Sound Women Network

I ventured down to the Yorkshire Sound Women networking event on Sat 4th March at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield. The group were celebrating International Women’s Day (a week early!) by showcasing the work of their members and to celebrate women working in technology and sound.

What a diverse array of talent! It was a great afternoon and a very accessible environment to walk in. I chatted to several women there: Sara Brannan who showed coding and performance and who’d made a visualisation of sound installation, Amy Beeston who was researching at Sheffield University into how we respond to sound, Zoe Blade and Nina Richards who had total command and knowledge to build circuits and manipulate modular synths.

There were other demonstrations there. I had a ‘play’ with some technology using both Max msp and an old xbox to generate sound on body movement, and with a vibrating plate which formed sand patterns at differing frequencies. There were musicians there playing with electronic amplified flutes and another woman building circuit boards which generated different sounds.

It was inspiring. And impressive. And intriguing. In terms of my own research I connected the most with Amy’s work and we decided after a longish conversation to swap details in the event we could explore the potential of a future collaboration together. She’s based in Sheffield and comes to Huddersfield for monthly sound women network meetings and was suggesting I set up a Leeds network as there had been interest from women in Leeds! So I’ll give that some thought..

 

 

Jez Riley French Talk

With a little bit of polite asking and with the okay of both Jez Riley French, sound recordist and Paul Ratcliff, Head of Film and Music at Leeds Beckett University I went to hear Jez speak to the undergrad students at Leeds Beckett. So that was an interesting experience – me and a lot of 20 year old boys…didn’t feel out of place at all. It’s 2017 and sound/film is still so gender specific.

I digress. The talk was fascinating. He talked of the main kit he uses which consists of good omni mic’s, contact mic’s, Hydraphones and a two channel Sound Devices recorder. Then we listened to many projects on which he has worked which are listed below:

Humber Bridge (Opera North commission for Hull City of Culture 2017) – haunting sounds using contact mice inside the tunnel of the Humber Bridge and some pick up of the wind and traffic ambience.

Howard Assembly Rooms (Leeds) – he placed microphones on the roof of the building whilst the orchestra played inside and what a lovely sound. Although the projector in the room was buzzing and their was a slight hum from the speakers, what was heard was a drifting sound of an orchestra in an architectural space. He also used a Geophone to hear ‘through’ the building.

Teleferrica’s Italy – used microphones on the tension wires. Really supersonic sounds came through. Very Star Wars  – turns out this is originally how George Lucas’s team recording light sabres and other flying sound effects back in the 70’s. The ‘zooming’ sound effects came from insects colliding with the tension of the wires.

Antenna cables (Iceland) – contact mic on cable – sounded very ‘primordial’ to me, low sounds with some high pitch frequency overlaid.

Score for a Print Rack – he recorded 8 hours of playing two bows against a traditional metal print drying rack. Interesting!

Fence in Iceland for the Acoustic Cameras Project – the project is recording soundtracks from around the world.

Johann Johannsson – he is working with him and some of Jez’s recordings have been used in Bladerunner. Recording again through a building lovely sounds of strings came through over a low pulsating hum.

Fire  – of the more unusual sound experiments was the hazelnut. He stuck a fine needle in a contact mic, added a hazelnut on the end and set fire to it. It was really interesting, especially towards the end when the sound of the nut creaking and groaning came out.

Hydraphones- he played the sound of water beetles and tadpoles in a pond near where he lives.

Glacial Lake – Fjallsarlong, Iceland – beautiful location – recorded the sound of millions of ice bubbles – sounded high pitched like a tweet of a bird and water running sounds.

Lava Beach (Iceland) – hydra phone stuck deep in the sand of a lava beach with the sound of the waves crashing overhead. Nearly came out and hit the audience – we all jumped back…super powerful.

Electromagnetic/Infra/Ultra Sound – he used an ultrasonic detector in geothermal pools in Iceland – this wasn’t quite the sound I was expecting. It was higher in pitch and sounded a little like rain. I had expected a lower frequency deeper resonant sound for some reason. Perception…?

Lightbulb – with ultrasonic detector and a coil pick up on a florescent lightbulb strip. Pitch changed when the lightbulb heated and cooled down.

Audible Silence (Tate Modern) – he had 7 days on his own recording areas of the turbine hall at Tate Modern. Sounded like a low eerie hum with some high pitched sounds in there also.

VLF Dectector – this was one of my favourite sounds – recorded in Japan. The VLF detector picks up radio fallout in the universe (i.e.: from stars exploding). The sound was immense. Crackly sounds but then a really strange movement sound which was the sound of a shooting star trail. How cool is that…?

He talked of other aspects like playback volume and recording volume for field recordings which was useful as I’d put my input recording volume high but he said that isn’t needed on his Sound Devices recorder as the pre amp is such good quality. I may need to higher mine through on my minute Zoom.

So glad I went and listened. Learnt a lot which I can now input into my own sound recording experiments.

Data, Memory & Grief

 

I’ve just returned from a good 3 hours communing with the techs at Apple to try and save my hard drive and data. Last week I opened up my mac only to see a screen I’d never seen before. It is called the ‘recovery screen’. Things went downhill from there. After several phone calls and several rebooting attempts the system still couldn’t get back up and running in the familiar way it had usually done. The ‘recovery’ screen still floated in front of me like an ominous gatekeeper.

I won’t go into the lengthy processes one has to go through to get an appointment with the ‘genius bar’ at Apple, suffice to say it was painful. In the midst of this several day long process I began to analyse what information, documents, photographs I had on the mac. It was after all, only new to me since Feb 2016 so there wasn’t a huge amount on it but it was a significant period of work including all the documents relating to my exhibition at Leeds Gallery in May 2016. Most importantly though and the one which caused me the most sadness was the lovely photographs of my daughter especially the time spent with her on holiday over the summer and the photos of her first day at school.

To be honest I had no idea what was wrong with my computer except that I could no longer get ‘into’ it. I had been shut out.

So today I finally had an Apple tech look into it. On the positive side the hard drive wasn’t damaged physically. On the negative side it could only see the recovery partition and not the operating system. It was looking unlikely that my data was recoverable unless willing to pay a few hundred for it.

So what happened? My hard drive was erased. All gone. Not accessible again. Memories wiped out. And the operating system reinstalled. This means I have a working computer again with nothing on it.

So on the train home (and luckily it was the most bright of autumnal sunshine days) I mused on the notion of ‘erased’. What did it mean to loose all the information? I felt like I was grieving especially for the photographs and the time spent yet I realised also how memories really remain in the heart and in the mind. Our time together hadn’t vanished. Our shared moments had still happened. Since she was born I’ve rarely printed out a ‘proper’ photograph from a digital record. I’ve no hard copies of written work (except for my research proposal luckily). And so it brought me to a state of ‘letting go’.  I really questioned what I needed to keep hold of and mused over how many multiple copies of work images I’d had. Then I was thrown into a state of realising many of my research proposal bookmarks would also have been erased. How many websites could I remember? Which resonated the most in my memory and which would be forgotten? How often do we keep so many bookmarks and be incredibly overloaded with information and resources only to never refer to them again? It’s feels like a form of deconstructing. Of stripping back all the layers to reach only those which are present for us right now.

In essence I was starting anew. Learning to take better care of my data. To work more efficiently. To only keep what is essential to both the creative process and to memories of life.