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

The Library Drone

HVAC field recording

20130212ssulibrary3012

There’s an underlying drone to most large buildings, especially to those that prize a relative approximation of hermetic enclosure. Libraries, hospitals, factories — they all produce noises as a result of their activity, but they also have at their core a root drone, the building’s equivalent of something located somewhere between room tone and soundscape, between the intimacy of a truly confined space and the largely unintended sonic component of the overall location.

The following audio is the HVAC drone in a self-contained study room at a library that I frequent, up at Sonoma State in California, about an hour north of San Francisco, where I live. In person, this drone can have a sheer rush to it, a sense of energy that this recording doesn’t quite capture. It can project the sense of wind, even though this particular room, a small one, like the rest of the library, is entirely still. The result is a matter of disorientation: being alone in a placid space while the sounds suggest you’re at the top of a perilous shaft.

There are some flubs in this audio document, some shifting of a finger on the recording device, and later another finger on a key on a laptop. I could have re-recorded it, but consciousness of the avoided errors would have just had the ear listening for further desecrations. If anything, the odd flub can aid in a field recording of background noise by helping the ear keep the subject in relative focus.

This was recorded directly to the MP3 format on an Olympus VN-8100PC. Photo take on a Nexus 4 and filtered for contrast and affect in the app Pixlr Express.

Track posted for free download at soundcloud.com/disquiet.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • 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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