The Dustbin Man Cometh (again)

Following the recent In The Dark: Cityscapes event I was interviewed for the Monocle 24 radio show ‘The Urbanist‘ – we talked about some of the pieces played, discuss the power of audio and explore the nature of urban soundscapes. You can have a listen below, although I admit, I much prefer being on the other side of the microphone.

Listen here: [audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/13042873/Urbanist%20ITD%20interview.mp3]

The Dustbin Man Cometh was also featured featured on NTS radio by Graham Dunning on his show ‘Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone‘ – the show’s a nice listen for anyone interested in avant garde audio, featuring a jagged mix of experimental music, sound art and sonic experimentation. There’s a blog associated with the show here and you can catch the show every second Friday between 8-10am on NTS Radio. Recommended listening.

You can listen to the show below:

http://soundcloud.com/n_u_t_s/fractal-meat-on-a-spongy-6

In The Dark: Cityscapes

The Wapping Project Bookshop (21/03/12)

On Wednesday night I curated a listening event for In The Dark, held within the intimate confines of the Wapping Project’s Bookshop, which just happens to be in a Glasshouse. If you’ve never been to an In The Dark event before, think of it as a film screening, but for radio, sound and audio stories.

The pieces chosen were all tied to the theme of ‘Cityscapes’, tapping into the many stories, textures and soundscapes that resonate from urban environments. The selection spanned a range of styles and formats, from more conventional narrative / documentary pieces to the more abstract, capturing the essence of urban decay through sound.

The features were also blended together with a collection of field recordings which I’d taken from around London, as well as those taken elsewhere, including a Parisian recording form Soundlandscapes blog.

Some notes on a few of the pieces featured:

Out of the Blocks

Included on the playlist was a 7 minute edit of ‘Out of the Blocks’, as recently featured on the Third Coast International site. Produced through a collaboration between radio producer Aaron Henkin and electronic / Hip-hop producer Wendel Patrick, the piece presents a sound rich documentary profiling of an entire city block in Baltimore, ‘documenting the stories, voices, and people who populate the 3300 block of Greenmount Ave.’. What makes this piece stand out is in its interesting use of music, which was scored exclusively by Patrick adding greater texture to the voices and the stories they tell.

You can listen to the short edit on the Third Coast site where there’s also a nice interview with the pair. To listen to the original full hour edit of the documentary go on over to Wendel Patrick’s site.

Gateshead Multistory Car Park

Towards the end of the night we delved into the darker side of urban decay, with an excerpt from the Langham Research Centre’s menacing sound profile of the Gateshead Multi-story Carpark, originally produced for Radio 3’s Between the Ears.

The piece was recorded entirely on location and laid down on reel-to-reel tape, where it was manipulated further, slowed down and looped. Everything heard in this feature was derived from sounds captured within the Carpark and you can really get a sense of the menacing and repressive tone that this concrete behemoth exuded:

The Dustbin Man Cometh

One of the regular noises I come across living in a city, is the early morning mechanical chaos of the dustbin collection. To finish of the night, I played a piece which I’d produced specially for the event – a heavily processed sound piece created from the single recording of a dustbin truck collection.

If you have ever been woken up in the early hours by this sort of noise, I’m sure you’re aware of the complex mechanical racket that they make. It’s a great collection of sounds – clangs, squeaks and crashes – I really wanted to capture and then pull out elements of this noise, turning them into an evolving, glitchy cascade of sound that would fill the listening space it was to be presented in. Anyway, have a listen below:

The next In The Dark event will be held on the 4th April, aboard the Lightship95 with guest curator Martin Johnson

Interview: Dr Matt Green and the Sound of Coffee

Before Christmas I started working on an ambitious new project for Unreal City Audio who are producing multi-part audio tours exploring offbeat strands of London history. I am currently helping to produce part of their Coffeehouse series, which will eventually end up as an interactive iPhone App.

The tours are being developed as a series of ‘legs’ with an emphasis on narrative and rich sound design, so are suitable for listening both on location or elsewhere.

