Media Review from Taylor & Francis

Taylor & Francis has made 50 free copies of my media review available for download. Here is the address.


Otter Brook Sunrise

I’ve started working with some of the sounds I gathered last month. I consider this to be a test run to see how everything comes together. This comes from Otter Brook Dam in Keene, NH. After importing the edited files into Logic, I started playing with different edit points. I came to a reasonable compromise on the cross-fades and decided to add some underscore to the audio files. In total there are about 22 tracks in the session.

I chose a couple of simple shakers and an electronic drum loop. I applied a couple of interesting filters on the drums and used some timed delays elsewhere. I’m a big fan of simple delays. Granted, this a “pilot track” if you will, but it sets the stage for how I’d like to explore some of the other recordings.

All tracks are bussed to a basic 1/4 note delay and there is a modest amount of compression used to keep everything in the same dynamic range. The audio tracks have very little equalization other than a bit of low end cut. The strings and brass come from Logic’s orchestral library. All tracks are equalized and bussed to the same sound stage reverb in Space Designer. After getting a mix I could live with, I imported the stereo file into iMovie and started synchronizing the photos. I think this part will eventually get more detailed, but, for the first time it was fun to see how everything would lock in. I’m not sure if the entire project will follow this path, but I had fun starting the creative process regardless.

I’ve been submitting some abstracts to conferences around the northeast. Here’s hoping for some good results in the new year!

Editing and Revising

I took a short hiatus from field recording to focus on analysis and writing. I find one of the interesting aspects of academic work are that a researcher must often prepare abstracts and manuscripts as the project unfolds. My hope is to share some preliminary observations in the spring at various conferences along with a possible journal article. I plan to edit and start composing in the new year. Overall, I’m pleased with the progress made and am learning a great deal.

Alongside the creative research, I started a 30 day writing prompt. Fortunately, many of the entries thus far have focused on this project–giving me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the journey. My attention has turned to critical listening, stillness, and building awareness as an emerging sound composer. I hope to write more about these concepts in a conference paper and/or journal manuscript. The difference is that the 30 day writing project is semi-formal and relaxed. I’m adopting a freer approach with my writing. The goal is to get away from a rigid, literature-review style. This is not to suggest that I am ignoring what other contemporary scholars say about sound composition. I feel that I can research those sources and citations in due course. In some respects, I’ve felt that my writing has been far too rooted in that process over the past year. It’s nice to get away from it and write in a slightly narrative-based, ethnographic style.

In the end, a crisp manuscript should have a balance of the following:

  • Well-researched ideas to support the project’s guiding questions;
  • Clear, articulate writing that flows logically from paragraph to paragraph;
  • A strong procedural manner that outlines how the research is conducted;
  • Some personalized narrative that expresses the composer/artist’s intent and reflections;

I feel that I have much to learn and much to offer in these areas. The 30 days writing project affords me the opportunity to experiment with some writing approaches and see what “sticks”. One goal is to improve by removing some long, clunky sentences in favor of a clearer style. It is a process and one I’m enjoying right now. More sound and pictures coming soon!

Keene, NH

Today I traveled on Route 101 to a couple of beautiful locations near Keene, New Hampshire. It was a mild fall afternoon and the wind cooperated nicely for the most part. Rather than taking my full recording rig, I decided to keep it simple and capture audio with my Tascam DR-05. It has a built-in XY microphone pair and I was pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the recordings.

I’ve been reflecting a lot about leaving the confines of the classroom and/or studio to interact with nature. This entire process has caused me to think about being patient when recording and in the bigger picture of what this project will ultimately represent. Writing, composing, reflecting and designing all take time. It’s quite important to let ideas flow naturally without being forced. The logical part of me can respect and appreciate that. Yet, it seems people are always in such a hurry to produce.

I’ve been reading about productivity and how adopting good habits can improve my work in all areas. I think this is an important concept when considering the types of projects to get involved with and how much time they will take to complete. I’m fortunate to maintain a disciplined approach to most things in my life. I plan and rarely get caught off guard. It does happen from time to time though!

I share these thoughts because recording on location seems to be the opposite of a hurried pace. In a sense, it would be quite easy to say that pressing record and patiently waiting for the right sound is all about slow, steady awareness. That “zoning in” takes on a special feeling for me and I find myself in brief meditative states when I’m out in the field. There’s a certain calm that takes over when a pocket of audio is captured without difficulty.

In those brief serene moments, I pause and trust that this exploratory sound gathering process will yield artistic and scholarly “results”. And yet, as my conscious mind lets go I find myself hovering over each location a bit and taking in that special moment in time. I trust that there is a spiritual connection happening and that being in that location at that time is exactly the way the Universe designed it. And, if this project becomes about healing my own creative and compositional approaches…enough that I can be familiarized with New England and document its wonder…then I believe the whole process will have been worth it.

Each location features a park and picnic area that overlooks a stunning landscape. As you can hopefully see in the pictures, the weather was just delightful today. To be frank, I don’t think the pictures fully capture the beauty of the afternoon. As the project commences, I may invest in a proper camera. Thus far my iPhone has been a great companion! As for the technical specifics, I captured each recording at the top of the dam area at 44.1/24 with my DR-05. Since I wasn’t 100% where I’d end up today, I decided to keep the equipment very simple. It fulfilled the purpose nicely.

It seems people are starting to notice this blog. I’ve had some very nice questions from students, colleagues and friends alike via email and in person. The one overarching question I get is “what are you doing and what are you going to do with all of this sound?”.  I think that the simplest way to answer that is by saying I’m in the first phase of a sound gathering process that allows me to visit beautiful areas in New England and capture them on “tape” and with my camera. The second phase will involve some mixed media production in which I edit the recordings for clarity and blend, and then compose some music as an accompaniment part.

I’d also like to take many of these images and create some customized slide shows that I can export as QuickTime movies along with their respective sounds as the accompaniment. Depending on how things go, I may work on an installation or extended piece. My goal isn’t just to focus on nature. I plan to explore some cities throughout the process and try to incorporate a nice balance of urban and rural sounds. In addition to blogging, I hope to refine some of these entries and turn them into a formal essay and/or scholarly piece that is sufficient for peer review. I’m open to how that might come about and plan to explore it after taking a little break later this fall. That said, I greatly appreciate your interest in the project and thank you for visiting.

If you haven’t, please “like” the New England Soundscape Project page on Facebook. Next week I plan to visit Vermont. Stay tuned for some new sounds in the coming days!