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

End

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.

End

Tea Tray Investigations

April 2012

Here is documentation of an idea involving teacups, saucers and a teapot on a table in the middle of a park – Ashton Court Park – Bristol.

I used a couple of transducers, a geophone (or ground mic) connected to an amplifier to make some teacups rattle with live vibration -sound waves – from the ground. The vibrations from the transducers resting in the saucers and jiggling against the china, was pronounced enough to be heard clearly.


Transducer on teapot

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Rather than a finished piece, I wanted to try out props that I hoped would react to sound waves travelling in the ground – contrasting the domestic and the scientific. The familiar picturesque tea table scene was at odds with the more scientific and unfamiliar looking gear. It was strange to hear the sound of teacups, like they rattle on a wobbling trolley, on a static table in the middle of a park.


Mics picking up wind, skylarks and rattling teacups

This disconnectedness, disjointedness of the scene alerted onlookers to see what was going on –several passers by did enquire.


Geophone picking up subterranean sound

Will- my collaborator and co documenter set up a short film clip to show how the geophone was picking up signals under foot. He wanted to show it’s direct effect on the teacups in a more obvious way. You can see the time delay of the jump and the rattling of the cups.

Rattling Tea Tray

Noticing that there are sound and pressure waves going through the ground under your feet has come into previous works I’ve done. Being aware of the ground under our feet allows us to think of the park landscape differently, as the view offers not only the scene above ground but also the potential of thinking about the land that has conveyed sound from kilometres around and beneath us.


Tea table battery, amp and preamp

End

Bury My Love Like Treasure

March /April 2012

How can you resonate the sound of the ground through a double bass?
Bury My Love Like Treasure is a piece for string quartet, film and recorded sounds of the earth resonating through a double bass.


Transducer on the bridge of the bass

The sound picked up by a geophone is amplified and played into the bass via a transducer on the bridge. The structure of the bass resonates the sound.

In collaboration with the composer Paul Whitty and the ensemble Exeter Contemporary Sounds, my particular task for this project was to record the sound from the ground. This work was to be one of the works in a tour called Back There On Earth. The group were interested to work with the red soil of Devon in the music and images of the piece they commissioned. http://exetercontemporarysounds.blogspot.co.uk/

I was interested to see if and how the sound I had been able to amplify from the ground and hear through a subwoofer, would resonate though the wood frame of a double bass with a transducer placed on it. So I tried first with my cello on the Bristol Downs.


Testing with the cello transducer and geophone


Tests with the equipment visible

These tests worked out and the sound was both audible and interesting. Both tests were done near roads where the impact of the traffic on tarmac I knew would have an effect on the geophone where I was using ( SM24 see http://www.geophone.com), and the battery powered car system with pre amp. (a MP-1 Sound Devices mic pre amp, 3000W amp and 12” sub at http://www.theloudest.co.uk/?sectionid=2&page=view_product&product_id=102 TL1023 ).


At the top of the Hill at Thorveton

We took the equipment to the very top of a hill at Thorveton in mid Devon where we had a spectacular view of the landscape and two fields away from a tiny road, a couple of miles from an A road and several miles from the M5. I was concerned that the geophone I had wouldn’t pick up sound brought about by the impact made by vehicles on the local roads; the roads being too far away.

With two transducers on the bass, we listened. There were lots of sounds! The bass was SPECTACULARLY sensitive and seemed very much like an instrument of the nature around it. We had to adjust the set up by eliminating feedback that involved moving the geophone further from the bass. We also had to turn the bass to shield the strings from excess wind and put up a brolly to shield the instrument from the sun which was causing the bass to making sharp small bangs as it slightly and sensitively expanded in the heat.


Looking up to the top of the hill you can just see two people and a double bass.

The sound was quite visceral, varied, rumbling and deep. With out a spectrograph it wasn’t easy to say what frequency it was, but it was there, received and transmitted up through the solid, red clay hill in the middle of nowhere!


Burying the violin

We recorded the sound of the soil being dug and the violin being buried in the hole. Listening carefully to these quiet sounds in that immense open space, I began to notice other quiet sounds from different distances. With the sun out, I enjoyed the colours and textures of the red earth, green grass, glinting sliver equipment and deep varnish of the instruments’ woods.

