field recording

Shanghai 1933 Soundwalk

One of the buildings that I created music for as part of the Musicity project, was the Shanghai Slaughterhouse, 1933. This pre brutalist brutal building was designed to expedite the killing of animals to provide meat for Shanghai’s residents. It is now a space for shops, galleries, restaurants and a theatre, but the history is hard to shift, as the design is so striking it makes it impossible to forget its intended purpose.

I spent a couple of days at 1933, recording sounds to use in my piece of music (which is now finished and will be shared soon) but I’d forgotten I also recorded a sort of guided walk during one of Shanghai’s famous downpours. It was interesting to listen back to myself (and also weird) trying to navigate the maze of passages and bridges whilst taking in everything in the space. I’m sharing this as a personal audio journal/sound walk. It isn’t a definitive audio guide.


Shenzhen Electronics Markets

The electronics markets in Shenzhen are famous. It's easy to assume they are full of fake iPhones and other brands, but there is much more to Shenzhen than that. Shenzhen is the place to go if you are designing new technology, because you can get prototypes built in a fraction of the time it takes anywhere else. You can also buy pretty much any electronic component you can think of. 

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I spent two hours exploring 7 floors of electronics, using my LOM Elektrosluch electromagnetic microphone to record the hidden sounds that the circuits, LEDs, components and gadgets emit. The LEDs in particular were a rich vein of sounds; the colours, patterns and movements creating a beautiful minimal techno album 12 hours a day, hidden from human ears. Recordings coming soon. 

Musicity China

I've just returned from a truly inspiring trip to China where I've been gathering field recordings and researching buildings for the latest Musicity project. Nick Luscombe (BBC Radio 3) with the support of the British Council, has commissioned a group of artists from the UK and China to create pieces of music for buildings and structures in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

I spent 5 days each in Shenzhen and Shanghai recording with traditional microphones, contact microphones and electromagnetic microphones - Huge factory silos with beautiful reverb, 7 story electronic markets, Maglev Trains, Power Stations and much more! I'm currently back in the studio and working on the first of the tracks for a building in Shanghai that used to be a slaughterhouse. 1933 is a mix of art deco and brutalist architecture and resembles an Escher painting; a maze of concrete bridges and stairways lead to a circular central structure where the cattle met their fate. My plan is to use the shapes and patterns of the building as a graphical score. I also found an interesting document that talks about the Feng Shui, numbers and codes believed to have protected the local population from the negative 'death energy' leaking from the building. 

Ambisonic Recording in Scotland

I had the pleasure of recording on the East coast of Scotland last week for a project for Salesforce Trailhead. I used the brilliant Sennheiser Ambeo microphone, which records 4 channels and allows for post processing in to various stereo microphone configurations, binaural and most versions of surround. Whilst the technique has been around since the '70s, it has gained in popularity in the VR world recently as the positioning can be linked to head movement within a virtual reality environment. It is one of the only microphone systems that records vertical as well as horizontal, and captures a truly immersive sound space.

Below is an excerpt of a longer recording I made in the rock pools near Dunnottar Castle. (you can just make me out in the image below) The microphone was placed so that water was bubbling and moving all around it and lapping against the rocks. This version is encoded in to the binaural format, which requires headphones to fully appreciate the 'surround' effect. 

What is so exciting about this recording technique, is the amount of flexibility once back in the studio. If I wanted to, I could choose to encode this same recording in any number of stereo mic configurations (and directions) or full surround. I'm seriously considering creating some library collections and I'm already planning another trip to Scotland to spend an extended period recording on the West coast. 

Photo by Clive Howard/Blue Canary

Photo by Clive Howard/Blue Canary

The Sky Ripped Apart 2

This time by natural forces, as a thunderstorm hit Brighton over the weekend. I tried recording from my loft (which you'll hear first) and then from the front of my house. You can hear the screams of the car alarms triggered by the powerful sound waves of the thunder claps too.

Technical note - recorded with the new Zoom H6 in XY mode. I got caught out on the levels and hadn't switched on the backup mode on the Zoom, which creates a safety recording 15db lower than the primary recording.