Sounds of the Harbour

IMG_0457.JPG

To help you escape from the rumble of traffic and the squelch of your shoes filling with floodwater again, here are some sounds I recorded in a Cornish fishing harbour, before the weather turned apocalyptic.

IMG_0467.JPG

A near miss by two little dinghys leading to some fisherman banter:

IMG_0477.JPG

IMG_0453.JPG

IMG_0197.JPG

Birds and gentle waves:

IMG_0470.JPG

and mysterious gurgles:

IMG_0449.JPG

Sea swirling in the cauldron of rocks next to the harbour:

IMG_0447.JPG

IMG_0437.jpg

The sounds of people at work: loading boats, vans and the coastguard’s helicopter going over:

IMG_0338.JPG

Packing a huge net and chains into a crate with the help of a forklift truck:

IMG_0344.JPG

IMG_0341.JPG

IMG_0429.JPG

IMG_0443.JPG

IMG_0211.JPG

And peace on the cliff path above the sea, with distant waves below:

IMG_0482.JPG

IMG_0172.JPG

IMG_0155.JPG

IMG_0240.JPG

At work, typing

soundmap4.jpg

Really enjoying poking around the British Library’s UK Sound Map, where people all over the country can upload sounds from where they live. The most fascinating are the real local ones that capture an atmosphere, like the haunting Coryton oil refinery siren at Canvey Island, or the ‘Time and Tide bell’ on the Isle of Lewis, or ‘Dunrossness Croft House Shetland speaker’. Or ‘A lonely office’ near Peterborough, with just the sad sounds of a solitary chair squeaking and occasional pen scribble.

(On the other hand, can I tentatively suggest that people recording their own young children in their kitchen isn’t as interesting as they think it is? And I’d say they have enough trains…)

soundmap2.jpg

Sounds of Piccadilly

paxton.jpg

Away from the main scrum of the Trocadero etc, Piccadilly has interesting backstreets. Here are some sounds from a walk around it – obviously this is the main one, rain pinging off an umbrella:

rainbench.jpg

sticks.jpg

fortnums.jpg

Here is a walk through Fortnum & Mason, going down in the lift and through the foodhall, past a tour, people having tea in the restaurant or choosing between rows of bisuit tins and jams, and what sounds like secret shoppers being trained:

fortnums3.jpg

alley.jpg

lock2.jpg

glenrothes.jpg

gardendoor.jpg

And away from all that, the peace of pigeons and ducks in St James’s Park:

stjames.jpg

Sounds of the Norfolk Woods

norfolkwood1.jpg

A few sounds from a night excursion into the depths of the wood. There is one track through these woods, which are pitch black at night, miles from anywhere, with nothing around but trees, stars and mysterious rustling creatures.

So you may have to listen on headphones to catch this first one, because the whole point of the Norfolk woods is that they are very quiet, apart from the distant hooting of owls.

norfolkwood4.jpg

And your own footsteps.

norfolkwood3.jpg

In the middle of the wood is a single, sinister cottage.

Admittedly made slightly less sinister here by its occupant, Bunny, my niece’s rabbit.

‘A tiny, wily, elusive Pimpernel’

womens_vote.jpg

The BBC has just put up a selection of recordings of suffragettes from its archives. Many of these were interviews in the Fifties and Sixties for programmes such as Woman’s Hour, which ran a piece on the collection today.

Dame Ethel Smyth remembers a window-smashing campaign with great relish: “Mrs Pankhurst was not a cricketer,” she observes ruefully, of the suffragette leader missing the window of number 10. Schoolgirl Winifred Starbuck talks about pupils running wild in support of an imprisoned teacher. Many describe the horrors of their treatment in Holloway: one recalls the constant “awful sound of the choking of women” as they were forcibly fed.

Most fascinating is dancer Lilian Lenton (below): “My speciality was escapes.” She was known as the tiny Pimpernel for her frequent dodging of the police who were set to watch her: her schemes included dressing up as an errand boy, and one very elaborate plot involving the scattering of 50 veiled accomplices. She also seems to have been a keen arsonist.

lenton2.jpg

rtsuffrage.jpg

(Radio Times image from here)

Sounds of a French Seaside Town

stjshop.jpg

Here are a few sounds recorded on the Cote Basque last week.

The waves breaking on a long sandy beach, with a husky-voiced Frenchman of a certain age chatting to his friend on the sea wall:

stjbeach3.jpg

Corks popping and cutlery clinking as people eat their lunch in the cafes in the square:

stjsquare2.jpg

Church bells floating across the water, boats chugging past, and a bit of flirting on the quayside:

stjharbour.jpg

And the harbour in the middle of the night – tied-up boats making a strange ringing sound, and a fishing vessel bringing its catch into the small docks:

stjnightharbour.jpg

stjean1.jpg

stjbeach.jpg

Zadar Sea Organ

zadar_organ.jpg

I was invited to contribute to Paul Ramsay’s Consemble sound/mail art project, which, as he points out, is doing its own bit to automate the creative process – leaving composers free to do the sort of things they do best.

His site also pointed me towards the amazing Zadar Sea Organ, an installation in Croatia that uses stone stairs on a seaside promenade as the pipes of an organ which is played by the waves. You can hear it in action here.

It seems that San Francisco and Blackpool also have sea organs, although I can’t find any recordings online – some comments suggest the San Francisco one may have become clogged up with sand and crabs. Quickly, San Franciscans – buckets and spades to the rescue!

Sounds of the Thames

towerbridge.jpg

The part of Wapping where I occasionally have to go to work is typical of London in its squashing together of incongruous things. Wailing bankers mill around the bottom of the Lloyds building, Tower Bridge swarms with confused tourists – then on the other side of the river, beyond all the restaurants, there’s a completely different atmosphere.

thamesbeach.jpg

It reminds you that being on a massive tidal waterway near an estuary, this bit of London is basically by the sea. It even smells of seaweed.

thamesdock.jpg

Tourist boats and speedboats go by, creating waves that clang the garden barges together, and geese fly overhead:

geesefly.jpg

Small Londoners appreciate the wildlife:

thamesduck.jpg

Adult visitors have more important things on their minds – where to eat:

wirebridge.jpg

Of course, there’s no escaping the essential city sounds – ye traditional London surveillance helicopter, plus drills, sirens, planes and other people’s mobile phone conversations:

thamestunnel.jpg

wraptower.jpg

Marsh Sounds

marsh2.jpg

Here are some sounds brought back from a misty Norfolk marsh in December. The wind in the dry reeds:

marsh3.jpg

Ducks landing splashily, with shots just audible in the distance – perhaps some less fortunate ducks about to become Christmas lunch:

marsh4.jpg

marsh6.jpg

And a full-scale bird battle, with seagulls attacking ducks and getting the best of it at first, but gradually beaten back by force of numbers, with some crows calling from the sidelines – a sight so weird you might just be able to hear a whispered “Jesus” from the sound recordist:

marsh10.jpg

marsh7.jpg

marsh8.jpg