The big space all around us and over our heads made me feel like we were sticking small and probing needles into a cushion. We were uncovering sounds from deep under the red clay terrain with the fragile ringing resonating of the bass – and ceremoniously covering up the violin.

In the rehearsal studio the recorded ground sounds from the Thorveton hilltop were played into and were again resonated by the bass.


Transducer strapped on to the bass

Here is the sound of the ground as recorded resonating through the bass on the hill, now being played resonating again through the bass in the studio. This recording sounds rather less distinct than it did live due to the acoustics of the room – and my recording.

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Here are recordings of the process of the rehearsal, and not the finished composition, where the string players are improvising and getting to know the feel of the sounds of the ground to play with. First you can hear the strings improvising with the sound of the ground

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Here the string players are improvising, playing and vocalising with the sound of the ground.

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Here’s singer Jackie Oates singing a traditional song with the string players improvising and the sound of the ground.

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String players rehearsing

The performance featured images of the recording of the sounds on the hill in Thorveton. You can see the earth where the sounds came from close up……
http://www.sonicartresearch.co.uk/events/bury-your-love-like-treasure/

Blog spot for tour
http://exetercontemporarysounds.blogspot.co.uk/

Bridport Art Centre, Bridport – 17th November 2012
Audiograft – Oxford Brookes University – February 2013

End

Through You

February/March 2012

Through You was an interactive active artwork that happened in 2011/12, developed from work started at the Soundfjord Gallery, where we experimented playing sounds into objects
(See previous post http://www.shirleypegna.com/process-in-focus/).

As you can imagine from the title it involved playing sounds through your self. It was one in a series of works made, along with Through Walls and Through The Bathwater.


Beam workshopday participant

I developed a battery kit with sound artist Matt Davies (http://www.audiblefields.com/ ) , where you could walk around and play sounds into any object and yourself. An mp3 player connected to a small amp and battery played sound into a transducer that vibrated sound into objects, and peoples’ bodies. I tried these kits at several places progressively adding different sounds: at Audiograft 2012 – Oxford, Bath Spa University, Oxford Brookes University, BEAM Workshop Day – Brunel University and Fir Tree Junior School – Wallingford.


Bag,transduce and mp3player


Inside the kit bag- a battery and amp

There were several events of Through You, where I introduced more and different sounds for people to play through the transducers. I tried different sounds:

• speech – speeds of sound
• sung vocal sound
• low frequency sounds -both audible and inaudible
• high frequency sounds – both audible and inaudible
• recognisable body sounds like heart beat
• breathing
• less recognisable sounds which were also internal body sounds

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I was interested to see what the reaction was of these different sounds. How people heard sounds differently, in this case through them selves, and especially to the reaction of extreme sounds: did they have associations with these odd internal sounds coming to their ears? In the case of the speech, did they for instance listen to the words? Most importantly -What did they think of sounds on the edge of their usual perception?


Participant at Audiograft 2012

I was interested to see what the reaction was of these different sounds. How people heard sounds differently, in this case through them selves, and especially to the reaction of extreme sounds: did they have associations with these odd internal sounds coming to their ears? In the case of the speech, did they for instance listen to the words? Most importantly -What did they think of sounds on the edge of their usual perception?


Visitors to the Soundfjord Gallery -London

It prompted them to think about how we think about our hearing and ask – “what do our ears make us aware of?” I’m inviting participants to become aware of, and question: “which sounds do I heard from within and which sounds from outside?”

The activity of playing sound into the body is unusual, but we are some times aware of sounds from inside our heads. More usual is the internal sound in our ears from either our blood racing when our heart pumps fast or ringing sounds of some sort from tinnitus.


Stidents from Oxford Brookes University – Audiograft 2012

I wanted to form and ask the participants specific questions, but each situation brought the same amazement at the physical behaviour of our body (as a material) and the way it conducted sound and our experience of sound ‘s behaviour in our body – the way we heard it. So experience and exploration needed to come first and then the questions asked needed to arise from individual experiences.


Visitors to the Beam Day Workshop

I wondered how safe an activity this was and asked a Physicist from Bristol University, an Audiologist also from Bristol University, a GP, and an Electro Engineer. Importantly, the main outcome from my enquiries was that in terms of health and safety the activity was safe, but the journey in questioning the different experts introduced me to the span of expertise concerned with our ears and their behaviour.


