The Media Arts Committee (MAC) of the Community Radio Education Society (CRES) offered me the artist-in-residence “Sound in Context: Field Recording” which I started on March 17th 2016.
The main goal of this residency is to focus on the active listening and importance of listening during field recordings. A 20-minute piece of audio is expected as well as an artist talk on April 18th 2016.
Over the past two years, I have collected photo, sound and interview material with the intention to create a triptych projection with soundtracks relating to the hasty and massive changes occurring in Port Moody, Ioco and Belcarra South due to the real estate boom in Metro Vancouver and the installation of the new Evergreen SkyTrain line. I would like to create the art sound piece around this subject.
During this artist-in-residence, I will share some perceptions of previous and current recordings.
To listen to the final composition Ioco-Belcarra-Port Moody, click on the following link:
Fifth week of the artist-in-residence
The blank screen of the composition appeared in front of me Thursday this week. For the previous sound compositions I have done, I didn’t plan any script. The story got built spontaneously following the sounds I had recorded using locations as separators/references.
When I started this composition for which I wrote a short script to guide me in the essential ideas for each of the 3 locations while considering the recordings I had done, I felt a bit lost despite the script. I had so many good recordings for just a 20-minute piece, dozens of possibilities were available, I never used Audacity before to edit, I faced the fact that what I learnt about it was the tool I had to use. Learning more “fancy” effects to transform the sounds would have to be for another sound artist-in-residence. In a few weeks, I barely touched the basic of the science of sound.
After an hesitating “début”, I picked a different beginning than the one planned and I just went for it. By the end of Sunday, the first third of the composition has been edited to my satisfaction.
What was quite a surprise after 4 weeks of learning how to listen, was to be more aware of all the surroundings sounds in my studio, the apartment where I live: laundry, fridge, fans, stove’s oven, neighbours (the one above me just started her loud vacuuming), garbage removal, postman, traffic, rain, my own sounds (typing on the computer, moving papers around), alarm clock, birds, planes and trains in a distance. The most distracting sounds/noises when listening to recordings are the fridge and the laundry (and vacuuming).
My fridge’s compressor is the most talkative of all: in the middle of the loud hums some whispers, rolling Rs such as the turtledove, squealing (“couinements”) like raccoons’ vocalization or less poetic the sound of a mop thrown on the floor. I wonder what kind of effects these external domestic sounds will have on the composition itself when the fridge starts every 15 minutes for as long as 15 minutes! I didn’t know that my toaster produced a sound. The laundry room beside my entrance door also brings its loads of undesirable noises.
Perceptions of fifth week
I remembered another cause and effect moment: boats engines going by and a few minutes later the waves crashing against the stilts/pilings of the cabins where I stayed for 2 weeks at the North Pacific Museum located in Inverness Passage at the mouth of the Skeena River.
At first when I travelled and recorded inside the Skytrain, I only heard one tone with various volumes which increased when accelerating and decreased when slowing down. Then, I discovered between Main and Stadium stations a different sound such as the one of a train rolling down the train tracks like galloping and closer to one of the sounds of the Parisian metro.
Fourth week of the artist-in-residence
The focus was to run through all the recordings for this project, study Audacity such as the effects Amplify, Compressor and Normalize, meet with Earle Peach to answer the technical questions I had and pursue some of the planning for the composition I’ll start working on next week.
During field recordings, I sometimes experience stopping the recording just before a great sound. On the 1st day of this residency, I missed the sound of a truck with a diesel engine that I would certainly use in a composition. There are also times when recording amazing moments doesn’t happen. A few years ago, in awe of a cause and effect moment, I just appreciated what was happening.I noticed that each time I opened and closed a very rusty squeaky screen door, two raven would talk back to the sounds coming out of that door. Which sounds relate to other sounds?
When I work on editing some projects, I usually deal with the visuals before the audio. This-artist-in residency focuses on sound. Even if I take photos to document certain moments of doing recordings or working in my studio, there is a mild sensation of lose and disorientation when I remember that the results will only be used for an audio composition.
