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Brighton Bag Walk

In 2006 I was a visiting research fellow at Sussex Uni. We stayed in Brighton, in apartments on the Lewes Rd near to the old town.

Brighton is a tourist town and the sound of people wandering along the lanes, bag trundling over the cobbles behind them, was ever present.

Before leaving I made theĀ  journey from the train station to our flat, bag mic’d up. It took a few goes to get a recording as the vibrations of the bag kept turning the recorder off. Eventualy, recorder in pocket, wires trailing to the two mics that were attaced to the bag with alligator clips, bright red balls of windscreen on each, I had some success.

Later,I wondered what someone might have thought at the sight of a middle aged man wandering up and down, back and forth, dragging a bag with a couple of red balls on it, cables trailing into his jacket pocket. Not much I imagine, it’s an eccentric and accepting town.

Across the Road

Owning a home is fundamental to any sort of status within Australian society. Most often a new homeowner will have to renovate or knock down the existing house to make one that is fitting with expectations. Complaints about building noise are often made but how noisy is having a house built for the neighbours? As it turns out not very – most noise is in the early stages when deliveries are made. The actual building work is not that noisy – or at least not that noisy that often.
I recorded a house being built for an hour every Tuesday morning (at about 10:00 am) for 28 weeks. The mics were setup across the road – that is, as a neighbour would hear it, not as one of the builders on site would hear it (although the builders were happy for me to do that if I wanted to.)
Each week provides about 20 secs of both background drone and individual spot sounds.
The background was developed by applying surrogate data methods from time series analysis to music by taking a representative sample from that week, randomising the phase of the FFT of that sound, then taking the IFFT, to give a noise sample that represented the average spectrum (but not the dynamical structure) for that week. This was then convolved with representative sounds of whatever the building activity of that week was to give a representative drone.
Overlaid on top of the background drone are spot sounds that seemed to me to represent the normal sounds of that week. A lot of work went in to analysing the weekly recordings and making sure that what was included in the final piece was representative rather than unique.
The density of the sounds is determined by a drawing the builder made of the activity cycle across the entire building period.