The birds in the gardens of Mycenae House (the café and community centre in Blackheath [map], nearest station: Westcombe Park, nearest bus: 386) are undertaking some fairly determined chirping in the clip below, possibly they spotted me with my recording device.
In the early part of the clip you can hear someone playing piano for a class and some other background noises, but it’s mostly birdsong.
Thanks to this video I came across a collection of websites where you can listen in to audio ‘webcam’ versions of sounds coming in from various radio antenna. On some it’s conversations, on others weird and wonderful sounds. I don’t really understand what I’ve been looking at or listening to but heres a recording I made of one – it’s quite a pleasingly unearthly sound.
This one let me hear the Chiltern aviation beacon which signals the letters C, H and T (forever) in Morse code. Heard it one night on a detuned radio at home at my parents’ house a few years ago and have been a bit obsessed with tracking it ever since.
The above recording is pretty much as it sounded at my parents. In the one below I pressed the button saying ‘CW-narrow’ and that cleaned it up quite a bit, but also I think it changed the pitch..(!)
One of the loveliest things I’ve heard was a talk by Ian Rawes (London Sound Survey) in which he let us hear examples of his vast collection of audio recordings, stretching back over a century (some originally recorded on wax cylinders) while he told us their story. It was absolutely magical to hear street callers hawking their wares, and young children from fifty or sixty years ago singing playground songs. We also heard, from 1888, a very wobbly recording of a massive 4,000-strong choir singing Handel’s Messiah in London.
Most of the people in the recordings are dead but their voices live on. I don’t have any recording of my parents speaking (beyond the ridiculous clip below of my dad sounding like a chipmunk thanks to a buffering error on Skype) and, obviously, I wish I did…
This year I went to the marvellous Wilderness Festival for the first time, hopefully not the last. I absolutely loved it and when my 400 plus photos have finished uploading I’ll link to them below.
One thing I did was pinch my friend Helen’s bat detector and listen intently after dusk near my campsite, which was very near a river and definitely had at least one bat flitting to and fro. In the recording below I was pointing the detector up, set at 55.7MHz, and could clearly see the small bat flying overhead. I’ve had the detector for a few months at home in London and completely failed to get a confirmed sighting and hearing (seen plenty of bats and not heard them but also heard plenty of bats and not seen them) but this worked perfectly.
Happy new year! 🙂 I took the ferry to Greenwich today and walked along the pavement above the foreshore to the very convenient (and still open at ~4pm!) Waitrose. The tide was very high at that point, so much so that the walk off the ferry and up the pier was on a flat surface and it’s usually a bit of an incline. The tide was also hitting the walled walkway area en route to Waitrose with sufficient force to spray the pavement, which I’d not seen before.
There’s a strange little fenced off shingle beach area from which I’ve taken a few sound recordings in the past but I think today’s is the best one. The tide flushed up along the shingle and stones and in receding dragged back across the top all the tiny little fragments, which make the most lovely shimmering tinkly sound – one of my favourite sounds. It’s quite similar to the sound of someone playing with or turning over broken crockery. My previous recordings have never quite got the full effect and you can hear an earlier one below – the sound is there but it’s not as easy to hear against the other sounds.
This recording was made a few years ago while I was in a hotel using iffy wifi to ‘phone’ my dad via Skype. I’d never heard Skype turn someone’s voice like this before and didn’t really know what to do, and couldn’t stop giggling (as is clear from the recording). Subsequent googling indicated that it had been due to some buffering error, but it always makes me laugh to hear it. My dad died yesterday so I suppose this is a bit ‘in memoriam’-y but let’s not be down in the dumps – he found it quite funny too. In the call he’s saying ‘hang up, hang up’, encouraging me to restart the conversation which we eventually did successfully.
I once tried to recover my dad’s normal speaking voice from this by running the audio through Audacity and slowing it down but it sounded just as hilarious then. Haha 🙂
My youngest has had my old phone for a couple of years. Just for games, which I download for her before disconnecting the internet. Still has my old contacts though & it turns out she’s been messaging my dad, who died 5 years ago. I may have something in my eye. pic.twitter.com/RZ5ZTgGbnk
Added: 17 Feb 2018
Just seen the most amazing tweet from James O’Brien (above) and there were some lovely touching responses about people ringing up the phones of people who’d died to listen to their voices on voicemail. After my dad died (5 Nov 2016) I found a recording of a voicemail message I had from him in June that year. He’d had some periods of ill health and I think making this recording was an insurance for me in case anything happened – I’d failed to think of doing the same for my mum sadly, who died in 2010.
