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

 

End

Ears, Dishes and Coils

I’ve just been to Jodrell Bank (www.jodrellbank.net ) where I was stunned again by the majestic scale of the Lovell Telescope dish. I went in November 2011 and  again in April 2012. Even though I had been before I was awed by the structure appearing in the landscape on the approach to the centre.

 


Lovell Telescope 2012

 

The dish is like an enormous version of our own ears, and a bit like the concrete airplane detectors, that were built on the coast to pick up enemy aircraft approaching from over the channel. So the dishes – our scalloped shaped ears – aircraft detector or the Lovell Telescope, all catch and re direct their signals. The transit of sound goes through a series of changes i.e. from sound wave to ear to brain, or radio wave to telescope dish to computer.

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Walking almost underneath the huge dish you can hear the motor of the wheels slowly altering the position of the telescope, and accompanied by the feathered inhabitants that make their nests and bring up their young in the shelter of the slowly perambulating structure.

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http://www.aqpl43.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/COMMS/ear/ear.htm
An acoustic locator dish in Kent, England: built 1928.
This 30-foot high dish is located at Greatstone, Kent. The small concrete hut in front housed the operators. The vertical mast in the centre carried the acoustic pickup tubes.

Ear

At the centre I was struck by the explanation by the display case that showed a radio telescope. It was surprisingly understandable for such a very sophisticated piece of equipment, showing the transit of the radio wave signal through a series of changes. Put simply, the radio waves are focussed in to the middle of the dish; this weak radio wave signal is amplified, although kept from being contaminated by the amplification equipment’s own electronic sound, in various ways, and sent on its way to the computer. Here is the display of the telescope parts and the instructions as seen in the visitors centre.

The ‘feed’ channels the radio waves into the receiver.

Air is pumped out of the ‘vacuum can’ so it cannot conduct heat. Just as a vacuum flask keeps your drink hot, this lets us keep the receiver cold.

The ‘radiation shield’ blocks any thermal radiation from the outer vacuum can, and stops the receiver warming up.

Inside the ‘receiver body’ the radio waves are turned into an electrical signal. This signal is amplified by electronics, which are cooled to about -620 degrees centigrade.

The ‘cold head’ is a refrigerator that continually compresses and then expands helium gas, cooling the receiver. This reduces the noise in the electronics allowing us to detect extremely faint signals arriving from space.

I had been impressed when I found how the magnetic coil of the microphone and speaker worked in a sound system. It’s interesting to me to that both the telescope and the radio’s systems can suggest to us with sound, imagined places that give us an understanding of time and distance regarding real places we may never visit.

http://sciencecity.oupchina.com.hk/npaw/student/glossary/microphone.htm

A while ago I got interested in getting sounds from outside our atmosphere. A friend introduced me to a podcast (Jodcast) Sounds of Space from Jodrell Bank introduced by Tim O’Brien and Stuart Lowe. I wondered what these sounds were, how they came to be this sound in my ears and where they came from. Have a listen to this link!   – ‘Sounds of Space’

http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/multimedia/audio/soundsofspace.html
Laid out at the Visitors Centre was simplified and accessible science. I was able to confirm some ideas I had come across before, like that fact that we are hearing different signals picked up in space coming from a range of types of signals on the electromagnetic spectrum. Like the ‘changes’ and ‘transitions ‘ mentioned above these different signals on the spectrum need to go through different transitions to allow our ears to pick up the a limited frequency range of signals the human ear can register.

In the past it has been put to me that these different signals on the electromagnetic spectrum, because they are not audio signals, are in some way false because they need to be transposed to audio signals for us to recognise. I feel that these transpositions are, in part, just more ‘changes and ‘transpositions’ that links the signal to our ears. Even with a Hi-Fi system we make choices about the sound we hear – by choosing different equipment. Transposition or sonifcation of signals from microwaves or x-rays, I find, is an interesting extension of the transpositions we are already familiar with

 

Picture form the Jodrell Bank Visitors Centre

Time and distance come in to the equation when thinking of sounds from extreme distances, however the scale of the distances and the concepts of time are magnificently grander. The arrays of dishes across the earth: the VLT in Chile high up in the Andes and the SKA (Array) being built in the Southern Hemisphere, and even the moving craft, like the Plank space craft (http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/research/cosmos/planck.html) are getting data-pictures and sound from further and further from us. I find it surprising how recent the discoveries in space technologies are, for instance it’s only since the 1950s that scientists have found the universe is expanding.