Except for a few classes taken over the years to enhance my knowledge of certain skills, I’m essentially a self-taught artist. While learning the audio editing software Audacity, I realized how I’m missing certain features of the video editing software Final Cut Pro I used prior to this experience such as the organization of a composition. I would create in a single project many different sequences to organize the clean-up of the various recordings to be used and regrouped part of them in a unique sequence which became the final composition. In Audacity, I’ll have to invent a new way of organization, but only next week!
Perception of fourth week
The recordings I have done during this residency seem to be noisy and busy, full of mixed sounds such as traffic, large crowds, lively people, engines of small planes, Skytrain. Previous recordings done in France happened in more quieter spaces where the recorded sounds seemed clearly isolated from their environments.
Third week of the artist-in-residence
This week ranged from making recordings to listening to recordings.
I was prepared to call a few demolition companies as the changes to occur in Port Moody, Ioco and Belcarra South would certainly involve demolition. On the way to my part-time work, I noticed a site across the office that had just been deconstructed. Two excavators were organizing the rubble. Before work and at lunch, I recorded heavy sounds of metallic objects and cement blocks being moved around and dumped into large trucks. Still I could distinguish trucks’ engines waiting in line in the streets and electrical saws in the background cutting metal. Luckily the wind pushed away the dust of the demolition away from the recorder. The most surprising sounds happened when an excavator pushed with its bucket the rubble in the truck’s bed to make more room; the whole truck moved like if it was a toy. I didn’t photograph this session. To understand the process, here is a photo of a demolition I documented in 2007 for the documentary Giants Leap.
All Saturday field recordings without a winter coat. Luxury! I started with recordings while travelling on the Skytrain from Joyce to Stadium.
On the way back while taking photos, I heard rolling sounds. A cleaning staff pulling and pushing two garbage bins stopped by me. I asked her if she could move them again. First astonished by my request, she then enjoyed rolling them around me while I recorded. We got into the train. At the next station, she asked me to follow her for more sounds. I did it even if it wasn’t my destination.
I drove to Belcarra Park to record waves’ sounds. What seems to be an excellent set-up with the tripod feet on the edge of the shore turned out to be a good lesson but after the fact. The reverberation of some of the waves hitting the tripod feet holding the recorder created unusable sounds that will take me a long time to clean up. I need to wear headsets when I record especially during a time-framed project. Up to now I never got sorry over this oversight. Another smaller incident when my hearing got challenged and my fee wet. So absorbed in a close-up photo taking, my eyes could not see the big waves coming after the passage of a larger boat; luckily my hearing warned me and I was able to save in extremis the recorder from being wet too.
The rumor that a parking lot might replace at some time the Belcarra summer cottages made me think thoroughly on what kind of sounds I could get from a parking lot that wouldn’t recall sounds of cars driving by on a road or starting at a green light. Quite unclear about the possibilities, I walked along the vast parking of Belcarra Park.I couldn’t run after the cars who were looking for a parking spot even if they drove slowly. I developed a system of walking to the closest vacant parking spot to the entrance, recording the cars leaving the parking and catching the ones who discovered the empty spots. It rapidly became an impossible mission as I had to walk too much and too fast. Nevertheless I figured out some distinctive sounds such as the acceleration of slow driving, cracking of tires rolling on gravel, clinking of cooling-down engines, car doors opening and closing. This became more an exploration than a successful recording session as quite early the wind started blowing too strongly.
The recording day moved on to Ioco townsite to record its creeks. After a few trials with too much surrounding traffic or too much distance between the recorder and the creek, I followed one of them to its entrance to Burrard Inlet and got some really good sounds despite the strong wind.
I ended this day closer to home with some recordings of coming and leaving Skytrains in a more quiet neighbourhood than the one of the first week.
Perceptions of third week
Especially rich in contact with individuals. People who are not scared of others approach me to understand what I’m doing. I thought that in the days of looking at screens my recorder will pass incognito. Maybe the hairy windscreen makes it stand out! Driving away at the level of the heritage grocery store, two 15-years old girls and I waved goodbye at each other after having met at Ioco townsite. They were wondering if they could get closer to the old houses fenced out. I enjoyed their curiosity for old buildings.
