occurrences seemed,

“… like the messages received in a séance.”

After having read so recently the book about Portland Square’s history, I couldn’t help thinking of the vibrations made by countless feet and indeed hooves over the centuries, impacting on the paving stones, cobbles and tracks around the square. Those times, though easy to imagine amongst the Georgian buildings of the square, seemed as transient and changeable as the nearby and new re generation (Cabots Circus!) of the city.

On the day of BEEF’s Launch, mixed with the experiences of the subterranean vibrations of the current activity of the city, the experience of the underlying vibrations of the deeper ground and strata, continued beneath as it has done for millions of years. The time frame I had been considering of a few hundred years, from the building of Portland Square to the present, was a mere instant in comparison.

Ground Box – sound from beneath

Ground Box

Ground Box – a 22inch cone subwoofer in a constructed wood box attached to a 1000W amp

In the cellar

Directly under the streets of bath, a geophone (spiked microphone) was rammed into a damp cellar floor, and connected to the subwoofer in the gallery.

The road over the cellar

The pavement and road directly over the cellar (seen above).

Visitors said:
“We went right UNDER the road to explore the space …”
“Ugh…. Spooky, dark, damp, drippy”
“Is that the real sound?”
“Scarey! – I’m not going down there!”
“It showed it was the real place and not a replica of the space.”

Sounds from the subwoofer

The different artworks were curated by Magaret Goddell for Resonances at Fringe Arts Bath (FaB) June 2014
http://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/resonance/

The geophone (in the cellar) picked up vibrations caused by both the localised man made impact on the fabric of the city of Bath and the natural vibration from seismic activity coming from distances in all directions and kilometres deep down.

You could also hear the footsteps and louder buskers from directly overhead.

The geophone, designed to pick up low frequency sound through the ground, connected us to vibrations that have been brought about by impact from activity in the city to the surface of the ground, also vibration travelling long distances through the ground, from directly down towards the core, and across the continents.

geophone

Sketch outline of geophone workings

SM24 – 10 – 240Hz frequency range
http://www.globalses.com/oem_brochures/SM-24_Brochure.pdf

The sound would have been travelling approximately
– Speed of sound in the ground (depending on ground type) = 5,000 – 13,000 meters per second
This is much faster than the sound travelling in air.
– Speed of sound in the air (depending on the air quality) = 343meters per second

I am interested in sound as a material and research into low frequency sound and vibration has led me to look at how we perceive these elemental signals in places that are familiar to us like our own cars and houses and the way these experiences works with our imagination.

The same geophone working in conjunction with a car amp and 12 inch sub – can be seen on this clip:

This year at FaB 2015 – look out for Seeing Sound From Inside Out, curated by Lewis Riley
http://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/soundfrominsideout/

Look Up – Out Of Your House

I am looking at how we can see up- looking up into the sky – out of our houses.

We don’t look up into the sky usually. Have you tried it? It’s quite difficult.

Exactly how far up can you see or imagine?

I have been looking for a house that could host an art installation (You Are Here) that has a skylight that looks up into the sky. It has meant I have been looking at roofs and dormer windows and Velux skylights, and imagining looking out of them. This search has lead me to look and think more about houses.

Houses and buildings along the street are mostly, for me, unmemorable – unless you are in the process of renting or buying one. It seems to me that they are hard constructions, often ugly and expensive with an air of unforgivable quiet sultriness. I don’t think about mine while living in it constantly, but go about the daily chores dealing with the inside home – the inner shell.

However looking at the outer shells of a lot of houses I have almost begun to think of the windows themselves as eyes. I can imagine each house even with its gritty unremarkable out side, having its own cosy inside life, breathing with the warmth of its heating, expanding and contracting and making it’s own tiny creaking and groaning sounds, with the wind and rain playing on the windows.

