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Field Recording and the Soundscape at Goldsmiths

As part of our growing interest in the positive role of soundscapes in urban Placemaking, consultants Sam and Ollie recently enrolled at Goldsmiths University for a short course on Field Recording and the Soundscape to develop their theoretical and conceptual knowledge in phonography and soundscape composition.

The course was structured over a series of evening workshops and considered a number of aspects of soundscape, including digital audio technology, examples of original sonic effects such as reverberation and unorthodox recording techniques. Students then worked towards a final soundscape composition of their own. A socio-political theme gave context to the course and a guest appearance from a sound art collective led a thought-provoking discussion on the sound of struggle and activism.

Theoretical discussion centred on Hildegard Westerkamp’s dialectical approach to soundscape composition, particularly in terms of introducing sonic effects to work, whether it be in-situ or in the post-production process. Westerkamp pioneered and developed the discipline of ‘acoustic ecology’ and emphasised that soundscapes are a means of heightening one’s perception of an environment. Students were encouraged to use soundscape theorists such as Westerkamp, John Cage and Luc Ferrari as influences in their final piece.

A field trip to the Barbican Centre and surrounding area during term reading week gave some great practical opportunities to experiment with sonic effects. The leafy Conservatory, hidden amongst the brutalist concrete of the Barbican complex, enriched the collection of recordings with sounds of running water, birdsong and the clinking of the tea room.

Sam and Ollie experimented with different recording techniques to reproduce the sonic effects, primarily using different microphones such as ultra directional shotgun microphones, underwater microphones (hydrophones), contact microphones – which pick up only structure-born sound.

Their final composition looped the sound of a moving London underground train to create a beat with the original sound of the train layered with an exaggerated hyper-real processed version. The piece is influenced by diametrical themes, such as urban versus nature, and creates a sense of journey from the transitions and transport sounds.

The composition can be listened to on Soundcloud here.

Andy Knowles, Managing Director of Anderson Acoustics commented “We are passionate about the positive application of sound and acoustics to improve quality of life and wellbeing. In short, making better sounding places. We are proud to see our staff working at the leading edge of this exciting field and we’re delighted to support them in their personal professional development”.

Sam and Ollie would like to thank Sherry Ostapovitch, Course Tutor and Goldsmiths University for running the course. Sherry is a sound artist whose work incorporates field recordings, unconventional guitar techniques, multi-channel sound installations, and intuitive compositions. In a society that prioritises the visual over other senses, Sherry’s work encourages people to open their ears to their surroundings and to the ‘music’ that is everywhere.

You can find out more about Anderson Acoustics’ soundscapes work here.

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