Sir Bernard Lovell-picture from the Jodrell Bank Visitors Centre

My own understanding of time is expanding and my reach into the outer atmosphere almost a tangible, audible experience. Thinking into space and time is now not such a completely rarefied an experience, and TV programmes and visitors centres go someway to clarify complex or new science. My ears however are my own equipment here, and I am happy that the chain of events, the transit of sound, takes me via amazing constructions like the Lovell Telescope, to extreme and barely imaginable places.


Lovell Telescope 2012
Some of the telescopes structure housing  -a parliament of rooks or was it a murder of crows!

Process in Focus

 

Work in Progress at Soundfjord

On the 2nd-4th of December 2011 Wajid Yaseen and I held a Work in Progress session at the Soundfjord Gallery in London, http://www.soundfjord.org/galleryexhibitions.htm , where the public were invited to take part in the process of thinking through ideas for the sound work we were proposing to develop.  Helen Frosi, the curator of the gallery, was enthusiastic about the idea and keen to bring in the public and demystify the process in making sound art work. Wajid and I wanted to bring our combined different experience to the process, and have a dedicated 3 days to have the freedom to explore ideas.
We were both interested in the idea of sound travelling through different materials. During the event we played different sounds, with a recorded sound source, into different materials where every object, structure or body could be a potential amplifier.

Here are people listening to recorded vocal sounds played into their bodies using tissue and bone as the resonating and amplifying material.

Visitors to the event came through out the weekend, up to 30 including a group of 10 from Enfield Mencap Centre, a few who stayed for a whole day, some who returned on the following day, and those with ages ranging from 1 and a half years old to 70 years old.

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Wajid brought a recording of his composition for a string quartet and we played the sound into the wood of the chairs, using the resonating qualities of the wood to amplify the sound rather than ordinary speakers.

 

Here is a transducer battery powered kit in the making. It consists of an amp,(40W Kemo –MO34N) a transducer (Low frequency surface transducer – CEPT170A087-125-20MR), a 9v battery and an MP3 player.

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Playing a sine tone through a rusty tin (Sylvia Halletts’ favourite) and polystyrene –(Max Eastleys’ favourite)

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Notes from our Ideas Wall

 

We questioned the compositional and interactive elements of the ideas. I deliberately wanted the element of composition to come into the discussions, as aspects of my practise have led me away from composing music and sound. I had brought hand held equipment designed to allow the individual to investigate what amplified the sound from the transducer. I was keen to discuss the reasoning that one could have for the choice or choices of recordings.

 
 

 
Do you associate this image with a doctors’ waiting room, or perhaps the prim line up of adjudicating judges seats?

What were the associations with the different settings of the chairs? Memory and association were part of our conversations, as was imagination.  The two original ideas we brought along (sound through chairs and sound through the body) we found were linked in a lot of ways, but the contrast between them brought up different and useful viewpoints to wrangle with. There was an element of anthropomorphising the chairs, where the absent musical players were associated with and sometimes seem even to be represented by the chairs.
Disembodiment seemed to be an element present in both of the original ideas.

 

 

Listening to an external heart sound through the body

 

 

The playing of body sounds into a body was reported as a strange and for some a repelling experience. The radiating internally of an internal sound that did not belong to the listener and was alien, gave rise to loud exclamations. The focus on bodily sounds connected with the notion of the transducers being like stethoscopes or medical objects, almost seemed to suggest the chair was human or the chair had some link with the person that had sat on it.

 

 
The speaking voice listed speeds of sound through different materials. We played this sound though different materials.

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Here people are using the efficient ‘conducting elbow’. The battery-powered kit meant that people could try playing sound through different objects and themselves round and outside the space.

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People made images, models and wrote thoughts on our wall of ideas.
The process brought up a number of things:

•    The randomly timed entrance of visitors certainly added to the richness of the conversations and variety of different ideas. Experiments were acted upon in the moment, and ideas were kicked off though the fluid movement of people with their imaginations sparking off others and the physical energy of interactivity.

•    The re cycling of ideas came about naturally when new people came in and by telling them what we were doing or had been thinking about, our rephrasing for different people instigated new thoughts and ideas. We were taking a step back to recap, but often it took the ideas forward in another direction.

