Sometimes the most virulent augmented reality is simply reality itself. When Robert Thomas stops for a moment in London’s Paddington Station and records three quarters of a minute of a big band’s performance, the result — uploaded to his soundcloud.com/dizzybanjo account for free streaming and downloading — is a blissful murk. The audio is slightly muddy. The sounds are blurred, as if nostalgia were a kind of post-production audio effect, an effect intended in this case to suggest that the fog of memory had briefly broken and allowed through a snippet of antiquated pop.
There’s nothing more to the track than audio, recorded on the fly in public, just like the photo shown here, on Thomas’ iPhone. Those who observe phonography — the practice of audio field recordings — often draw a comparison to photography (just one letter difference), and they might not find a better parallel than this image and sound: two casual documents slightly out of focus. The iPhone’s microphone, unintended for high-fidelity recording, has condensed the sound, much as the phone’s camera has done its best to reproduce the scene below the allotted data cap.
Context is its own sort of filter. We know that Thomas is CCO of Reality Jockey, the company that produces the iPhone app RJDJ, perhaps the premiere augmented reality sound application (as well as its Inception-themed fork, and an iPad sibling, Voyager). Thomas is an individual who works by day in augmented reality. He could have done any number of things to this brass band he experienced out in the world: turned it into techno, echoed it around his head. But when he reached for his phone, he just pressed record — to capture, enjoy, and share a moment.