Subtle rising intensity as aircraft sounds from exterior penetrates the pedestrian walkway.
Vacuous greeting of female flight hostess.
playback > > Piped female voice, nasal and American, “Welcome to BMI aircraft”.
I don’t like this environment.
Musak, almost imperceptible (sounds like Billy Joel), cuts out suddenly as baggage lockers are systematically snapped shut by female hostesses.
Constant SWooShhhhh of air conditioning.
A designed environment.
No passenger is speaking. Chit chat from staff in rear of aircraft.
A sneeze from the seat behind me.
playback > > The captain addresses us from the flight deck.
“We have a small restriction on our departure time”.
playback > > Male voice, “Cabin crew prepare for departure”.
Cut into the captain’s address.
playback > > AOR musak continues.
Female voice over intercom, ”Your mobile phones must be switched off.”
Female voice over intercom, ”No transmission devices.”
Female voice over intercom, ”Your attention is appreciated.”
Female voice over intercom, ”Sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey.”
Female voice, “We’ll do the demo”.
snaps, tinkle from staff activity in back of plane.
Giggle from two seats behind me.
Footsteps are muffled, but felt though the fuselage.
playback > > Male voice over intercom, “Please take note of the brace position”.
Good fidelity, calm, Midlands tinge to the accent.
“If oxygen is required, breathe normally”.
The flight staff are bored going through this ritual performance.
playback > > Female voice “May we wish you a pleasant flight”.
At least I have a window seat.
Swwwsssh The continued exhalation of the air conditioning.
Slow rising glissando of engines. Levels off at low level.
Groans and creaks of various unknown parts of the machine.
English accents. People mostly silent reading in-flight literature.
Cabinets are being closed by attendants in the rear of the aircraft.
Subtle increase in air pressure. Slow breath of air flow into cabin.
Aircraft begins to taxi along tarmac.
Low rumble of tyres across joins in the tarmac. Felt rather than heard.
Mid-pitch whir above and behind my head.
Quiet grinding of some wheeled mechanism in starboard wing.
Further rumble from the tyres on larger joins, and imperfections in the tarmac. The aircraft vibrates with each bump.
The sun is neat the horizon, golden and wintered. Flashes of the multitude of stationary aircraft.
Whiiir / swoosh / grhmmmm
Aircraft comes to a halt.
The taxiing aircraft look like hungry sharks. Predatory. Awaiting their chance to defy gravity.
Indistinct female chat from hostesses strapped into the rear.
Sudden increase in volume of engines. Duration 7 seconds. It plateaus out. Was that this plane, or another one taking off outside?
All is calm. Florescent and sterile.
Magazine pages being flicked and thumbed. The company’s marketing is going in and through rows 1-25.
At least I have a window seat.
A slight increase in grumblings from the engines. Plane moves forward. Smoother surface here.
A 747 takes off ahead of us. The power of its engines (a volcano) can be felt.
I see the grass moving in the wind outside, but hear no natural sounds other than the nose sniff from the seat behind me, and the fat man next to me breathing too heavily from his nostrils.
sniff, sniff, from behind.
fnh..Fnh..fnah The fat man breathes. A strange comforting touch of animal life.
Female voice, “But I don’t know. They changed it”. Hostess from rear.
Crumple of sweet papers. Perhaps crisps or a sandwich.
A moment of disorientation as the wheels leave the ground.
SSSSS From rear right once airborne.
I am thinking of all the unknown systems, processes and procedures surrounding me.
playback > > Female voice,”Drinks are available”.
“We take cash, euro and pounds and MasterCard”.
I consider this process, making marks on a page to document my soundscape. Is it effective? Can you hear it? Internal audition, a connection to your memory of this non-space. Will I hear any original sound during this trip?
I am travelling to Aberdeen to participate in a sound art conference. I am moving out of my familiar home environment. I live in Hackney, London. The sounds I hear daily include;
Police and ambulance sirens. Pretty constant. Pretty loud.
Passing buses. Very low frequency. Something felt rather than heard.
The neighbours. A young family from Poland with 2 young boys. Laughing, screaming, stamping, tantrums. We live on a council estate, very low quality housing from the 1960s. I hear the light switches when they are turned on and off, so thin are the walls. They are a young couple, and obviously enjoy each other’s bodies. Soon after his return home; Boing, boing, boing, squeak squeak, squeak.
The boiler turning on and off. Newly installed by British gas. Why does it always fail when the cold weather comes? An engineer should have come to fix it today.
Housemate #1. A sound designer. All kinds of artificial sounds emit from his room downstairs. Looped, distorted, transposed. Repeated endlessly as he works on pieces for film, theatre and dance.
Male voice,“Thankyou”. (English accent)
Chink of money being taken.
Housemate #2. A 42 year old with a slight drinking problem. I hear a cycle of sounds from her room. A new drunken lover. Sex sounds.
Furious. For a few weeks. Then furious arguments. Then crying. Then her laptop showing DVDs as she comforts her broken heart with expensive red wine.
Female voice, “Did I miss you? Did you want something?” (New Zealand Accent).
Female voice, “Three pounds ninety.” (New Zealand Accent).
Building works. The whole estate is undergoing compulsory improvements. Poundings, large plant, angle-grinders, cement mixers, carpenters, electricians, plasterers, shouted instructions, arguments. People are working.
Occasionally church bells.
I have no control of these sounds, and limited means of insulating myself against them. Is it not better to be aware of my environment, than cocooning my ears from the intrusions? I do not have a choice.
I can’t sleep in a room with a ticking clock.
In the summer, the estate kids play in a patch of green behind the flat. Their families come from all over the world. They seem happy.
The aeroplane is making an endless gasp, Shhahhhsshh, as if it is amazed by its ability to fly. Should it give up this vocalization, we should surely fall to the ground.
This exercise is intended to illuminate some questions I have regarding the evocation, documentation and reporting of sonic environments. What opens up between this silent? page and the immersive digital environment that is being created during this research? Writing this, I hear an inner voice articulating this process. Simultaneously, I am aware of the external sounds of the flight.
Indistinct chatter from passengers further up the plane to the port side.
As well as easily recalling familiar sounds from my home, I am also projecting into the future, anticipating my experience of sound in the next few days. In this way, this active attitude towards listening simultaneously places me in the past, visiting keynote sounds of home, in the present, aware of my immediate sonic environment, but also involved in a process of inner dialogue with regards to what I am writing, and finally in an imagined sonic future awaiting me in Aberdeen. None of these seem particularly distinct, but rather point marking out a fluid space that flows between notions of self, location, context and past/present/future.
An active listening channel has been opened that sits alongside normal psycho-biological activity in my body. I feel connected to what /where /when /how – was, what /where /when /how – is and what /where /when /how – will be.
Internal dialogue disrupted by female-voiced flight announcement that we are coming in to land. The message is much harsher in timbre, tone and volume than previous messages.
Shaaashhh / Griing. Something is changing with regards to threshold.