The Coffeehouse tour currently in development guides the listener along a mysterious and often dark path of London history, tracing the rise of coffee into the forefront of mainstream culture. The main challenge (and joy) of this project is in recreating an authentic and immersive sound which will pull the listener into the rich narrative written by historian, coffee expert and project co-founder Dr Matt Green.

The tours aims to provide what Matt describes as a ‘cathartic voyage of discovery’ into an alternate London history, not often visited by mainstream guides or tours. You can hear more about these tours, including how each leg is developed and produced in an interview I recorded with Matt: 

You can listen to a brief extract from one of the pieces I’ve been producing which takes place in George Yard (see map below) – in it we hear the flames of the great fire beginning to engulf the streets of London. Suspicion has fallen upon Turkish coffee vendor Pasqua Roseé whose mysterious new drink has been generating a lot of unease with many of the locals (and it appears they’re out to get him!) but not everything is as it seems…

In addition to the audio tours, Matt has also adapted the material into a series of ‘live’ walking tours, which he presents accompanied by actors and musicians, and are already being met with critical acclaim. He will be giving tours throughout March and April, to find out more and book a place drop by his website here.

You can also keep up to date with Unreal City Audio via their twitter (from which they also tweet unusual facts about London history).

The D-Word

Image by: David Paul Ohmer (flickr)

Why is death such a difficult subject to talk about? From hospital mortuary to the grave, The D-Word explores our complex relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.

Recently featured on Transom.org, The D-Word is an audio documentary I produced last summer on the subject of death. I’d urge you to visit Transom and explore their excellent site, but you can also listen to or download my piece below:

 View on PRX

The documentary was made in part for my MSc in Science Media Production and explores our relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.

The piece experiments with a braided narrative weaving between interview and actuality recordings, taking the listener into a hospital mortuary, inside funeral homes and across a church yard to explore the concept of death from a number of personal perspectives.

This documentary is also a response to my own experience in dealing with the death of a close friend and you can read more about this in my article over at Transom.org.

In addition to this piece, I also produced two further shorts from the material recored for this documentary. These short audio vignettes experiment with form and sound to explore some of the themes touched upon by pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton.

Adam as machine (more info)

Winters Rest (more info)

Audio piece: Winter’s Rest

This is a short audio piece which was originally created for the In The Dark Christmas party – however it didn’t quite fit the bill in the end, being as it is, devoid of any Christmas cheer. Anyway, I thought I’d better not let it go to waste and instead make it available on here – I suppose this is the obligatory Christmas themed post.

Image: youngdoo (Flickr)

It’s another short piece (see Adam as machine) which has fallen out of The D-Word, a documentary I produced over the summer which will be appearing on Transom.org early in the new year. This piece features pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton and was recorded in the mortuary at the Sunderland Royal Infirmary back in July. The material I recorded with Stuart at the mortuary only forms a small part of the overall documentary, yet I think it’s interesting enough to justify an entire piece on it’s own, maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

Dr Hamilton explained to me how winter was a particularly busy period for the mortuary staff, with mortality rates increasing in the elderly over the colder months of the year. Another interesting point was that they tended to receive an increase in the number of decomposed bodies at Christmas, but I’ll let you listen to the piece to find out why…

I’m not going to go into a massive rant on how important it is to make an effort to spend time with family, because I’m particularly guilty of not doing so. It just seems that the mortuary staff gain a depressing insight into the mistakes we make and how we choose to lead our lives.

 

Bury St Edmunds

An experimental sound piece which takes recordings made during a vist to Bury St Edmunds and weaves them into a surreal narrative, morphing between lakeside walks, market criers, street performers and birdsong.

Recordings made using a Zoom H4n, edited and assembled on Ableton Live.

Headphones recommended.

In The Dark at the Folly

On Friday I attended the latest In The Dark listening event which was held at the Folly for a Flyover venue (a peculiar pop-up cinema / art space) in Hackney, East London. What was particularly exciting about this event was that I was having one of my very own pieces exhibited / played and it was very humbling to hear my work alongside those from well established and respected radio producers!