Knee being tested at Beam Day Workshop

To sum up, this proved to be a rich vein of enquiry, and there was a lot of varied feedback. People were hearing outside sounds from inside themselves, which gave this disembodied sound a disconnectedness that required the listener to think twice about – where they were hearing from.

Steven Connor comments, from his talk Auscultations: Listening I, that the ear is ‘half anatomy and half imagination’. We don’t often focus on where we imagine sounds are heard. Is it heard in the ear – or in the brain registering the ears sounds? ‘If we can say space is described by sound and sound is the space in which it occurs, it causes a disruption in our habit of listening, and listening to inside generated sounds brings a focus to what it means to hear sounds.’
http://www.sonicacts.com/portal/index.php/steven-connor-auscultations-listening-in/

Laurie Anderson’s Table Piece was a beautifully presented gallery example of focusing on sound through the bones of the elbow and arm to the ear.
http://testpressing.org/2011/03/exhibition-laurie-anderson-trisha-brown-gordon-matta-clark-pioneers-of-the-downtown-scene-new-york-1970s/

Bernard Leitner in his piece Sound Chair started a series of work where he developed the idea of sound and music travelling through the body.
http://www.bernhardleitner.com/works

Kaffe Mathews – Music for Bodies -Sonic Bed, explored sound, especially vibration travelling through the body.
http://www.musicforbodies.net/wiki/InstrumentLab


Multiple sound kits in the making

Feedback
• ‘Good fun!’
• ‘It’s really cool!’
• ‘Putting the transducer on my temple/side of my skull I had the experience of hearing sounds also on the other side of my head as if from an external sound source/loudspeaker but with nothing there – phantom sound!’
• ‘Great experience. There will be no use of speakers soon!’
• ‘When you put it into your body you start to feel more mechanical about it – is it ‘spatial out’ or ‘spatial in?’
• ‘Well done I really like it – amazing –‘
• ‘I wanted to go on a journey with them and explore making every thing into a speaker. I like that sense if being personal, but they did have a kind of medical quality: the bags and the stainless steel.’


Sound played into the hand

• ‘I almost wanted them to be huge to stand on them – the transducers.’
• ‘ I put them on my spine and it almost hurt and I put them on my ear and elbow and it was nice.’
• ‘I felt it intrusive – very powerful especially not knowing what the sound was.’
• ‘I found it really amazing.’
• ‘It’s an interesting reversal to have instead of the machine recording- it’s ‘out putting’.
• ‘Strange relaxing weird but nice….’
• ‘This is really amazing! Love the low one (sound), it’s very relaxing, clever and I’ve never seen anything like it. Listen with your body.’
• ‘Really nice great invention, heard by your bones it my first time to see it well done
great great great.’

• ‘Awesome idea! Really like the thought of hearing through the body – would be interesting to have a floor of these, all playing different things: as someone walks across the sound and music they hear changes.Delicious!’
• ‘Amazing! A new way of hearing! Feeling some sounds very weird, especially hearing heartbeat inside your head! Great to experience something different.’
• ‘I really loved the heart and lungs – I found it fascinating and hard to put it down!’
• ‘When I tried it – I had a feeling that I doubted my own sense: I felt spooked cos it sounded, when I put it on my head, very loud and I had to ask Aya if she could hear that. ‘
• ‘It’s taking on bits of extraterrestrial technology. It’s enlightening to encounter such things.’
• ‘Mixes sound and touch – like a little hamster vibrating in your hand.’

End

Ghost Quartet

February 2012

The Ghost Quartet installation was shown at Audiograft 2012 – Oxford. There was an empty space where four chairs, lit by a theatre light, seemed to emit sound.

The idea was developed from a collaboration with sound artist Wajid Yaseen (http://www.youkneeform.com/background/) at a public work –in- progress event at the London gallery Soundfjord , where a lot of experimentation went on which included playing sounds into objects, buildings and people.


Photo – Sarah Hughes

Each chair in the quartet had a transducer attached to it. Sound was played through the transducer into the chair, and the chair then amplified the sound. The sound wave travelling through the wood amplified the sound wave according to the quality or density of the wood. The main oddness, mismatch or disjuncture of understanding in the scenario was that sound was coming not from either people or speakers but from the chairs themselves. The sight of the empty chairs begged the question –if this was a quartet where were the players?

