Last night our Ambisonic Team organised an evening of music at Studio Loos in Den Haag. We’d been planning this for a while. Our teacher Justin Bennett had suggested his class to separate into two teams: one that would use a mobile app, to create a soundwalk of composed field recordings/pieces set around placed locations using GPS; and the other team would use an Ambisonic Soundfield mic to get field recordings which would then be turned into a composed piece of music. Throughout his lectures Justin had been explaining different methods of composition that various known field recordists had used in the past and also present. Also, in exposing different techniques using suitable and popular mics, mobile apps to create soundwalks and in pieces produced in an eclectic mix of albums. With the mobile app team, people have to download an app – using a smartphone, that will give you a menu of soundwalks. Once you click onto your designated soundwalk, you will then download the music listed there. Using headphones, and a produced map suggesting listening areas, you would then walk towards these areas on the map, located by the GPS. As you get closer, the app starts to play/fade in the designated piece of music which would then fade out as you walk further away from the area. The Ambisonic SoundField mic team would use the mic to record locations, and thus produce a piece of music that could be presented in a wealth of formats such as in stereo; surround 5.1; or from 4, 6 to 8+ channel speaker arrangements. The Ambisonic mic has 4 mics inside it. When you record, say a quiet street, you will end up with 4 mono ‘B-Format’ files that can be converted, using a plugin called Harpex (very expensive!), into any of the desired representations mentioned above that you might want at the concert venue or otherwise. The Harpex is an amazing plugin (and there is a free one). You can move the shape of the speaker arrangement to represent the room space that you are in. You can also move the sounds closer or further, focus it more at a point, or diffuse the sounds to occupy a greater space or move its direction i.e you can move a sound from your left side to your right etc. The Ambisonic mic has ‘a full-sphere surround sound technique: in addition to the horizontal plane, it covers sound sources above and below the listener.’ Both team projects sounded great, but I opted for the Ambisonic one in the end. We had 7/8 people in our team so a lot of organising to do! I volunteered to be the ‘boss’…ooops. Spread out over a good two months, we hired the mic quite early on and ended up in a shipyard in Rotterdam on a very sunny and beautiful day. Got straight onto a tram, straight onto a water ferry (tickets were 2 euro each) that lasted half an hour and ended up at two yards for big sea ships. The first was a big commercial one, and our request to record sounds inside the site was refused. We decided to record our way back trying to record what we could hear from the outside. You’d be surprised at how interesting sounds are when you start to really listen.
Anyway, we located the next shipyard and with a story concocted to make us look more professional, we were allowed to enter by ‘Rob’. We hung out here for quite a while, recording different sheds with different noises and some big sheds at the back where a bunch of non-English speaking workers crowded round the mic holder. I thought they were there to push their presence of ‘get the….out of here’ but actually it turns out that they were ultra curious and got their mate ‘Rocky’ to come and speak to us. When they realised we were recording sounds they let us in and later tried to get in on our piece of music by hammering things and making extra noises for us. It was great when they did that. Fun was had by running around with the big trolley!
The first shipyard would never have done that so we definitely got lucky here. Quite amazing too, these half-built ships were huge! And the sound palate was very interesting.
The workers were bewildered as to why we wanted to record here. They had been working here for a long time and I am guessing no one has come to record them in their environment, “Why?? Why would you want to record these sounds?”. Everyday sounds ( for them ) could actually become a piece of music.We ended up at a café overlooking the river called ‘Nieuwe Maas’ and enjoyed our good luck.
Amongst our many meetings at Studio BEA7, we had a fair few problems with broken iloks and licenses for the pro tools and things that just weren’t ‘easy’, but we managed to put together a piece that we all agreed on. We also managed another Ambisonic Team outing, this time to The Hook of Holland to get some people/crowds and water sounds. We went straight in to record a cruise ship leaving but alas more problems beset us with an already broken cable that stopped us from using the mic again. The ship’s horn sounded and we miserably thought of our loss of opportunity. But, nevertheless, after the very best dutch fish and chips I’ve ever had, we started recording bird-wings fluttering all round us (which would have sounded great on the ambisonic), rail crossings, good water sounds and some people coming off the ferry. The walk along the pier took us a while to get to the end, but we did it. A picture from that pier became our poster image.
On the evening, we went for a 6 speaker piece and all the other pieces of the evening were formatted to this also. We also asked our special guest Rogier Smal to come do a solo set on snare drum and loose items. To set up the rest of the eve, we went on a ‘family’ outing to Albert Heijn to buy the booze and the snacks for the night. The carpet came out and cushions were brought. Our seating setup was nice and close up, and a small intimate crowd, sitting very close to each other and the drummer, came in and blessed our evening with some really good listening. It ran smoothly and people relaxed and chatted with each other. On top of that, Rogier did a really lovely set and people really enjoyed it. I think it went really well. So yes. It was a success! Well done Team Ambisonic. We did it! People involved were: Ana Moran, Maia Francisco, Ying Shi, Clay Burton, Beto Machado and Giuliano Bracci; Sophie Louise Mercedes looked after the sound and Justin Bennett oversaw the event and performed a great live set.
At the end of the pier!