Back to the art installation though, where the process then for me is looking at the outlook houses have – how their inhabitants can look up out of them and can be connected to the out side. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark, allows the onlooker to his work to deconstruct the shape and fabric of ‘the house’, treating it like a sculpture. He prompts the onlooker to question what we assume is the inside and what we assume is the out side of the usually unnoticed house. For me he takes the idea of inside a house, that we take for granted, and shows how it’s related to the outside of the house. He shows us that we don’t often think of the outside of the house when we are inside.

GORDON MATTA-CLARK | Moment to Moment: Space

http://www.lodownmagazine.com/index.php?page=25&modaction=showItem&id=3446

Artist Mark Bain draws our attention to the private life of a building. Described in the online magazine – V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, it says, ‘It’s the strangest thing thinking of all the buildings of being alive ……..He (Bain) looks at a building and finds the soul. By looking at the structure, the light, the architect(ure) and everything else that makes it original and alive. The movement of material, concrete, wood everything that’s there. And he builds all kinds of complicated machines to show it.’ (http://v2.nl/archive/people/mark-bain?searchterm=mark+bain).

Bain’s ‘complicated machinery’ is different to equipment I am planning to install in my house installation, but in essence the vibrations from under the house, experienced in the house, connects the house to it’s position on the surface of the rest of the planet. ‘The surface of the Earth’, as described by geologist and acoustician John Bullitt, ‘is always moving’. In an interview he describes the earth’s hum and man made sounds as,’ a tremendously rich stew of vibration. Some of it we can already hear. Some must be shifted to make it audible.’ http://www.jtbullitt.com/press/20080213-la-stampa/index.html

Looking up above the houses, as I have been doing lately, I’ve been thinking of the views up and the lumping depths under the un-noticed house. The un-noticed house has our attention as the quiet mediator of the familiar; we know what we understand by house. I went to a house that hosted a performance, Living Room Opera, accentuating the atmospheres of the house with recorded voices and live art actions for the In Between Time Festival. (http://ibt13.co.uk/) My own familiarity with being in a house (their house) allowed me to be drawn into the contrasting aspects of the piece: the usual and the unusual. The household’s ‘signature’ and the family feel of the place gave the ‘unusualness’ of the piece its authenticity.

After all the houses I have looked at and called to see, I have found a house where the very generous and friendly hosts are allowing me to dig down into their garden below the turf and rearrange their attic – where the sky light allows me to look up … and up!


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Inaudible Worlds – Making the antidote to the Mosquito Deterrent

Have you heard of the ‘Mosquito Deterrent’?

It’s a device that broadcasts an ‘extremely annoying’ and ‘highly irritating’ high frequency sound, usually around 17kHz, that only younger more sensitive ears can hear. It’s said to deter young people from staying in some public places – and prevent the presence of ‘anti social behaviour from vandals and drug users’. I quote one of the companies that make them. http://movingsoundtech.com/ It unfortunately doesn’t just target the ‘vandals and drug users’ as stated, it targets all young people, and consequently it seems infers that all young people are ‘criminals’.

In answer to the unpleasant Mosquito Deterrent I’m in the process of making a sound installation that is hopefully pleasant to hear and is solely for young people- being in a high frequency that only younger people can hear. (Older people can’t usually hear these frequencies because their ears naturally loose sensitivity to higher frequencies.) For older people who can’t hear the sounds – this will be a bit like a sound art version of The Emperors New Clothes!


Mosquito Deterrent outside a local school.

Although the device claims to be ‘harmless’, David McAlpine, who is the director of the UCL Ear Institute and Professor of Auditory Neuroscience and who’s research looks at different causes of hearing loss, said it is ‘damaging children’s hearing’. (Keynote address Supersonix Conference 2012). https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/research/personal?upi=DMCAL14 As a gesture towards those discriminated against, I thought I’d make a sound work that only young ears could hear – that there was a choice to hear or not – and that aimed to be pleasant rather than unpleasant: a Mosquito ANTI Deterrent.

Is there such a thing as a pleasant high frequency sound?