If you’ve never heard of In The Dark, it’s a fantastic organisation which champions and commissions experimental radio pieces. They basically encourage producers to play around with the radio format to create weird, yet wonderfully original audio pieces. If you’re a fan of  WNYCs RadioLab then this is definitely something for you.

The organisation regularly holds ‘listening events’ across London, bringing together a community of producers and listeners to hear a selection of audio shorts, curated by founder Nina Garthwaite. Although sitting ‘in the dark’ with a bunch of people, listening to radio may sound like an unusual way to spend the evening, it really is a great experience and I must say something very unique! Each of the pieces played are stylistically distinct and certainly always thought provoking, so you can never be sure what you might end up listening to.

On Friday, the night was arranged into three parts:

  • Fables,
  • Structures
  • Fragments, Apparitions & Visions.

My piece, entitled ‘Adam as machine‘ (you can read more about it here), fell into the ‘Structures’ category and followed Leo Hornak’s  ‘All You Can Hear is Breathing’ – which explores the insane Empire State Building ‘Run-Up‘ race. Favorites of the night included a piece by Sarah Cuddon called ‘The Books’ (an extended edit currently available on iPlayer) and the latest Hackney Podcast entitled ‘Wild Hackney’, produced by Francesca Panetta and Russel Finch (listen to it here).

I’ve re-posted my piece below if you want to have a listen…

Adam as machine

Audio piece

I’m currently in the midst of producing a 30 minute radio piece on the subject of death. To be more specific, I’m exploring contemporary attitudes towards death and doing so through the perspective of those who deal with death on a daily basis.

Part of my project took me to the basement of the Royal Sunderland Hospital where I spent the day exploring it’s mortuary with pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton. Recently, as I was listening back to his interview I begun to find myself fixated on a particular section, in which he discusses the way in which he views the human body. He describes his view of life as being very ‘mechanistic’ and as I listened to him talk about the body as ‘pumps’ and ‘shunts’ I was inspired to compose a short piece from his words.

Adam and Eve; the body electric. Image: Mike Reedy

As a biologist myself, I have always considered the human body to represent a beautiful feat of natural engineering. From the minute intricacies of the inner ear to the extent of the circulatory system, pulsating to the rhythm of a beating heart – the human body is living machine. Our consciousness and everything that makes us, ‘us’ is a product of this machinery and when the machine stops – so do we.

The title of this piece toys with the idea of Adam and Eve and how this throws up a very different view of the human body. However which ever view you take, both are unified in the fact that they find certain beauty in the human form.

Soundcloud’s audio compression has reduced the quality of the piece somewhat so please get in touch if you’d like a copy of the original file.

Space Transportation System (STS-1 / STS-135)

Atlantis waits patiently. Image: NASA

I’m posting two little audio pieces to mark the end of NASAs space shuttle program which will (with any luck) enter its final mission today with the launch of Atlantis (STS-135) in a few hours.

The first was produced for the latest Imperial College I,Science podcast and features science writer and producer Piers Bizony speaking on the history of the space shuttle program at a Super/Collider event in May.

The Second is a short piece extracted from the first, imagining what it might sound like to be inside the shuttle during take-off. The radio chatter you hear comes from Columbia (STS-1), the very first shuttle launch which blasted off over 30 years ago on 12th April 1981. The eventual winding down towards the end symbolises the ending of the project’s 30 year run.

The BBC has produced an excellent interactive history of the space shuttle program here and a friend from my course has also written an excellent article on the future of manned spaced flight here

Dazed Live show now on Mixcloud

We had a great time playing our hand picked sounds of science at Dazed Live on Saturday – thanks to Chris from Super/Collider for inviting us on!

The show has now been uploaded to Mixcloud so give it a listen! – also on the show is music from Bright Star Catalogue and interviews with the likes of Jay Cousins (buy this satellite) and Magnus Larsson !

Check it out at this link: http://www.mixcloud.com/dazed/dazed-live-super-collider/

For some reason the embedded player below refuses to work.