Hebdomadal sound project: February 2013

Week 9
Easter Road football stadium
February 27th, 8.35pm

I live only a few minutes away from Hibernian FC’s stadium, and when there’s a particularly lively match the sounds of cheering, booing, and tannoy announcements can be heard from my garden. I have strong memories of the acoustics of football grounds from years ago when I closely followed football, so this week I thought it would be interesting to make some recordings directly outside of Easter Road. On the evening of the 27th Hibs were up against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League, and I arrived outside in time for the beginning of the second half. Though the game ended in a 2-2 draw, I was only present to record the roar of Kilmarnock supporters as their team took the lead within the first minute of the game (3 goals were scored in the last 3 minutes). The acoustics that I remember so well – especially the reverberating sound of clapping – were happily heard again.


Setup: 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680

Week 8
East Princes Street Gardens
February 23rd, 12.35pm

Made possible by the drainage of Nor Loch in 1759, East Princes Street Gardens is now a popular public park located adjacent to Edinburgh’s main shopping street (Princes Street), the central train station (Waverley Station), and the tourist-focused Mound and Royal Mile.
Listening from a path outside of the National Gallery’s cafe above East Princes Street Gardens and facing towards Waverley Station, is a really great experience that is impossible to capture through a stereo recording. From this point, sounds drift just into earshot from afar; few sounds that can be heard appear to emanate directly from the park. This is especially so on a cold February afternoon, when not many people are using the Gardens. Indeed this is a very different soundscape compared to warmer months and the Christmas/Hogmanay period, when the park is bustling.
I find listening to the confluence of these sounds a little disorientating, as the source of many of the sounds that drift through the Gardens cannot actually be seen. Disembodied voices of train announcers, pipers playing to tourists on the Mound, shoppers on Princes Street, and speeding emergency vehicles on the North Bridge, as well as the general noise floor created by vehicles and only-just indecipherable chatter, ricochets from the buildings lining the Royal Mile. This creates a reverberating soundscape that I tend to get lost in – so much so this time that the blackbird heard at 5:27 really startled me.


Setup: RØDE NT4 to Tascam DR-680

Week 7
Various locations, London
February 12th – 17th

(view from Waterloo Bridge)

From Poole (see week 6) I traveled to London in anticipation of a two-day symposium at the British Library dedicated to field recording entitled In the Field. Here, I got to meet up with friends in the sound recording community such as Ian Rawes, who runs the London Sound Survey, and Louise K Wilson, as well as the chance to listen to a whole series of interesting presentations and playback sessions from a range of recordists, including Christina Kubisch, Chris Watson, Peter Cusack, Jana Winderen, and Des Coulam.
Before and after the symposium, I spent some time wandering around central London, during which I made a series of field recordings. The following, then, are some edited highlights…

I tend to gravitate towards the South Bank when I’m in central London, but I found this was especially so during this trip as I was staying on the Strand (no, not in the Savoy). Walking along the Hungerford Bridge, a rail and pedestrian bridge that spans the Thames, I noticed some great acoustics underneath the bridge, emanating from a colony of noisy gulls riding the waves created by passing boats. The following recording is of these gulls, interspersed with overground trains traveling along the bridge.

(February 12th, 11.35 am (05:05))

Just along from this bridge is an area that is habitually used by graffiti artists and skateboarders, apparently since the early 1970s. If you’ve ever been in this area, you will surely have heard the sound of skateboards echoing around the imposing masses of concrete lying adjacent to the South Bank Centre. Skateboarding culture is seemingly embedded here; there is even a skateboard graveyard for broken boards.

(February 12th, 7.10 pm (06:00))

One of the benefits of visiting London is the choice of art galleries and museums (often free to enter) within walking distance of each other. The following recording was made in room 32 of the National Gallery, while I was sat in front of Francesco Solimena’s ‘Dido receiving Aeneas and Cupid disguised as Ascanius’. I positioned myself near to a squeaky floorboard, which subtly appears at times during the recording.

(February 13th, 1.30 pm (07:00))

(Coots on The Serpentine)

On a cold but clear afternoon, I took a walk around Hyde Park to record the wildfowl apparently enjoying the abundance of tourists willing to give them scraps of sandwiches. Once most people had cleared from the park, I made the following recording very close to all kinds of birds floating (and fighting) on the Serpentine in the park.

(February 13th, 5.20 pm (11:40))

Finally, just before I jumped on a train back to Edinburgh, walking through St. Pancras station I came upon a piano located near the entrance to the Eurostar. The piano was installed last year as part of a city festival, and is intended to be played by anyone who wants to. While I was there, a man was entertaining passers-by with a variety of slightly off but rather wonderful renditions of well-known tunes. He seemed to be reacting to whoever stopped and listened, so when two young boys and their parents paused momentarily, he quickly shifted to playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (at 3:34).

(February 17th, 11.45 am (05:37))

Happily, this week’s set of London recordings, and some others not presented here, are now being hosted over at the London Sound Survey.

Setup for all recordings: 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680

Week 6
Parkstone Bay, Poole
February 6th, 11am

Spending some time in Poole this week, I went on a series of walks along the coast. On this particular morning, the wind was very strong, creating a really interesting soundscape around Parkstone Bay, a nature reserve and a marina where pleasure boats are moored. The following is a series of recordings edited together, recorded as I walked towards the Bay from Poole harbour. Brent geese can be heard initially, before the sounds of rattling yacht masts in the wind. This rattling becomes louder, and the sound of a circular saw can be heard, as a council worker fixes a section of a seawall.


Setup: RØDE NT4 to Tascam DR-680

Week 5
Water of Leith, Edinburgh
February 3rd, 3pm

Persistent wet weather means that the Water of Leith, the main river that runs through Edinburgh, is flowing strongly at this time of the year. I took a walk along a section of the river that runs adjacent to Princes Street, and decided to make a few recordings from a small pathway that leads right down to the water, next to St Bernard’s Well. The following is a simultaneous mono hydrophone and stereo ambient recording, with the hydrophone placed about 3 inches under the surface of the water, and the stereo mic on a tripod about a foot above. The ability to record in such a simultaneous manner is one of the things that I’m really appreciating about the multi-input Tascam DR-680.


Setup: RØDE NT4 and mono hydrophone to Tascam DR-680