I have lots to say about domestic sounds which will be done another time. For the 1st time in my life, I got up my desk to go and listen to the sounds of garbage removal in front of my place.
Second week of the artist-in-residence
I continued the self-training of the Audacity software and researched on-line accessible glossary on basic sound terms. I started the long process of listening to previous recordings made in Ioco and Belcarra, taking notes to identify the available material and start imagining the sound composition .
Recordings of this week focused on both the present way of living and the one which will develop with the arrival of the new Skytrain line in Port Moody.
A few hours in one of Port Moody parks with children running and playing in playground. Then, quite intrigued by the sounds made by the washrooms doors I recorded visitors going in and out and also arriving from the left, the right and behind. Sounds move like people or come from a unique direction like the doors. The ones moving from the left to the right crisscross in stereo recording and vice versa. Very brief sounds to the point of being what I would call a one-note sound are hard to identify not only later during listening but also during field recording just after they just happened.
The starting goal was to record the voices of crowds in a park. Many non-expected sounds added themselves so naturally : playing ball, driving tricycles, steps and skipping, laughs, crying children, swings, planes, crows, faint sound of hand dryers.
Following the crowd to the inevitable pier where recordings will certainly transmit the vibration of the board walk when people walked on it. On the other side, the recording from the top of the metal ramp of a truck pulling a boat from the water. No recording of people eating their first ice-cream of an early spring day!
Port Moody has no commercial malls in its municipality perimeter. I drove to the closest one in Coquitlam to represent the new shopping centres that will certainly pop up soon. The incredible brouhaha of the food court pushed my body “Back to the park, please!”. The loud voices of all these people sounded like an engine, a human engine, with a few timid additions of kitchen equipment and chairs being pulled.
I recorded in several locations of the mall to explore the sound differences. Each space has its resonance and echo. After two hours, I put my equipment away. Curious about the other places, I heard squeaky automatic doors that I couldn’t resist. I recorded for a long time between two sets of 2 doors each with a crowd in an incessant back and forth. The sound of the cash registers were quite distinct even if far away.
Perceptions of second week
Looking at tutorials, I learnt that recording lower than higher was easier to fix when editing.
Many years ago I stopped turning the radio on for music every morning which opened my consciousness to surrounding sounds and noises.
The reminder to record a few seconds of dead/quiet space before recording interviews doesn’t seem possible in a noisy place such as a mall I visited.
Some English clarification: creaky wooden pier and squeaky metal automatic doors (following a sample of the latter).
First week of the artist-in-residence
Eager to start, I did three sounds recordings around the Renfrew Skytrain station. My plan for this project is to do outdoors recordings with my Zoom H4n which are done in stamina mode using batteries and no AC power adapter. In stamina mode, the higher .wav format is 44/16. The final piece as requested by MAC needs to be in .wav format 48 / 24. I need to find out if it is possible to upsize an audio file of 44/16 in an Audacity project I will using for audio editing (this is a new software for me as I used until now Final Cut Pro).
Away from the Skytrain station and then closer to it, I recorded at a variety of levels to evaluate the quality of the sounds. Meanwhile, I noticed the sounds of cars driving over the railway tracks at Kaslo Street and moved the recorder for a 3rd recording.
I also noticed other sounds I would like to record later on: Skytrain announcements and alarm when doors close,beeps of traffic lights when pedestrians can walk across and trucks stopping and starting at traffic lights.
I downloaded Audacity and started to learn it. Quite different from Final Cut Pro. I discovered how to make a selection, fade-in and out, cut.
First sample of learning Audacity and traffic over railways
I started research on experimental music such as musique concrète and minimal music. I followed Anju’s recommendation to start research on sound art composition http://ears.pierrecouprie.fr/ and e-mailed Sylvi McCormac a sound artist recommended by Earle Peach and Barbara.
Perceptions of first week
The beginning and the end of a sound. Do we hear sooner and/or longer than recording devices?
Going to record with a specific idea in mind to then become aware of many other sounds
Record same sounds from different locations for different results the same as when taking photographs from different angles resulting in different images.
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