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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Touch-ing Lough Neagh (MP3)

Perhaps it’s a conscious effort in distributing music via social networks and alternate channels, but the pattern of late for the Touch Music podcast has involved the descriptive text (along with the podcast itself) appearing in its RSS feed well in advance of the material popping up on its touchradio.org.uk website. This time around, the material also surfaced on Twitter, at twitter.com/touchmusic, with no sign at touchradio.org.uk, at least not yet.

The file in question, the 53rd in the podcast series, is the work of Dr. Tom Lawrence, who documented sounds at Lough Neagh, which is described as “the largest water-mass in the British Isles” (MP3). Lawrence uses hydrophones and contact microphones, along with other equipment, to capture the audio around, above, and deep within the lough.

[audio:http://www.touchmusic.org.uk/TouchPod/Radio53.mp3|titles=”Lough Neagh”|artists=Tom Lawrence]

The descriptive text runs as follows:

During 2008/9 while working as a sound recordist for BBC Radio 4 Natural History Unit, sound recordist and composer Dr. Tom Lawrence spent six months recording and documenting the sounds above and below the waves of Lough Neagh, the largest water-mass in the British Isles. This programme is a compelling audio-log of those recordings, featuring breath-taking underwater sounds of beetles, frogs, eels, fish and other life. The programme also presents sounds above the water including migratory birds, industry and evocative soundscapes of forestry and the elements. Recorded and produced by Tom Lawrence Equipment: SQN Mixer, DPA Hydrophone, DPA omni-directional mics, SD702 recorder, Sennheiser M-S rig, Neuman 82, contact mics (piezos).

You’d never know from the audio that Lawrence recorded that the area is, as he puts it, “incredibly industrial.” Alternating with the audio itself, he describes the effort required to gain “a few hours every week” when the mechanical presence was subdued enough for him to capture the non-man-made environment. Neither his description of the environs nor of his effort itself are evident in the pristine wonder of what he has recorded — all bird calls and the quiet motion of water, a postcard augmented by his equally placid narrative. It all just goes to show that audio recording is no more or less real, or true, or free of bias or of authorial intent than are photographic images — Lawrence excels at what he does because he managed to record what he sought out to record, to select and to frame.

More on Lough Neagh at discoverloughneagh.com, from which the above map is borrowed.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Comments: 2 ]

2 Comments

  1. wwc
    [ Posted June 30, 2010, at 7:51 am ]

    I like your point – that phonography can “lie” just like photography. I think it’s also great that Lawrence sought to sort of transform Lough Nergh by highly editing when he recorded. It might be an industrial wasteland but to all of us who will only listen and probably never visit, it’s not that at all. It’s a fiction that becomes real. ART!

  2. Marc Weidenbaum
    [ Posted July 4, 2010, at 8:46 am ]

    Yeah, and to be clear to anyone reading anything into the word “lie,” that’s not a negative-intentional lie, but just inherent fiction of any creative act that involves framing. And framing can have just as much to do with causality as with elements left out — been reading about impressionist painters, and the expansion of landscape painting was in part enabled by trains and other modes of modern transportation. In other words, the deep expression of nature was founded on a technological innovation that was, in the artistic process, left out of the final product.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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