•    After the event we reflected the difference between the intuitive ideas and thrashed out ideas – and talked about what could be gained or even lost, by going into detail.

We saw that our two original ideas that were contrasting (sound through chairs and sound through the body) although seemingly opposing ideas cross-fertilised and created new questions, and amongst them the nature of the forms composition and installation and we wondered what would a hybrid piece be like : perhaps a quartet comprised of sounds from ‘four bodies’ perhaps.

Come and see what the next step is at Audiograft 2012.  29th feb – 4th March http://www.audiograft.com
And further developments at BEAM Workshop Day 10th March 2012
http://www.beamestival.com/beam-festival-2012/

 

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No babies or toddlers were used to test sound frequency in our event but everything has its own resonant frequency.

 

 

Sound – artists’ impression – (aged 11 months)  – or was it a scribble?

Sounds from Sabah – Borneo

Summer Trip 2011 – Part 3

Approaching our last destination late at night, we saw what looked like a fire burning on the sea as we flew into Koto Kinabalu, capital of Sabah (A Malaysian part of the island of Borneo). It was an off shore oilrig, and a sight that set the table of mysteries and atmosphere for the unknown we were to encounter. I didn’t take a picture of the oilrig from the plane at that moment, as the plane was bouncing around violently, although I wish I had had the presence of mind to record the exuberant and terrified screams that ensued.

Mt. Kinabalu seen from the kitchen indow

Mt. Kinabalu is known as the Mountain of Spirits and is a majestic presence in the area. The sounds of KK and Sabah were calm and more natural than the urban sounds of Seoul and Hong Kong, being out of a city and on the coast. We explored the secondary forest and coastline, looking into the bays that lead to the mangrove swamps.

Walking to breakfast

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Houses on stilts

The swamps are mostly mangrove trees and a few islands. The people have evolved different houses for the places they live, houses on stilts here in the swamps, boat houses on the sea shore, long houses in the primary forest and so on. They live in the nature and with the wildlife that lives there too.

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We made our way in a small boat through the mangrove, and came after a while to a burial site where the family bring the deceased in a boat to this island. Instead of head stones or plaques, type of person: young, old etc is commemorated by different coloured cloth.

Burial site

Traditional instruments – gong or talempong, drums – tambor and gendang, and 9 note metallephone like a simple version of the Indonesian gamelan instruments. The recording was done in a rather reverberant hotel foyer, and with out the rest of the band.

Traditional instruments

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Secondary forest

Exploring the secondary forest and courted by the cicadas, squirrels and snakes. Luckily our guide alerted us to this Spitting Cobra, a dangerous snake, obviously put out by our tramping through his territory. A member of our party had a noisy camera, and I wondered what this creature thought of these digital beeps.

A meter and a half away from the Spitting Cobra

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We flew home over miles of unknown terrain, back thought the night and day, altering watches, changing daily diets to a chilly UK. Even though I am now many thousands of miles away, and months down the line from my visit, the recorded moments in sound fill my head with my travel experiences: the substance of the ground under my feet, the physical spaces around me at the time, the sun on my back and even the exotic smells.

Sounds from Hong Kong

Summer Trip 2011- Part 2

Hong Kong is a place of stunning water and islands, where the old and new coexist. The skyscrapers, a veritable crowd of high-rise giants lean together with their toes at the waters edge. Sounds ricochet out between them, like an amplifier, especially when the fireworks show is happening. Here are snap shots and sound bites from the second part of our three-part trip to Asia.

Veiw from Hong Kong Island to the main land

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I was interested to find an interview with Yang Yeung, a Sound Artist, resident of Hong Kong and director ‘Sound Pocket’, describing the way sounds are perceived from high up the buildings, ‘I remember going up to a 20-storey factory building with some friends in Aberdeen, south of Hong Kong Island. It used to be a fishing village and now a vantage point for getting boats to outlying islands. We stood on the rooftop one sunset and the birds were playing around. The traffic noise from below was audible, but not disturbing. It’s like it is suspended on the 18th floor or something, forming a “cloud,” hanging.’
http://www.examiner.com/experimental-arts-in-national/susie-law-wai-shan-yang-yeung-soundpocket-and-hong-kong-s-soundscapes

View from my brothers' flat - 30 stories up!!