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Photo – Sarah Hughes

We chose for the Ghost Quartet to have music and body sounds that we felt were associated with the look of the chairs as instruments and as chairs belonging in a waiting room . Wajid composed a string quartet and I recorded different internal body sounds. We were drawn to the associations of the look of waiting-room chairs, the medical look of the transducers, the subsequent anthropomorphising of the chairs (looking like they were having treatment), and the quality of the sound through the chairs as amplifiers. We hoped that this would suggest to the visitor that it was it wasn’t just a straightforward recording being played by musicians while you looked at their empty chairs. A theatre light focused on the chairs highlighted the grain of the wood to further highlight the material of the wood and the theatricality of possible narratives assumed by the onlookers.


Listening in – Audiograft 2012

In the collaborative process with Wajid, we were interested in a range of different ideas, and that encouraged us both to try out more options than we would have if we had developed the work on our own. One element of this was the string quartet music, which I wouldn’t have thought to make, and I’m grateful as it has opened me up to ideas of music in this set of developing sound work.

Putting this particular set of elements together has posed questions about odd associations: featuring an object and highlighting its beauty and it being a bog standard kitchen chair, the use of atmosphere with mixtures of unfamiliar body function sounds with calming music, the unfamiliar way the sounds are heard through he wood and why that might be interesting or familiar.


Audiograft 2012

It was fed back to us that it felt odd to bend down before the communal kitchen chairs listening into them, as if treating them almost reverently. Some people wondered what the relationship of the sounds and the music was, and others worked out where the sound was coming from gauging with their ears its unfamiliar route through the chairs.

• ‘What a wonderful experience, I could have stayed here for hours- magic!
• ‘Fascinating experience – chairs as loud speakers/transducers has got me thinking!
• ‘Too creepy like ghosts.’
• ‘Beautiful quartet music – I couldn’t stop dancing…..’
• ‘Really like the quiet moments beautiful composition too
• ‘Eerily beautiful’.
• ‘Great, would be interesting in a wood.’
• ‘Placed at different positions on the chair, what sounds would be generated?
• ‘I wondered if they were speakers or whether the devices were actually using the chairs as diaphragms to produce the sounds. Hypnotic, anyway. Really liked the ssssssh??’
• ‘Nice to hold the sound in my hands.’
• ‘Very interesting love the sound of the heartbeat sounds going through my body.
• ‘Lee showed us the elbow and finger in your ear. Very very interesting sound. A very relaxing room to be in. Feel calm leaving the room.’
• ‘Fantastic/love it.’
• ‘Lush mate.’


Setting up the sound – run from a Max Patch on a Mac Mini in the space.

David Tudor – Rainforest
http://www.moderecords.com/catalog/064tudor.html
David Tudors’ 1968 Rainforest piece came up in conversation as an early work where he played and amplified sounds through objects.


Auditioning chairs – these didn’t make it!


Here are three of the chairs ‘waiting in the wings!’


Photo Sarah Hughes

Here they are ‘on stage!’

You will be able to see the Ghost Quartet installation at Brunel University in 2012/13

End

Through the Bath Water

April -June 2012

Do you put your head under the bath water?
What can you hear under the bath water?
Do you remember putting their head under the bath water?

After a series of work called Through Walls, Through You – BEAM Festival – 2012, commissioned me to make a sound artwork called Through the Bath Water. The installation involved the public, listening to sounds over and under the bathwater.

 

.
Listening to bathwater at BEAM Festival

It involved actively getting into an empty bath, and putting on headphones. Through the headphones listeners heard the sounds of the bath water running and on tilting their head back to a certain angle heard the sound of the water running but from under the water.

Try each headphone ear separately to compare sound

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Listening to bathwater at BEAM Festival

Sound artist Mike Blow put together an Arduino and Max Patch that ran in conjunction with the two sound files (of over and of under the water) such that when the head phones were tilted back the sensor on the Arduino got the Max Patch to play the other sound file. http://mikeblow.wordpress.com/

 


Headphones with tilt sensor sewn inside and Arduino


Max Patch

The contrasting sound of the change from over to under water reminded the listener of their own experience of: perhaps bathing as a child, plunging their heads under water to rinsing their hair of shampoo or just playing about.

