Week 3

This score requires multi-track software. You can download audacity for free here if needed.

City Soundscape

Week 3 score by Linda O’Keeffe

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11 Responses to Week 3

  1. we live in a neighborhood about 10 min biking from the city center of arnhem. population about 150,000.
    thursday morning i went ‘downtown’ to pick up some folders. i took my laptop to make the recording. it was a sunny day with an icy cold wind, so i took up a spot under the relatively new bridge, the ‘zijpse poort’ (http://www.bruggen.fotopic.net/c1561462.html), white with curved walls that make for nice reverb. (electric) buses, taxis, cars, bikes, pedestrians (with baby buggies) pass under the bridge, which carries, i think, two train tracks.
    i made a four minute recording on my laptop with cheap external microphone.
    just now i started assembling the piece.
    i cut the recording to 2 minutes. the aesthetic choices i made were to start at a natural crescendo (leading into a the sound of someone honking their horn), and ending with the beginning sounds of a large vehicle.
    i did not ‘clean’ up the recordings, which means that there is static that has nothing to do with the city sounds, but with the process of recording (with a cheap mic).
    duplicating the tracks 9 times, i came up with 10 tracks.
    i wasn’t sure if the 30 seconds was from the beginning of 1 to the beginning of the 9th duplication, but that’s what i decided to do.
    after that i played all tracks simultaneously, but for more than 30 seconds, choosing a moment that coincided with a natural decrescendo, i think for around 50 seconds. this turned out to be at around 3min20sec, due to my decision to stagger the tracks from the beginning point to the beginning point.
    i then cut nine of the tracks to let one solo
    peak was not reached during the staggered tracks. it was reached and exceeded during the simultaneous tracks. when bounced, the whole thing is normalized, so it should be peaking around 3 min.

    besides the fact that i enjoy the attention i get when making a recording in a public space…. i got a different perception of the sounds of the city through the act of recording and listening to the recording. also, certain sounds began to take on other qualities through the duplication process, distinguishing themselves from the other sounds through a more metallic quality, or a suddenly recognized (by me) rhythmic quality (rhythmicity doesn’t exist in spell check).

    Thanks Linda, it was fun!
    here’s the sound file:
    [audio src="http://shandastudd.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/city-streets-arnhem.mp3" /]

  2. DavidH says:

    This was a great surprise! One of this concepts, which tricks you into thinking, you might know already the result (I mean, I listened to a lot of ‘citysound’ recordings – always always cars…- and the form is easy to overlook, once you got it). And then the concrete sound experience gets you from an unexpected side. Very good.

    I loved to observe the volume curve, how it gets louder, like a time stretch of a busy morning. First it happens quickly, but the last 2-3 steps are more an echo of the first additions and not another package of extra dB. That goes well with the theory that to double the sound of a violin you don’t need two, but 40 violins (in dB, not in quality). Still, what a noise! Sounded like Cairo around 17 o’clock and not like Saturday afternoon in Brussels. After 4 times at least.

    What made me happy as well: I simply took the sound of the two little test videos I made with my new canon s95 today. just a simple photo camera, but stereo recordings. (for the rest the video is half great. (but the pics are stunning!)) so, really ok sound.

    Further I liked the sudden cut after 4:30. How detailed it appears. One traveled through 3:30 min of transformation and then heard something ‘once’ known at new. Interesting, how one hears unconsciously a lot of details and form of the track, hidden in the 3 min of chaos and then it somehow gets confirmed after.

    I think the score could have been clearer. Let’s see, maybe I manage to upload the sound file somewhere. Is it not possible in this blog? How did you, Sharon, do it in your wordpress blog?

  3. stephanie says:

    I wound up recording my approach to the NYC Egyptian solidarity stand-in yesterday in Manhattan. I don’t have any portable sound or video recording equipment, so I used the depressingly terrible internal mic of my very old iphone (which contributed its technologically- and historically-specific filter to the recording).

    My favorite recording of the ones I made was only 1:50 seconds long, so I altered the score to make my changes at 25 second rather than 30 second intervals, and to solo at 4:00 rather than 4:30. I didn’t “clean up” my recording in any way, but as it was mono, I made some semi-arbitrary panning decisions (panning the first track all the way to the right, and then moving them incrementally leftwards until the last track, panned all the way to the left). Finally, I decided to interpret the direction to solo the “first track” as referring to the first sounding track, not the actual first track (which is completely silent at 4:00). The first sounding track did fall silent halfway through the solo, so there was still a period of silence in the performance, which I liked very much.

    I set everything up, and then sat down to listen to it play out. Here is the recording:

    I appreciated the experience of sitting down to listen to a mostly externally-imposed arrangement of a soundscape from my day. As I usually focus on more mundane sounds, I wondered how different the experience would be if I had recorded the sounds of my walking to the corner store instead of a solidarity protest. I also found myself (in retrospect) wishing that the score had asked me to listen in a certain arranged way while out in the world, rather than recording it and arranging it later. I think this is because I’ve been lazy so far about performing any of the scores out of doors and so this is the first one for which I went outside. It’s been a while since I’ve really awakened my ears in a deliberate and structured way while outdoors. I miss it.

    So I’m happy to have been forced outside of the warmth of my apartment, and to have my taste for soundwalking re-awakened…

  4. margaret schedel says:

    I am going to listen to these tonight. I live in the country, but went to the city today fully intending to record, but I have been working NONSTOP and now it is quiet outside in Brooklyn. The snow is really keeping people in.

    Thanks for posting your recordings I will listen to them all and post my response tomorrow!

  5. DavidH says:

    @stepifany: great build up! The bells as a thread are super. Especially when the chanting and Arabic slogans begin.

    I once created an audio guide for a street in Brussels, where the third track mixes some recordings I made in Cairo into the soundscape of Brussels. Then you had sounds of a mosque sounding over Brussels. Here the set of the guide. The Cairo sounds starts in track 3.

    The idea is, that you listen to the recordings not too loud whilst walking that street (could also work in another busy street). That makes the live sounds and the recording becoming a whole. Personally I like to listen to the rain on the recording on a sunny day. Quite a shift…

  6. DavidH says:

    Ah, and here my recording on an especially opend soundcloud account:


  7. Fionnuala says:

    Hi all

    I did my recording last week but only got around to editing it now. I live about 20 minutes walk from the main city and as I couldn’t make it there, I figured where I am is city enough. So, I took a stroll with my Zoom and intentionally mapped my route so that I would pass by/through busy main roads and quieter streets. It was quite a windy day and even though the Zoom is normally good at counteracting that noise, it still ended up on the recording. Probably because I was walking. Like Stephanie, I recorded a number of approximately 2 minute sessions and thought I’d choose the most dynamic/rich one when I came back. Having listened to them all, I found that somehow I had cut some of them short. I also found, David, that there are lots of cars, cars, cars and expected to know the result of the work when edited.

    I set about cutting one piece that extended past 2 minutes to exactly the instructed length and found myself wondering whether to chop off the start or the end. The end seemed more aurally interesting. I decided on chopping this off as if I’d adhered to just 2 minute recordings, I wouldn’t have that material anyway. I found that the wind on the track produces a really interesting and pleasing sound as the piece builds in intensity through duplication. The volume and build in intensity overall is not that attention-grabbing but you do start to listen to the smaller details. I really liked the instruction to solo one track and enjoyed the sudden drop in volume and magnification of details. This also made me aware that the duplicated parts were in fact quite intense. My city’s voice was pretty quiet that day.

    Thanks Linda. I found the experience of recording and arranging quite nice. Like Stephanie I miss the performance aspect but really liked focussing on the ‘new’ sound that was created through arranging.

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