30 stories up, the ground seemed like another world away, and quite quiet. The sky seems to move and the buildings actually do sway about especially in a high wind and especially typhoons that are quite common. My brother, who lives with his family in Hong Kong, described the improvements done to the design of the foundations of the high buildings so that the surplus rain does not damage their stability. Even now, during the typhoon storms , the movement from the tower blocks’ is quite dramatic, especially the higher up you are. To warn you of an impending typhoon, and especially the boats in the harbour, a signal is sent out. Historically it would have been a gun or explosive so ships would and still do take cover by the shore, although now it is broadcast over TV and radio.

Commenting on sounds representing Hong Kong nowadays, Yang Yeung says in an interview with Pandie Ho ‘I wouldn’t say it is representative, but the “doot” of Octopus cards dominates the everyday soundscape. But I miss the sounds of the coins going through the slots on public vehicles.
http://hk.asia-city.com/events/article/upclose-yeung-yang

I didn’t get a recording of the Octopus cards, (equivalent of our Oyster card) but did get the omnipresent pedestrian crossing beeps.

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Ignoring the beeps - on neighbouring Lan Tau Island

In a side street – Qingming or Ancestors day – observed here by office workers in their lunch hour by burning money to be carried in the smoke, up to their ancestors.

Ancestors Day

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Aficionados for the Qingming ceremonies

Still working daily down on the water, the Star Ferry takes passengers from the main land Kowloon, to Hong Kong Island for a mere couple of Hong Kong dollars. The Star Ferry Company, dating back to 1888, still has its 1933 diesel electric engines. The top deck is still the first class and the bottom second class, and climbing on especially the lower deck you hear the lovely diesel engine and smell of oily fumes, and the vibration goes through your bones.

Weighty rusty anchors on the Star Ferry

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Start Ferry - late night crossing

Sounds from Seoul

Summer Trip 2011 – Part 1

Asia was noisy and busy and amazing! Here are the sounds from the first part of our three-part journey this summer. Listening again to my collection of sound snapshots of the places has reminded me how even a short sound bite can put you spatially, geographically and sensationally right back to where you first heard it. We touched down first in Incheon International Airport -South Korea. We took the metro from the airport to the city.

View out of the train window on to wild terrain on the way into town

With the archaic landscape outside, the inside was a contrastingly ultra modern experience with air conditioned sped along with alternating western style trumpet fanfares and traditional music motifs as the doors opened. Voices announced directions in multiple languages while screens kept you amused – if at the time you weren’t taking advantage of the all-available Internet!

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View inside the train

In the city there are stark contrasts with old and new culture. Young people form all over Asian look to Seoul for their contemporary culture. These two BBoys (pictured) were telling me how the Koreans are leading the International field in dance where BBoying is concerned.

Above ground in the centre of the city at Gyeongbokgung Palace, is evidence of an older culture, and the traffic sound coexisted strangely with the conch shell bugles and shell rattles of the changing of the guard. (And my recorder battery ran out at this point!)

The changing of the guard at Gyeonbokgung Palace

Away from the centre however, the extraordinarily loud noise of the cicadas could be heard in the city streets.

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Seoul city streets

Here’s the street where we heard, the equivalent of the rag and bone man drive up and down in the rain in his battered truck calling on his mega phone for unwanted electrical goods.

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The presence of the rain (there was unusual city wide flooding as we visited Seoul), the heat and the solid rock of the mountains gave me a feeling for the ‘elemental substance’ of the place. At the Asian Art Museum, the beautifully restored house of a highly renowned teacher of the ideas of Confucius, we were shown and played the traditional instruments, gongs, cymbals and drums, that represented the elements: thunder, lightning, dancing, rain, sun and wind.

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The calm 'kitchen courtyard' of the Asian art Museum

At the other side of town by the port were the familiar thrills and spills of the fairground.

Fairground near the port

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Koreans felt to me to have toughness in their genes judging by their history, ability to survive, their fitness and their inventiveness. It’s a popular national pastime to walk in the National Parks, so we joined in, took the metro and explored the nearest of the parks, Bukhansan National Park, climbing 739 metres to a peak over looking the city.

At the top of the mountain with a couple of cool cats

On the way down, with light fading, we came across a temple built over a spring and heard as we descended the temple bell through the trees

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The Cheonchuksa Temple