Dad did send further voicemail messages to me in the months before he died though I deleted them. There was one on my landline after he died but I was too miserable to sort anything out in terms of recording that one and sadly with time the messsage also passed beyond the point of recovery. So I’m glad I have this. He’s telling me about the London to Penzance overnight sleeper train – there was a BBC Four programme on about it (he often rang to tell me about things he thought I’d enjoy watching on television or on the radio). I went on the train in 2015, it was lovely.
He sounds Scottish, and curiously a bit more high-pitched than his voice was in real life, he had a fairly deep voice most of the time, but it still sounds like him. He usually called me darling, though he didn’t here. I quite like that the recording sounds a bit ‘grainy’. It’s just me holding my iPhone next to the landline speaker and recording on the voice memo app. I know the m4a file won’t change but I like to think that it will gradually degrade with each listen and eventually fade away (here is a lovely event I went to, where we heard voice recordings from decades and even a century ago – Edison wax cyclinders).
I live in Blackheath in London which is in the borough of Greenwich and Woolwich, and Woolwich has an army barracks. I assume that’s where most of the Chinook helicopters come from (or visit and then leave) that make lots of lovely noise overhead in the early evening. With two rotors (spinning in opposite [contra-rotating tandem rotors] directions) the Boeing Chinook RAF helicopter has an unmistakeable sound which you can hear well before you’ll see any sign of a helicopter. They also look totally cool when they do show up.
Here is a low quality (sorry!) iPhone 5s sound recording, taken without wind guard, of a Chinook making its lovely noise in Greenwich.
Hooked on Music is a crowdsourced science project that collects data from lots of people playing a series of games, to find out some stuff about music (and people’s response to it).
One of the games is ‘What’s the hook?‘ in which you’re given two short clips to listen to, a sort of A / B testing. Your task is to decide which you find catchier. Thus far I’ve not been doing very well. Presumably this means I’d be crap as a composer, music producer or generally a spotter of catchy tunes. Or, I’m absolutely brilliant and everyone else is useless.
Some of them I got very wrong, eg less than 30% of other listeners agreed with me but most of them I was in the 40% category with 60% disagreeing with me, some even closer. I have to say I find it rather mysterious as the catchy hook bit seems quite obvious to me.
Here’s how I did
Nat King Cole – Nature Boy – I successfully picked the catchier clip (right)
Pee Wee Hunt – Twelfth Street Rag – I failed to pick the catchier clip (wrong)
Eminem – Without Me – wrong
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel – wrong
Daft Punk – Get Lucky – wrong (!)
Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia – wrong
Shakira – Hips Don’t Lie – right
Take That – Rule The World – wrong
Berlin – Take My Breath Away – wrong
Tatu – All The Things She Said – wrong
Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime – wrong
Elbow – Grounds for Divorce – right
Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman – wrong
Doris Day – Que sera sera – wrong (I was in the 25% who thought the clip I picked was catchier than the other one, I am really bad at this).
Shakira – Wherever, whenever – wrong. 15% thought the clip I picked was catchier – what is wrong with me 😉
The other games are
Recognise that tune?
In a Row
and on the bottom left there’s a little icon you can click to fill in some details about you to help the science / data collectors.
Here are a couple of people playing the ‘Recognise that tune?’
A month ago I went to a rather magical event which involved hearing some very old audio recordings made in London. We were played a selection of sound clips that stretched back in time from the 1950s, gradually going back, further and further, until we were listening to a recording made in the 1888 of people singing Handel’s Messiah.
Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey put the clips in context and it was a nice mixture of oral history and sound-recording history, in a cosy bar which was atmospherically lit with candles on the table.
If I wasn’t doing something else this Friday I’d be heading off to Brighton for the evening because he’s giving the talk there and I’d love to hear it again. Highly recommended.
London’s Lost Worlds of Sound
Friday 7 November, 8pm (£6/5), Marlborough Pub & Theatre, 4 Princes St, Brighton http://www.drinkinbrighton.co.uk/events/marlborough/londons-lost-worlds-of-sound-2014-11-07[there’s a link to tickets but if you’re local you can pick them up in person with no booking fee, cash only]
“In this spellbinding show, hear rare recordings of London life, from the 1950s right back to the 1880s. These sounds, captured by broadcasters and amateurs alike, bring to life a rowdy, vocal London filled with vigour and eccentricity. Lavender sellers and fortune tellers, the vanished songs of schoolchildren, fire stations and sewer workers, the propaganda and reality of the Blitz – all feature in this unmissable night for anyone into the history of sound recording, radio or cities. Presented by Ian Rawes, a former British Library sound archivist, whose world renowned London Sound Survey contains over 1500 recordings of London life. ”