Reception Area / Café, MacRobert Building. Uni. of Aberdeen

sKRaaaaaap.

Skraa. Of chair being dragged across tiled floor.

Background chat of students in café area.

Giggles, laughter.
Very very quiet air-conditioning.
Toddler’s voice.

The space is reverberant, sound waves slightly softened by the red carpet in a visitors’ area to one side of the main space.

skraap

Rustle / rustlessss / rustle The receptionist opens a carrier bag.

The architecture is a similar piece of anonymous post-modern construction as the airport. It could be a hotel, a doctor’s surgery, a hospital, leisure centre.
Skraapp.

Easily seen as a generic non-place.

The 2 second reverb is quiet pleasant.

Female voice to left, “Do you know where 87 is?” (Scottish accent).
Cough

Single short whistle from people leaving the building.

Skrappp.

In walking around the city centre today, these was little to identify the place as sounding distinct from any other modern British high street. The same shops, the same cars, the same mobile phones. There is a significant number of non-Scots in the city, probably due to the important oil business (Aberdeen – the energy centre of Europe on various signs on the road from the airport to the city centre).

Two events altered me to the difference. The first, a single seagull cry from above Union Street. No sign of the bird itself. The second event, repeated in two different occasions were minor difficulties in understanding and being understood in speech transactions. Questions and responses had to be repeated on both occasions.
Dgndgndgngzztggztzzgt.

A heating unit above the entrance turns on blowing dry hot air across the room. There are some loose screws that are being vibrated by this.

I am going to explore the building. There are a number of installations in the south wing of the ground floor.

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.

ding-dong

playback > > The captain addresses us from the flight deck.

“We have a small restriction on our departure time”.
Calm, reassuring.

playback > >         Male voice, “Cabin crew prepare for departure”.

Cut into the captain’s address.

ding-dong

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”.

Truly inane.

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.

ding-dong

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.
ding

ding

Crumple of sweet papers. Perhaps crisps or a sandwich.
dzzzzzzzzzwwwhhhhhooooooossssssssss

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.

ding-dong

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.

dong

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.

ding-dong

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.

ding-dong

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).
slurrrpp
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.

shaahhsshh.

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.

Ding-dong anyone?

Extraction fans – low level cyclical whirrr.

playback > > Musak – AOR style audio backdrop centred upon coffee bar.

Coffee machine and clatter of cups, saucers, glassware. People are working here. Polish girls and Asian boys.
dOk / tink / Kling
Most people are silent.

Mother with small child,
“He’ll not be a moment…”

Male voice, “Freaks me out that…(Yorkshire accent)

Mother, “…certainly do…“,

Male voice, “Watching telly…and call Ian. This was the last time. I was in bed. Fucking hell. Then the next day…”

Fruit machines are silent from here, but their lights are flashing.

Distinctive click of a metal Zippo lighter from behind me.

Unidentified electronic pulse. 2 second duration.
Continued whirrr of extractors and coffee bar in background.

General atmosphere is quiet, calm, pensive, synthetic. Colour – light grey.

Mobile phone incoming message tone from woman at table 2 meters away.

Male voice, “It’s not worth it”. The Yorkies continue their chat.

Subsonics from engines outside the large rectangular windows penetrate the interior. Felt rather than heard.

Female flight announcer on public address system. A flight to Glasgow.

“…All other passengers remain seated. BMI wishes you a pleasant journey”.

Reasonable audio fidelity and diffusion. Clear, good frequency response.

Moog sound in musak track suggests possible merging with electronic tones of mobile phone tones.

From behind, new female voice, “…basically, she’s still waiting.”

Male voice, “She’s paranoid.”

Same female voice, “…you can still plough on. I hope it all works out.”

Same male voice, “It’ll never change.”

I am asked for a light.

Outside of the smokers’ area, a silenced TV gives news of Iraq violence, Lebanon Funerals and the Russian spy is dying.

playback > > Female flight announcer. Flight to Manchester.

“Business class passengers can board at their leisure”.

