During his talk on 2nd December Chris Watson mentioned an artist-led organisation based in Australia with whom he, and other artists, collaborates regularly on some fantastic soundscape projects. This post will introduce them briefly and explain the technique that Chris described and showcased during his talk. But first:
[Image: WIRED LAB]
WIRED LAB connects international artists and residents of rural Australia and connects them in new ways. Contributing artists include sound recordists Chris Watson and Jez Riley French, amongst others such as musicians and instrument inventors Colin Offord and Jeff Henderson.
Some fantastic work comes out of the organisation, which you can see on the website, but I’m going to feature the work of Chris Watson and Jez Riley French’s contact mics in order to illustrate the applications in Acoustic Ecology.
The Computational Beauty of Nature features recordings by Chris Watson. Their surreal sounds, he assured us, are unprocessed and are the sounds he picked up by attaching contact mics these long metal wires fences.
Contact mics are placed close to each other: one on the top wire of the fence, the other on the bottom. This means that as the rain or other objects, falls on the top wire we hear the immediate vibration as well as the same vibrations shortly after they’ve travelled through a great distance of wire in order to reach the second microphone.
In The Computational Beauty of Nature it sounds as though this goes for objects hitting both wires so there is a unique mirroring going on between the left and right channels.
The stereo width in the above recording is also a fairly natural. As Chris said in his talk, careful microphone placement is key to gathering perspective; it is also an important, probably the first stage of, compositional decision making because there are so many aspects embodied in perspective.
More examples include contributing work to bioacoustics of the area. The different wire fence set ups they have contribute to the diversity of sounds to be heard, for example the Flying V wire constructed in 2010:
“This recording taken from the eastwest wire of the Flying V. This sound is most likely a bird perching on the wire. It gives a good idea of the delay line / reverb effect from such a large scale single wire span.”
Chris Watson recommended the C-series contact microphones built by Jez Riley French. He’s based around Hull, very easy to contact and very responsive and helpful in his replies. Follow the link above and see his catalogue of hyrdrophones and contact mics available. See this play list for a brief showcase of the mics:
I bought a pair of C-series mics and have put them to great use so far. However in order to illustrate the application of them to metal fences I did some testing when I was last in York. There was a large carousel in Parliament Square and a metal fence about 4-foot in height acting as a barrier for people to queue around. As you can imagine, whilst people we waiting to ride, there was lots of contact with the fence; I was in contact too wired up with these mics:
And not on a fence but a window during intermittent rain fall on a windy day:
Great results are waiting to be had if you get yourselves a single or pair of these mics. See Jez’s website or do a search on Soundcloud for loads more examples