You may wonder why any one would get in this bath, but the setting was inadvertently enticing: the bath was placed in a grey corridor near an outside door, with a bath mat requesting you politely to take off your shoes. I did wonder if the mat should say ’get in!’ but people did get in and by the expression on their faces they enjoyed the experience of the situation – shoes off and all!

 


Listening to the bathwater at BEAM Festival

I was interested in connecting the listener with their own past experiences of hearing sound through differing materials, and the sounds being at different speeds connecting them to the underlying laws of physics that we all experience daily.

To do this I focused on one element: the sound. Rather than create or fabricate the whole bath experience and distract the listeners’ senses with:
• the vibration of the tap water running in, which could be done with transducers on the side of the bath,
• or the heat of the water on the skin – which also could be created,

I chose to concentrate on the sound to make the point of the comparison between the sound heard in air and water. I didn’t want to distract the audience from the sounds with other experiences.

 


Mics set to record in the bathroom

I set up mics in a bathroom, with a pair of AKG200 and a hydrophone recording simultaneously into the Edirol 44. I wanted to experiment and see what sound was like heard under water. I tried different things:

• putting the radio on,
• having people come in and say things,
• waiting till there was a racket out side the window,
• humming in the room loudly and then softly.

I found that as soon as there was some different element to follow other than the bath water, there became a narrative. This narrative, which was fun to conceive and create then over rode the focus on the sound itself and its behaviour, so I kept to the sound of the bath water.

 


Hydrophone in the bath

Sound travels faster through water than it does through air (Approximately 1482 mp/s in water as opposed to 344mp/s in air depending on the quality of both.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=speed+of+sound+in+water).

The hydrophone under water sound, does not replicate the behaviour of our human ears listening under water. This brought up further questions about the way other mammals and fish ‘hear’ under water. I wondered if I needed to adjust the EQ on the recording to suggest it was listened to under water. I put a small amount of reverb on the over water sound to make a contrast with the under water sound.
Here was an interesting question –“ how much if any intervention could or should I consider making?’

Last year I was lucky enough to catch the tour Wet Sounds by Joel Cahen, where we listened under water to the sound tracks played under water. Have a look here: http://www.wetsounds.co.uk/ It brought up questions about how ears react under water to sound and how fish and marine mammals hear sound under water?

By making sure we could set up the max patch tilt for tilting forward and backward, this meant the listeners could put the head phones either way round.
There was positive feed back from the ‘bathers’, but a larger number of them requested that if next time if the bath could be bigger, it would be easier to slide down to hear the under water sounds.

• ‘Wet’
• ‘I do love a relaxing bath.’
• ‘It gives the experience of being a fish as you can still breathe under water.’
• ‘Taking my shoes off made me slow down…..’
• ‘Would a shower curtain change the experience?’
• ‘Great Thanks’
• ‘Thought I might feel naked in the bathe!’
• ‘Didn’t like staying in being watched.’
• ‘Would be interesting to hear voices and other sounds as well – live water?’
• ‘Refreshing – enjoyed this.’
• ‘How effected are the sounds? As sounds too loud in the phones make it seemed recorded.’
• ‘I actually cried when I heard the test version of this, as I can’t go under water with my ear problem.’
• ‘How relaxed are you? (is one?) Can you measure it?’
• ‘WANTED HEAT.’
• ‘Adjust the headphones so it doesn’t matter which way round you when you put on them on. The tilt goes both ways’.
• ‘Had some sense that there was the materiality of the water there.
• ‘I like the encapsulation – physically inside the bath and physically inside the phones. The environment was framed by the bath. It felt further closed up when listening to the under water sound. So re-meaning: isolated aural environment then further – so sound source an analogy.’
• ‘How about smoothing the change. Between the two sounds – merging them together.’
• ‘The bath’s a bit short to get the tilt back. When you are small- a child – baths are bigger and you usually put your head under.’
• ‘Made me laugh – much appreciated.’

 


‘Under’ the bath water…

 

End

Over and Under Water – Over and Under Ground

February 2012

Earlier in 2012 I set up, at Oxford Brookes University, an installation in a studio showing two films. I was interested to see if the films would draw attention to our own usually subconscious reading of time, sound and distance, and if the combination of hearing the sound from the two films would emphasise this.