To see how sounds behaved when they were pitch shifted up to a high frequency I made some tests with the help of Paul Dibly. Here is a piano recording gradually pitch shifted higher and higher from 12khz – 19kHz. (Done on CPD soft ware)
http://www.tsascience.com.au/images/pdf/LEB/LEB04_01

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Piano sounds -Use head phones to listen


Here is a screen shot of the CPD soft ware that made the sounds. The black shows lower frequencies being cut so the sounds are shifted higher and higher.

Find out when your ears loose sensitivity by listening to the track with a timer.
If for instance, you can’t hear anything after 24 seconds – find 24s on the graph (on the horizontal) and you will see it corresponds to 14kHz (on the vertical).

I wanted to see how these different recordings (below) behaved when their pitch was shifted up. To be inclusive they are first in an adult audible range of around 9kHz.

• Can you tell which are sparrows, which are repeated chords and which are bike wheels?
• Which do you prefer – or do they all give you a headache?

Use headphones to listen.

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Here are the same recordings shifted up around the 17kHz range.
• Can you hear them? Which do you prefer?
• Do they all give you a headache?

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It may or may not be possible to get a consensus of ‘pleasant’ sounds at the top of a persons hearing range, because of the way sounds behave differently when pitch shifted up, particularly when maintaining the original tempo. It may depend on a) the soft ware used to pitch shift them and the resulting alga-rhythms heard and b) the changed quality or texture of the fundamental note, if you are unable to hear the harmonics above it. http://www.tsascience.com.au/images/pdf/LEB/LEB04_01.pdf
Sound artist Bim Williams introduced me to different soft ware: Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Melodyne, to listen to their pitch shifting capabilities – and they varied considerably.

To create a questionnaire for purely likes and dislikes for these sounds- although subjective – could be straight forward, given controlled circumstances, but more interestingly our perceptions of sound depend not only on the mechanisms of the ear but the use of our imaginations.

I went to listen and record some fruit bats in the Cotswold Wildlife Park. http://www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk/ . Here are some audible beeps from them.

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Fruit Bat

The inaudible – to me – echolocation sound world of some bats, is one I can I only imagine. Bats are known to emit sound up to and in the range of 95kHz-
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/037859559290018I
At both ends of the inaudible scale for human ears, creatures communicate: the Blind Ganges Dolphin up to 200kHz and the Blue Whale down to 10Hz. (Krause.B 2012)

Our hearing being generally around 12kHz and higher for young people under 25. Ear tests at the clinic are often at around 8kHz (McAlpine 2012). These high and low frequencies – out of our range of hearing are audible worlds we can only imagine, and I can only guess with my ears what the Mosquito Deterrent sound is like.

We can only imagine these worlds that don’t come in to our hearing range, and once we know of our lack of mechanism to hear one sound world, it opens up the possibilities
that there are a multitude of other worlds to imagine that can be heard – if not by our ears then by others.

It remains to be seen whether there is a consensus about what is a pleasant high frequency sound, and what qualities it has and how that can be described to those who can’t hear it. It will be interesting to create a framework to be able to assess this. I was told about a very interesting framework to assess in detail the cause and effect of sound by Doug Bott a musician and music educator who works with young musicians with learning difficulties. http://soundsofintent.org/about-soi

I may or may not find sound that is pleasant for young ears to hear in a Mosquito ANTI Deterrent at all, but I’m now definitely interested in the worlds of sound I can only imagine and how our imagination comes in to play.

(Just to let you know- the first of each three sounds was bike wheel sounds, the second chords and the third sparrows.)

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Deep Sounds – Tests at Wheatley

july 2012

Digging down a meter

I want to make an installation with the experience of a live sound wave or pressure wave from deep in the earth. I’m keen to set this exotic sound in a garden of an ordinary house in a city to emphasise the ongoing nature of the planet even while we are just living our daily lives – watching the Olympics, cooking the supper etc……!

My question is – how low can I go?

I asked Bristol University Geology Department whether it would be better to try listening under Bristol or under Oxford. The answer was that if I didn’t want to make accurate scientific calculations I could go to either place, but Bristol was built on more rock than Oxford.

