Listening to, recording & making music with the sounds around you.

What A Way To Make A Living

I stand in a large plaza in central Bogotá listening to the distinct soundscape, and contemplating selling ice cream, puppeteering, renting llamas and field recording as various means of making a living.

At the beginning, a strange man approaches me, whom I ignore as I've just hit record. He tells me he's a historian, asks me if I speak Spanish, and say's he's hungry in English. Listening back now retrospectively I feel pretty ashamed. I wish I'd talked to him.

'Sound Diaries' is an ongoing project in collaboration with Isobel Anderson. It documents sounds and thoughts through field recordings and spoken word, highlighting the presence of the field recorder through their voice, opening up the dialogue between listener, recorder and place.

Note To Self from Up In The Clouds

I begin to make a recording of the social soundscape surrounding the outdoor terrace cafe we're sitting in. We're outside 'La Nubia' Airport in Manizales, Columbia, waiting to catch a flight whilst on tour with Insectotropics. A crowd of men whom I assume to be well into their 60s and 70s play dominoes with great glee and gusto at a table nearby.

As I make the recording and the game plays out, I wonder about the ethics of documenting, reproducing and disseminating the overheard conversations.

It strikes me that actually, if you're listening to this recording, you're only overhearing what I overheard. The people around me knew I was there and still spoke loudly enough for me to hear. They've no idea who I am, so they only knew me as well as you know them.

Of course, they didn't know I was recording them. But, if you're listening with headphones and not broadcasting this to a wider audience than yourself, you, listening to this, could be me, who was there.

For today, I think it's fine. They're too busy enjoying their dominoes to care, anyway.

#SoundDiaries: Searching for Home

I go for a walk in the hills above my hometown of Wirksworth, Derbyshire. I get lost for a while. Eventually I find the way and then its my mind that starts to stray, whilst the sheep munch on grass.

This is part of an ongoing 'Sound Diaries' project in collaboration with Isobel Anderson. The project documents sounds and thoughts through field recordings and spoken word, highlighting the presence of the field recorder through their voice, opening up the dialogue between listener, recorder and place.

#RIO: Outside the funeral of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira

We decide to make our way to the large cemetery in Botafogo. I'm told Tom Jobim is buried there and I want to pay some musicianly respects.

As we step off the bus, we're met by BOPE special police lining the road, all the way up to a building at the top with a large gathering of people outside. We decide to take a look.

We had no idea but quickly realise that this is the funeral of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, whose death earlier this week was widely reported in the international press - a fact which became a story in itself for the Brazilian news.

The funeral scene seems to be an opportunity for protest as well as for contemplation and reflection. Chants spring up regularly, referring to the military police "pacification" of the favela and particularly directed at the Globo media conglomerate and their TV crew at the scene. The victim was a dancer for the network. The crowd seem pretty angry, it feels tense.

I decide fairly quickly that I'm not here to pay tribute to the dead man, nor do I want to be part of the media circus surrounding the funeral, so I make my way out to leave. As I do so, a group of motorbike-taxi drivers all rev their engines in unison.

According to Amnesty International, police in Brazil are responsible for an average of 2,000 deaths through shooting and violent incidents every year. As I wander away, I can't help thinking that the international interest in this story is primarily because of its timing, location and consequences: two months before the World Cup in an area very close to the tourist hub of Copacabana, which has seen some of the angry protest spilling out from the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela.

We make our way home via the vast cemetery. With cinematic pathetic fallacy it begins to rain. I realise I'll probably not find Tom Jobim's grave.

#RIO: Organised Chaos on Avenida Rio Branco

A broken traffic light stuck on red on one of Rio's busiest thoroughfares, a main artery through the city centre.

Traffic assistants wearing fluorescent coats and armed with high-pitched whistles try to keep things moving by whistling frantically and gesticulating in a highly animated fashion, essentially to encourage vehicles to speed up and go through a red light. 

This then has to be stopped, to enable traffic to flow the other way across the junction. I really enjoyed the counterpoint of different whistles from all across the large junction. 

#RIO: Botafogo Bay

Walking along the path between Botafogo Bay and Parque do Flamengo, I'm struck by one of the most famous sights in Rio - Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf).

The idyllic scenery is somewhat incongruent with the soundscape - a busy six-lane traffic highway running along the other side of the path.

These recordings take in this juxtaposition, and then try to focus on the nearby sounds that to me, are maybe better suited to the view - rustling grasses and lapping water. The constant flow of passing traffic could almost be the swell of the sea...

#RIO: The Pitter Patter of Heavy Traffic

We're wandering around the port area of Rio on a sunny afternoon.

A large motorway fly-over dominates the scene. It follows the curves of the city centre waterfront before scissoring through a once-desirable neighbourhood to the north.

As traffic passes overhead, the vehicles disturb a slab or metal plate - making a curious pitter patter sound down below.

This flyover will be torn down as part of the Olympic regeneration and the whole area will be regenerated - whatever that means (Barcelona Port Olimpic, anyone?).

As I stand there - arm aloft, recording the sound overhead - I wonder... Should acoustic ecology also be concerned with preserving urban 'noise' before it disappears?