The City Rings

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Sonic Postcards from Penzance

Sadly, Thursday 20th October was our last session. We met at 9am and started by listening to some of our Sonic Snaps from last week. We listened to the difference in quality between the recordings and discussed if and how we could improve them.

We had Tony Whitehead, who has done lots of Sonic Postcard work, come and visit us today, he and Cat talked us through some of the recordings and then demonstrated making graphical scores. We listened to some of the recordings and drew a graphical representation of them. It seemed strange to be drawing sound but it was a really useful way to develop our compositions.

We then had a brief introduction into Audacity, where we each demonstrated a different technique, to make sure we all knew how to use the software. We then set about making out Sonic Postcards…

Here is the Sonic Postcard that we composed together using the sounds that Cat recorded. Cat was able to get a wider variety of sounds because she recorded the school environment at different times during the day, and she also went out and about in Penzance. We wrote these down on separate pieces of paper and the juggled them around to compose our class postcard. What do you think? Can you identify the sounds? Does Penzance sound as you expected?

After this, the class worked together in small groups to make their own Sonic Postcards…

Here is Heidi & Hetty’s composition, Heidi and Hetty worked really hard on this, they made some fantastic recordings and have edited this really well. They have used some sound effects in here but not many – Have a listen and see what you think. Can you identify the sounds and which ones were effected?

Here is Ben & Xan’s composition. It is also a almost a combination of an abstract piece of sound art and the a Sonic Postcard concept. It is a really interesting mix of sounds, some of which have had effects put on them and others which have none. Have a listen and see what you think. Can you identify the sounds?

Here is Tom & Joe’s composition. This is a really interesting use of the sounds we had. They have made and used some lovely recordings, and it is nicely edited together. What do you think? Can you identify the sounds?

Here is Julia, Jordan and Mitch’s composition. This is a quite a short piece but is really interesting use of the sounds they chose. This group also worked really hard on their recordings and the composition. What do you think? Can you identify the sounds?

Here is Joe’s composition. It is more like an abstract piece of sound art than a sonic postcard. Have a listen and see what you think. Can you identify the sounds?


Soundstories from Elsinore

Here are three compositions made by the pupils from Little School in Elsinore. Enjoy!
Soundstories from Elsinore by SoundTales-1


Modes of Listening

Michel Chion identifies three distinct listening modes that we use.
He calls them: causal listening, semantic listening, and reduced listening.

Causal listening consists of listening to a sound in order to gather information about its cause (or source). In some cases we recognize the precise cause: a specific person´s voice, the sound of a unique particular object, like the sound of our coffee grinder. We sometimes cannot recognize a particular sound, but can place it in a category, like: That sounds like something mechanical. Or: That sounds like a bird. We identify indicies. For example: a scraping sound. Even without knowing the cause, we can sense changes in pressure, speed and amplitude, without knowing what is scraping against what.

Semantic listening refers to a code or language to interpret a message. We learn phonetic codes; A phoneme is listened to not specifically for its acoustical properties, but as part of an entire system of language sounds. Danish is very difficult to learn because there are so many particular vowel sounds that influence interpretation. Obviously, we can use causal and semantic listening at the same time. We hear at once what is said and who is saying it.

Reduced listening is a mode of listening that focuses on the traits of the sound itself, pitch, clang, tempo, rhythm, etc., independent of its cause or meaning. Reduced listening takes the sound itself, as itself the object to be observed, instead of as a vehicle for something else.

We invited English classes in to schools to explore listening modes, asking them to tune into the sounds of their daily living, their environments, and their language – and then compose their soundstory, here presented without narration.


iSounds Denmark

iSounds Denmark by SoundTales-1



Denmark: I started in the mid sixties working with sound stories for the Feature Department in national public broadcasting and recording Danish audio culture. We have a good tradition of making sound stories with narration as a public service. Unfortunately over the last 10 years, due to cutbacks. the production of this kind of audio has declined markedly here. My intention is to spark an audio revival in a visual dominated society. Listening to the sounds around us is new to our pupils here in Denmark. They have no experience in working with audio expression, recording, editing and mixing.  There are two schools in the project here in Denmark, one private: The Elsinore Little School – and one public: Hellebaek School. The time allotted was 9 lessons of 45 minutes. There were all the imaginable technical problems, but with high spirits in the two classes, we actually got something done, though many did not finish their sonic postcard. Now there is fall vacation. They  will finish their work at home and we will continue in week 43, so there is more to come.