 

Two screens

The DVDs used a 5.1 sound system to enable the two soundtracks.

One film was shot in Bristol docks and one in a street in Oxford. These two looped digital recordings each had two soundtracks recorded in those places: in Bristol above and below water and in Oxford above and below ground.

The screen showing Bristol Docks

If you chose to look at the docks scene (a view of Bristol Docks) you could either hear the sound above the water or the sound below the water on head phones. The sound from the boats could be heard on the hydrophone under water as well as above the water.

Try each ear separately on the headphones to compare sound

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Equipment on pontoon

I used a hydrophone for the under water recordings and a long-range stereo rifle mic recording into a Fostex digital recorder. The hydrophone is about 1.5m depth off the end of the pontoon .

If you chose to look at the road scene (a road outside Oxford) you could hear the sound above the road or sounds under the road in the ground.

Screen showing street scene and pedestrian

When you heard the footsteps on the path and saw the person making them,
the sound of the impact of the step of the walkers below the ground (or cars or bikes), contrasted with those picked up on the mics above ground, due to the different speeds at which sound travels through ground and air.

Try each ear separately on the headphones to compare sound

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I used a pair mics (Rode NTG2) recording the over ground sound into an Edirol 44 digital recorder, and for the under ground sounds I ran the a geophone – SM24 -into a battery operated sound system in my car and recorded from another digital recorder from the subwoofer. To boost the geophones signal I had a preamp and 3000W car amp and 15” sub.

Equipment to amplify sound from the ground

At the front of the car, not shown here, was a pair of mics recording over ground sounds by the front wing mirrors.

Below is the scene from the end of the docks, when I made the recording, where I could hear the diesel engines of the different boats before they rounded the corner into view. I wondered if I could show this and the viewer would understand that the sound in the water was travelling faster than the sound in the air.

Recording on the docks

At the time, and for both films, there were practical difficulties cueing the equipment to sync up the sound and film, getting permissions from the public when they came into shot and getting good sound levels. All of which led me to think that this would be a work in progress exercise rather than a finished product.

I had feedback from the discussion group:

• ‘…intrigued at the under ground sounds…’

• ‘…surprised at the high frequency of the under water sounds.’

• ‘I was distracted by trying to work out where the mics were recording the sounds.’

• Would you film the hydrophone and geophone? Would you film the cameras filming the shot to showing where different sounds were coming from?

• ‘Sounds heard beyond the visual field (of the film) were confusing.’
Trying to narrow the shot and the view of the source of the sound, did not allow
the listener to understand where the mics were picking up the sound.

• ‘The films are so different: one panoramic and one almost domestic.’
On the whole the viewers trying to compare sounds and distances found the
two scenes and techniques offered a complex set of visual information.

• ‘The camera on the tripod is totally different to the hand held one, where there is a different narrative.’

• ‘The two films needed to be presented together to get the contrast and only one film would be less than half of the presentation.’

• ‘Having a close up of the water’, and ‘ a shot of the geophone down a hole,’
it was suggested, would ‘help to give an impression of sound coming from under
water and under ground’.

Earlier on decisions were made about the presentation of the sounds the themselves, and ideas like putting them on speakers placed up high and down low, and only having the ‘under’ sounds on headphones – were tested. The whole exercise did generate ideas about how to direct listeners to listen to specific sounds.

Viewer listening with two pairs of headphones

Filming and recording where time, sound and distance are key showed me some of the complexities of trying to portray the idea of ‘seeing sound’. Elements of the ideas for this presentation informed me about subsequent work and particularly isolating ways of listening to and through water in a more domestic environment.

This film by Kaffe Mathews (see vimeo) shows another way of focusing on the under water world and its’ sounds. It was made in collaboration with Nenagh Watson on a theme of Ephemeral Animation.

http://expandedanimation.myblog.arts.ac.uk/2012/03/11/ephemeral-animation-nenagh-watson/

 

Speed of sound in AIR (depending on air quality)
344mp/s

Speed of sound in GROUND (depending on ground type)
5,000 – 13,000 mp/s

Speed of sound in WATER (depending on water type)
1482 mp/s

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=speed+of+sound+in+water
http://askville.amazon.com/sound-travel-faster-air-ground/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=3760983

 

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