“The quality of the data from a seismic sensor is strongly affected by local conditions at a site. For best seismic fidelity, seek a site with shallow soil cover over bedrock and away from roads or human activity. Site conditions in Bristol are slightly better than Oxford due to the deeper soil and sediment layers in Oxfordshire, but there is more human-generated noise. (Wiltshire’s chalk deposits are quite poor seismic sites.) There is always a compromise involved in selecting a site.”


Image of under ground geology of Oxford
http://mapapps.bgs.ac.uk/geologyofbritain/home.html
(See website for key to rock formations shown)

I want to find out what equipment I can use for this installation to pick up low frequencies from a geophone or geophones and play it through either a PA system into a speaker cone, or via a transducer into the walls of the house or object like a wardrobe to feel the vibrations.


Image of under ground geology of Bristol
http://mapapps.bgs.ac.uk/geologyofbritain/home.html

In terms of how to present the installation I want to convey to the visitor:

• The experience of the intermittent live sound wave vibrations either audible or inaudible – (showing they are very long waves)
• The distance through the ground the sound has travelled – (large sized waves travel a great distance through the earth)

I wonder if a listener’s experience of a VIBRATION from a very large sound/pressure wave would need more explanation than a very low just audible SOUND from a pressure/sound wave?

Here is a description of some tests I made to help the process of making the installation.
While some Oxford Brookes University sound equipment was being calibrated at the Wheatley campus, I was able to set up outside with different combinations of geophones to see how they behaved with the University’s PA system. (1000W amp and several PS2 12” speaker cones having a lower range down to 25Hz)


Red geophone being placed in the ground connected to the equipment inside the hall

I set out to find out 3 things:

1. QUESTION should I use the Wheatley sound equipment with the geophone/s I have?

2. QUESTION should I use a phased array of geophones to make a stronger signal?

3. QUESTION should I place the geophones at an angle down into the ground for deeper frequency sounds?

ANSWER 1.
The equipment sounded good amplifying the geophone. It also felt interesting to feel the vibrations. The equipment however was built to deal with audible sounds over 25Hz and 29Hz, so were we experiencing any frequencies lower than 25Hz?


Above -one geophone picking up underground sounds from the road

ANSWER 2.
I learnt about the time delay to make a stronger signal with a phased array. The phased array with the geophones lined up towards the sound source (the road approximately 60m away) did sound stronger. We tried two phased arrays on the surface of the ground (not dug down). The line with greater distance between the geophones had a more contrasting and stronger sound than the geophones with less distance between them.

Above – phased array of geophones on the surface of the ground a) 1 m and b) 12 m apart

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phased array 12 m gap
(listen with head phones)

Information about Time Delay:
To match up the sounding time of all three geophones, so they all would be heard at the same time (maximising the strength of the signal) the sound from the two geophones at shorter distances from the desk had to be delayed. A time delay is when the desk is programmed to delay the sounding of a signal.

Calculating the time the sound took to travel between the geophones informed us of what lengths of time the delays should be ( to round figures). We calculated that:
• If the distance between one geophone and the next were 3.70 meters, the sound took .5 of a millisecond to travel through the ground between them.
• If the distance was 1meter sound took .2 of a millisecond to travel between them.
• If the distance was 1.90 meters, the sound took .3 of a millisecond.

ANSWER 3.
Listening to the recordings of the phased arrays with and without the angle or downward tilting slope, a slight difference could be heard by ear. We created two different angles to the ground surface. One was steeper than the other. I could not tell by ear if the sounds were lower with the more steeply sloped downward angle, although they sounded different.
Here is best phased array

Above a phased array of geophones on an angle to the grounds’ surface


Line of geophones on the flat ground surface, angled downwards


Above a phased array of geophones in a steepler angle to the grounds surface

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Listening to the sound of phased array with the geophones at a steeper angle
(use headphones for listening)


Geophones dug into small slope

Our tests were more exploratory than scientifically planned out, and rather than getting definitive answers I was able to experience the equipment working and understand how to ask different questions for setting up the installation:

1. I found it was possible to cut off the higher frequencies that were coming from the ground (at the desk) above 35 Hz, and listen to the audible contrasting signals of the lower register. (The desk could not cut off lower frequencies than 35Hz if we wanted to isolate lower frequencies).