Her voice, too close to the mic pops and distorts on the ‘B’, ‘c’, ‘p’, and ‘b’. Pop shield required.

playback > > “Since you been gone…”

Swooshhhhhh swell of air conditioning.

(breath, sigh, and coffee machine).

sploosh,

pockle

playback > > Female flight announcer,”Thankyou for waiting.”

Through the large windows an aeroplane pulls in. No sound can be heard. Strangely dislocating.

Passengers have boarded the flights to Glasgow and Manchester. Ambient sound levels have fallen. The TV is now audible. I can hear the weather report from the widescreen display (BBC 24).

The blandly carpeted floor silences footsteps. I decide to leave the smokers’ area, and go towards the waiting area by the departure gate.

The Blurred Compilation Album: Through Coffee Machines, Applause and Near Silence to Just Sound.

A Sonic Journey from Hackney to Aberdeen. 23-26 November 2006

Blurring of the Boundaries Conference. Music Department. University of Aberdeen

A series of writings on sound.

To be read in indeterminate order.

SIDE A

track 1)
| 23.11.06.| 15.00hrs | Smokers’ area. Heathrow Airport. Terminal 1 Departures. Gate 8

track 2)
| 15.30hrs | On aircraft. Flight BD676

track 3)
| 15.45hrs | Reception Area / Café, MacRobert Building. Uni. of Aberdeen

track 4)
| 18.00hrs | Lecture Theatre, MacRobert Building. Uni. of Aberdeen

track 5)
| 18.45hrs | Christina Kubisch “A Personal History of Sound Art 1976-2006″

track 6)
| 20.00hrs | Jerome Hansen, “Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance Matmos): Sonic and visual arts connected through the artist’s workspace.”

track 7)
| 20.30hrs | Joyce Shintani ‘Working the In-Between.’ A ‘Feminine Reading’ of Maryanne Amacher’s Sound Art

track 8 )
| 21.00hrs | David Prior |Soundwalking as a Research Tool:
Some thoughts on the use of Soundwalking in the Warwick Bar development project

SIDE B

track 9)
| 25.11.06 10.00hrs | Lecture Theatre, MacRobert Building. University of Aberdeen | Chris Byrne “Streaming Media and Networked Radio”

track 10)
| 10.45hrs | Keynote Address | Rajesh Mehta “Sounding Buildings: New Music and New Architecture”

track 11)
| 16.15hrs | Concert Hall | Nouritza Mattosian and Rohan de Saram “The World of Xenakis”

track 12)
| 20.00hrs | Concert Hall | Keith Rowe, Rajesh Mehta, and Rohan de Saram Improvised Performance

track 13)
| 21.00hrs | Bill Thompson and Patrick Keenan – Improvised Performance

track 14)
| 26.11.06 | 09.45hrs | Lecture Theatre, MacRoberts Building, Uni.of Aberdeen | Owen Green “More Than ‘Just a Hammer': Critical Techniques in Electroacoustic Practice”

track 15)
| 10.00hrs | Dugal McKinnon, Spectral Memories. The Aesthetics of the Record

track 16)
| 10.45hrs | Jana Phillips, “Sonic Postcards: A consideration of the interdisciplinary and artistic possibilities of a school-based sound education project” & Adam Proctor “See Hear Inverurie”

track 17)
| 11.30hrs | Keynote Address |Jonty Harrison “Dilemmas, Dichotomies and Definitions: acousmatic music and its precarious situation in the arts”

track 18)
| 13.30hrs | Concert Hall. Acousmatic Concert Over a multi-channel loudspeaker diffusion system

1. Pete Stollery | ‘scenes /rendez-vous’
2. James Wyness | “Metallurgy”
3. Jonty Harrison – Unsound Objects

track 19)
| 15.30hrs  | Plenary Session

(bonus hidden track)
| 21.43hrs | Belmont Cinema bar, Aberdeen

No Neck Blues Band
Träd Gräs och Stenar
The Green Ray
Club of Rome
The Rebel
Stars in their Eyes
Nigel Burch
White Rabbit
SDNA