Sound Capture: Thames Craft Dry Docking Services

“Architecture is set down, boundaries imposed, our desires to roam is prohibited. We escape the surveillance and the striations of control by slipping into the unmapped vistas, the hidden zones.”Laura Oldfield Ford. Savage Messiah 9For the sound capture assignment I have attempted to develop my ideas and approach from the previous Sense of Place assignment in correlation to this terms’ emphasis on listening to the hidden, using contact and electromagnetic microphones, specifically within London’s urban environment.I’ve been interested in psycho-geographical approaches to urbanism and the overlap they seemed to have with the concerns of certain strains of sound art. I’ve found considerable resonance between Laura Oldfield Ford’s drifts, best documented in her London-centric zine ‘Savage Messiah’, and Max Neuhaus’s exploratory sound walks in the 1960s, titled simply as ‘Listen’. Neuhaus’s approach has been further developed and greatly expanded by a variety of sound artists working in acoustic ecology, and recently within the experimental practice of sonic ethnographers.Through my own drifts I’ve become attracted to the landscape that runs up the western path of the Greenwich peninsula, specifically between the Greenwich Power Station and the Dome. This is a landscape that bears the scars of rapid de-industrialisation and is as a zone of looming gentrification, situated between the hyper-spectacle of the Dome and the creeping erection of riverside luxury apartment blocks.Experimenting in this terrain with contact microphones has been especially fruitful. After approaching the owner of one of London’s last remaining working boatyards that can also be found on the peninsula, I’ve experimented with attaching contact microphones to a variety of structures that remain hidden from view behind the corrugated walls that line sections of the Thames Path. I’ve mixed these contact microphones recordings with open air recordings as can be heard in the composition for this assignment. My experiments with electromagnetic microphones on this particular site were limited and have not been featured in my composition as I thought they would not complement the source material.The composition is the result of experimenting with four track field recording using two air microphones set up to capture a stereo field and a further two channels running from contact microphones attached to resonant structures. In the recordings that make up the composition I’ve submitted, the contact microphones were placed on the anchors of a ship that the workers were repairing and with a stereo microphone set up to record the acoustic environment within the dock. It is attempt to offer a listening experience that is situated within a social and historical context, and that provides a glimpse into a sound world not commonly experienced.

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