Two Knocks For Yes live photos

Last Friday saw the culmination of weeks of preparation with the public performance of Two Knocks For Yes at St. Andrews Church. The team were pleased with a (nearly) full house and the evening went by without a hitch, apart from a dry ice machine overheating which led to a huge cloud of dry ice rather than the planned mist floating across the floor and down the steps of the altar. 

It was an absolute treat to perform in such an atmospheric space. The Buchla shook the wooden pews and bounced around the stone walls. I even got a chance to make an impromptu improvised recording when I had half an hour alone whilst everyone had gone for dinner and before the audience arrived. 

As well as my performance of Two Knocks For Yes, there was an intriguing found tape recording of a scientist talking about some strange experiments, a talk on the folklore of water and death by James Burt, and some shared ghost stories from the audience. We learnt a lot from this first show and will be working towards expanding it for future outings. 

The best thing about the whole event was getting a rare opportunity to work with my brother Curtis James, who instigated the project and made it happen (and hosted on the evening). It took me back to our teenage years working the lighting and sound for school plays. 

Photos by Dominic Butler and DJ Food/Strictly Kev

The School is Full of Noises

An interesting (if slightly limited) exploration of experimental music in the classroom. Back in the '60s kids got the opportunity to experiment with tape machines and play with bringing stories to life using sound and what some call 'challenging' composition. I hope this still goes on in classrooms today, but I have a funny feeling it probably doesn't. I was lucky enough to have a music teacher that had some synthesizers and who also invited a group of musicians in to show off their samplers and drum machines - I was pretty much hooked instantly by this exciting world of playing with sound and music that didn't involve playing the guitar or violin. Thanks Mr.Hayter.

How did tape loops, recycled everyday sounds and countless other weapons of the avant-garde find their way into school music lessons during the 1960s? That's the challenge for Ian McMillan as he sets out on the trail of one of music education's more unexpected byways.

Listen here - link will probably die at some point.....

Sounds of our Shores

Earlier in the year I entered a sound recording of Brighton's Palace Pier Ghost Train to the National Trust/British Library Sounds of our Shores project. The project aims to create a coastal sound map of the UK using sounds recorded by the public. It is a neat idea and there are some lovely sounds gathered already. Anyway, my sound has been selected as one of the top ten favorite sounds, and voting has now opened to find THE No. 1 favorite sound of our shores.

If you feel inclined please VOTE HERE (the form isn't the neatest design, but move to the 2nd page to find and listen to the sounds).

To those who know me, the Ghost Train is probably a pretty obvious choice, but as well as being a dynamic evocative sound in itself (the clackety clack, compressed air, shrieks and howls), the recording has a personal connection for me. I grew up in Brighton and remember my first 'late night' out with my gran (who always took me and my twin brother on new adventures) and as if it wasn't exciting enough to be out after dark as a child, to then ride the ghost train sealed that magical memory forever. I've been fascinated by ghost trains ever since.

Govindpuri Sound

In my role as a freelance Studio Manager my creative input is usually limited - I'm responsible for capturing broadcast quality recordings and then editing and mixing them ready for transmission. Every now and again a project comes along that offers the opportunity for a little more creative  collaboration with the producer, in this case Dr Tom Rice, a sound anthropologist. His programme, Govindpuri Sound explores the sound of Delhi's Govindpuri slums.

Slum settlements have a strong visual identity. We are used to seeing TV footage of densely packed, ramshackle homes squeezed onto strips of land in inner cities. In this documentary for BBC World Service, Dr Tom Rice – a sound anthropologist – takes an alternative perspective and explores what a slum sounds like and how this embodies and reflects the local culture.

Govindpuri Sound
BBC World Service - 8PM-9PM Sunday 1st February 2015.

Sound Explosions

I'm not sure if these explosions are being caused by the vibrations of the electronic sound, or if there is something else being used to create the powerful eruptions of colored powder. However it's done, it looks fantastic.

Sound Explosions by Martin Klimas 

For Sound Explosions, he asked several musicians to work on short sound sequences, so called patches, using analogue synthesizers made between 1930 and 1990. Klimas shows those synthesizers with all their wires and cables, to give people an idea of the complexity of the sounds he is working with. He then replays the patches on his set, using pigments in place of liquid colors this time. He puts up the volume and lets the colors explode.

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.