2. I found that to verify that the frequencies from the two downward facing phased arrays were different from the arrays on the grounds’ surface, it would require an instrument like an oscilloscope or spectrograph – which I didn’t have at that time. Is it possible to get a spectrograph that registers frequencies of 2Hz-7Hz- 10Hz?

3. I found that when we sent a sine wave (an isolated wave) through the sound system, you could feel the speaker vibrate. There fore the system could convey very low frequencies at a low db level – contrary to what it said on the equipment spec.(which specified 25Hz as its lowest rang). So (for my installation experiencing vibration and the lowest audible sound) would I need a speaker larger than 21” to convey lower vibrating frequencies?

4. I found that it wouldn’t be easy to isolate, experience and identify the LOWEST live sound wave/vibration in a live ground sound signal with a mixture of frequencies. Is there perhaps a desk or software that would cut off all frequencies over10Hz or lower? High and Low pass filters exist for seismic instruments, but do they exist for audio instruments that low?

Thanks to the Brookes groundsmen for coming to my aid, looking like Time Team, and helping dig and provide me with some history of the ground itself. Digging down under the well kept grass ‘dug up’ memories of the cables being laid for the then new University buildings and one groundsman remembered playing here as a boy, where there once stood a WW2 hospital – the wounded came here to be ‘out of sight’.


Wheatley Campus ‘ Time Team’

Thanks also very much to David Carugo, John Glasgow and Danny Bhatt for their time, expertise – technical and mathematical – and lots of helpful ideas.

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I Can’t See Venus!

June 2012

I looked at the sunrise on the 5th at 5am to see the Transit of Venus passing in front of the early morning sun. It was cloudy at first –so I’m not sure f I missed it


Sunrise

…..or maybe my timing was wrong, anyway I hung out of the up stairs window with binoculars to shine the image of the sun on to paper. (This was to avoid direct eye contact with the sun)


Sun image on paper through binoculars


The sun enlarged from the camera picture on my phone

What do you think? Did I get the picture? Doesn’t look like it, but Chris Lockwood
definitely did catch it on his mobile phone.
http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/~slowe/transit2004/photo/chris_lockwood.jpg

Information re the Transit of Venus here:
http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/planes.jpg
http://www.h2g2.com/approved_entry/A9913908

But Can You Hear Venus – Live?
For some time now I have found it interesting that it’s possible to hear rather than see objects and emissions of radiation, gas and dust you can’t see because they are a very long distance away from us in space. These waves from the electro magnetic spectrum, where light is the wave we are most familiar with, bring information to us through instruments, about the things we are unable to see. Listen to recorded sounds on this podcast from Jodrell Bank – http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/multimedia/audio/soundsofspace.html

I have been looking into ways of accessing live, streamed radio waves from outside the earths’ atmosphere, in fact as far away as possible, and have sought advise from experts. Please excuse any inaccuracies in terms of scientific information in this brief post!

• Advice from the BAA RAG was that it is possible to put up a loop aerial on a house in a city and solar radio bursts can be received with a commercial short wave receiver and a suitable antenna but, as with Jupiter, they would be infrequent and would not appear to order, which would make demonstrating them difficult. There are some examples here: http://www.heliotown.com/Radio_Sun_Introduction.html
The advice was that I would be limited to what is available from the internet from professional observatories, e.g. http://soi.stanford.edu/results/sounds.html

• Advice from Jodrell Bank is that they do use live data in their research projects, but the sonification of that data is not the system currently and would be an extra project they couldn’t take on at the moment. They suggested I could more easily set up a TV with VHF receiver to get the live ‘crackle’ or white noise in between channels, 1% of which, unbelievably, is the microwave background emission from the Big Bang.

http://herschel.cf.ac.uk/ and from Manchester University working with the ALMA array of telescopes in Chile - http://sse.royalsociety.org/2012/exhibits/alma-observatory/. These are finishing and starting projects respectively that don’t have streamed data for the public.
From the ALMA project -a band receiver

• Radio Jove, produced by NASA, shows how you can pick up sounds yourself and what you need. http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov/

• There is a big research project at Leeds University researching into Cosmic Rays – http://www.ast.leeds.ac.uk/research/uhe-cr.html and a lively contingent were helping from The Langton Star Centre at Simon Langton School that I met at the RSS Exhibition as well. http://www.thelangtonstarcentre.org/ . It was thought live streaming of Cosmic Ray data might be possible.

At the Royal Society Summer Exhibition I was able to see a Cloud Chamber or Scintillator in action for myself, which showed up evidence of the radiation raining down on us: Muons whose live trails were clear to see constantly appearing and dying.


Cloud Chamber or Scintilator

Here also is a video and an explanation of the cloud chamber. http://www.cosmicray.com/ Scroll down page and click on video entitled ‘large diffusion cloud chamber’.

Victor Hess discovered Cosmic Rays in 1912, by measuring the level of ionising radiation in the atmosphere and found that it increased with altitude. He concluded that the radiation was non-terrestrial in origin.


Victor Hess 1912 – in hot air balloon

Here are some interesting artists I have come across recently who are concerned with sound/signals/ data streams – out side earths’ atmosphere and well worth looking up:

• Honor Harger is giving a talk here at LIFT on ‘The Sounds of Space’. http://videos.liftconference.com/video/1178813/honor-harger-listening-to-the

• Brian Duffy made work called the Otophonic Lunaphone 2004, where he created telescopes that sonified the light from stars. Listen here –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3z2CuynH2U . More recently he has worked at Jodrell Bank on a work Silsils:Infinite Qawwali –
http://www.asiatriennialmanchester.com/whats-on/event/silsila-infinite-qawwali/

• Robin McGinnley describes here – The Earth’s Original 4.5 Billion Year Old Electronic Music Composition (A Work in Progress). I heard him talk at the Supersonix 2012 conference about his sound piece – Cosmic Radio Phone. http://www.interactive-agents.com/frontpage3.html

• Steven P. McGreevy. Here is a site with sounds from the Magnetosphere – A 19-minute duration MP3 audio presentation of VLF recordings to Festival Sonika in Madrid, Spain – 08 Dec. 2011 (26.2 MB – 192 kbps PODCAST MP3)

• McGreevy also took a near perfect picture of Venus crossing the sun on 6th June – the picture I didn’t get. Scroll down the page to find it. The original is here – http://www.auroralchorus.com/


Photo Steve P. McGreevy. Venus transit –Keeler California 6th June 2012

End

This is Nowhereisland

July/August 2012

Nowhereisland was floated here all the way from Nyskjaeret in Svalbard in the Arctic!!!!!


Nowhereisland in Weymouth Bay, UK

Conceived and made by artist Alex Hartley, the project questions in a playful way our notions of: citizenship, territory, ownership, nationhood – the nature of ‘floating rocks’. If you meet up with the tour of the south coast, you too can become a citizen of Nowhereisland.
http://www.nowhereisland.org


Image: (above) Nyskjaeret in Svalbard, original location of Nowhereisland.. Courtesy Alex Hartley, photo: Max McClure.

Several young people had the opportunity to make the incredible journey from Nyskjaeret having never been to the Arctic before. What a project of opportunities! I just love the idea that for a short period of time, there is a completely new island sited along the UK coastline. I came across it in Weymouth where it was staked out for the Olympics. It will visit Bristol docks as well as Jennycliff Bay in Plymouth Sound from the 4th – 12th August.


Certificate of citizenship

I spent time on Plymouth Hoe (2009), receiving transmissions of sound from all around the great land and seascape. People came to the Terrace Café to listen in to the project Sounding Plymouth Sound. You can see for miles around and imagine the bay like a big basin.


Plymouth Sound

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Because 60 thousand years ago Plymouth Sound used to be a dry valley with a river running through it – watching and listening to it all from up on the Hoe made me think of the slow geological turning of time. So now Nowhereisland is going to come –floating along– boulders and rocks – an instant island –

– turning time on its head


Equipment on the foreshore for Sounding Plymouth Sound

Here are our receivers picking up sounds from round the bay including from 60m up from a mobile phone attached to weather balloons and 10m under the water from our hydrophone transmitting from Sea Trek (the boat) out by Asia Pass.

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Under water traffic noise – pity the fish!

http://www.shirleypegna.com/sounding-plymouth-sound/

Have a listen to Plymouth Radio and hear what’s going on with Nowhereisland. You may hear more sounds from Sounding Plymouth Sound on the radio as well – (the project described above).

9th – 12th Aug 2012
http://www.nowhereislandradio.com

Nowhereisland Radio, run by Take A Part, will broadcast during Nowhereisland’s visit to Plymouth
http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/art/2012/nowhereisland/nowhereisland-radio.html

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Sound Sessions at Fir Tree School

June 2012


A sonic breakfast

This summer term all three classes in year 4 at Fir Tree School Wallingford, had a visit from three of us from SARU – the Sonic Arts Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University
http://sonicartresearch.com/ . We devised three sessions where the pupils could interact and experience sound. One session involved the creating of domestic sounds, particularly kitchen sounds, listening to them with ears and mics.


More noisy breakfast

Felicity Ford encouraged the pupils to think of their own noisy foods, so bowls of cereal were no problem. http://www.thedomesticsoundscape.com/ She invited them to listen in to the squeaky cabbage as they cut it, and the bubbling pot of potatoes cooking on the hob in the school kitchen that they had just peeled. They drew great pictures of the breakfasts they had eaten in the morning, describing the sounds they heard.

They recorded the sounds of Fizz Wizz sweets popping inside their mouths

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Like wise crisps and even a cabbage and crisp sandwich!

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The second session on another day, was a sonic treasure hunt, where we went for a stroll and hunted down prescribed sounds. Paul Whitty knew the terrain so we set off to find man made sounds, sounds made by wildlife, sounds made by machines etc


Treasure hunt – map of the route

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Another treasure hunt map of the route

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The third session explored the way different sound waves travel. I took the equipment I have been using for various sound works and we tried them out.

• Setting off party poppers at different distances down the school field, we listened to the way sound behaved travelling through air.


Party poppers

• The pupils also experimented with various implements like glasses, stethoscopes, tubes and funnels to listen to sound through a wall. On the other side of the wall some recoded sound was being played.

• A hydrophone was set up in the sink and pupils tried listening to the sounds in the water through headphones, by turning on the taps and swishing the water around and anything else they thought to try.

• An mp3 player with recorded sounds could be played into objects like the furniture walls, doors etc to amplify the sound, and the pupils experimented to see which were the best amplifying material of sounds (the radiators were good!)

• The geophone was set up so it played live sound into the subwoofer in my car. This meant pupils could experiment by tapping or stamping on the ground and hearing the sound picked up by the geophone (mic) in the ground.


Sound implements – high and low tech

The picture above shows a red geophone, a black hydrophone, a purple stethoscope and funnels and glasses for listening through walls.

I was pleased to enable the classes to have a hands-on experience and facilitate their creative input to the type of sound ‘uncovering’ I have been thinking about and developing as practical research for my PhD.

The staff working with the classes commented how absorbed the groups were in searching out new experiences. The pupils used both the high and low-tech tools with ease. I thought it would take a bit of time to listen in and focus on the sounds and ideas we put forward, but the sensitivities to sounds were acute and the drawings and questions were imaginative and searching.

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