A couple of months ago I spent five days in the Tunisian market town of Nabeul. Situated in northeastern Tunisia on the south coast near to the Cap Bon peninsula, Nabeul was originally founded in the 5th century BC by the Greeks of Cyrene, serving as a trade port.
Following the Tunisian revolution, tourism has taken somewhat of a hit meaning the town was pretty quiet in terms of visitors. We had many great exchanges with locals and I made the most of staying in the vibrant Medina by recording a number of ambiances.
From the open roof terace of our hotel, I stood still and quiet one evening to record the “Isha” call to prayer.
“Isha” is the night prayer, and is announced after dark. Nabeul has two main mosques in the medina, plus other call to prayers can be heard in the distance.
I’d been in a “salon de the” in Nabeul for a mint tea and a shisha pipe, when I heard a lot of car horns. I quickly realised this was a wedding celebration. The procession drove around the block quite a few times, before heading off in the distance. A bit later, as I was walking back to our hotel, I came across the party again, this time in a small alley in the Medina. They were celebrating with a traditional Tunisian band, so I stopped and recorded this soundscape.
The Medina in Nabeul was always buzzing. Although the busiest market day is Friday, everyday is market day. It’s an area alive with colour, smells and sounds. I decided to record a soundwalk one afternoon, as I walked from the entrance of the Medina to the exit on the other side.
It was great to visit another part of the world and experience the sights, smells and of course, the sounds!
Yesterday, the 18th July, was World Listening Day. According to the The World Listening Project, the purposes of World Listening Day are:
- to celebrate the practice of listening as it relates to the world around us, environmental awareness, and acoustic ecology
- to raise awareness about issues related to the World Soundscape Project, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, World Listening Project, and individual and group efforts to creatively explore phonography
- to design and implement educational initiatives which explore these concepts and practices.
Founded in 2008, the WLP organises public workshops, forums, and lectures, as well as participating in exhibitions, symposiums, and festivals.
In order to celebrate World Listening Day, I will be doing a field recording trip to the Parc Naturel de Chevreuse, a large forest (and former royal hunting ground) outside of Paris. I’ve done as much research as possible, but having not done a pre-recording visit, I’m hoping not to run into too many obstacles.
I’ll be heading out tomorrow and have just finishing preparing my things. Here’s what I’ll be taking out for this field recording trip. I’ll be carrying this in my recently purchased North Face Base Camp Duffel bag, which is the perfect length for my Rycote blimp and Manfrotto stand.
I’ll be heading out with my colleague, Michele, so we should be able to get some different perspectives from the same recordings. Hopefully all will go well. I’ll post the results once we get back.
Swabia is a region in southwestern Germany that includes much of the state of Baden-Württemberg, including its capital Stuttgart, as well as the rural area known as the Swabian Alps and parts of far western Bavaria. It is a region with an incredibly rich history and was home to influencers Einstein, Miescher, Kepler, Bosch and Daimler.
I recently had the pleasure to spend five days exploring the region, listening to the soundscapes (surprisingly quiet for central Europe), learning about the region’s history and sampling lots of good German beer and food.
Our point of entry was Stuttgart, an easy four and a half hour train journey from Paris. The central station, known as Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, was built between 1914 and 1928 and is currently undergoing a massive re-development project (Stuttgart 21) that will essentially convert the main line terminus station into an underground through station.
Knowing that the original station will soon no longer exist in it’s original form, I took the opportunity to record the soundscape from an interior perspective.
As we headed out of the railway station, we immediately arrived at the northeastern end of the Königstraße, the main pedestrian zone of the city centre. Again, I took the opportunity to record the ambiance whilst standing roughly in the middle of this busy shopping street.
We didn’t stay long in Stuttgart. The main purpose of visiting the region was for a family wedding which took place in Bad Urach, about 50 KM southwest of Stuttgart.
The ceremony was held in a typical country farmhouse and the surrounding gardens were very picturesque, and home to all sorts of birds and animals.
We stayed overnight at the farmhouse and the morning after the wedding (whilst slightly hungover) I recorded the birdsong.
A bit further away from the farmhouse, I came across some wood pigeons that were nested in a tree next to a small stream.
We left Bad Urach that morning and headed towards Wäschenbeuren, our home for the next few days. This small farming village, about 50 KM east of Stuttgart, sits on the edge of the virgin forest on the Hohenstaufen. We stayed at the Wäscherschloss Guesthouse which was the perfect location for a quiet, countryside retreat. It was such a pleasure to wake up each morning, open the windows to our bedroom and hear nothing but birdsong.
In the twelfth century, this area was home to a legendary medieval dynasty called the Hohenstaufen, or the Staufer – powerful German monarchs who reigned from 1138 to 1254. At that time in Europe the Staufer were highly respected – three members of the dynasty were crowned Holy Roman Emperors and in 1194, the Hohenstaufens were granted the Kingdom of Sicily.
Many historic remnants of the Staufer dynasty were within walking distance of our guesthouse. So on our second morning, after a delicious German breakfast, we headed out to explore.
We first climbed Hohenstaufen Hill which today holds the ruins of Hohenstaufen, once the family seat of the Staufer. It took about forty minutes to climb up to the top and we passed through thick forest that was teaming with birdlife.
It was so nice to be in an area that has such a rich natural soundscape. On our way back down, I stopped to record the local church bell as it struck twelve o’clock.
Next stop was Wäscherschloss Castle, an excellently preserved castle in the heart of Staufer territory and the actual birthplace of the Staufer Dynasty. Just outside the castle was a field home to five or six young horses. They were quite curious and approached us as we walked by.
We were really enjoying being in the countryside and decided to explore a bit further into the surrounding forests of Wäscherhoff. We walked towards an area called Lorch-Beutental and again, found ourselves in the centre of a thriving bird community.
After having walked for about thirty minutes we came across the Waldolf Cafe. The offer of homemade cidre and cake made the decision to stop a no-brainer. The owners had many farm animals in the gardens surrounding the cafe, including a flock of noisy geese, so I took the opportunity to record the ambiance.
After a few days of exploring various different parts of Swabia, I began to fall in love with the different shades of green the landscape offers. It did rain a lot whilst we were there, which probably helps keep things growing, and we are in the middle of Spring so things should, in theory, be at their greenest. But it was so impressive to be surrounded by lush, green landscape.
From a sonic perspective, one of the things I like in Germany are the musical bells that can often be found in market squares, something I came across whilst walking through the market square of Schwäbisch Gmünd.
For anyone that doesn’t know this part of Germany, I’d highly recommend spending some time there. As I mentioned, the intensely green landscape is very impressive. Equally impressive are the soundscapes that I discovered. I know that I will certainly be returning at some point in the future and would love to head down towards the Black Forest as well as Lake Constance. I would also like to head over in winter, when things should be even quieter.
Firstly, a quick apology for the radio silence that has occurred over the last few months on the blog. I started a new job in January and it has taken an enormous amount of my time and energy, hence things on the blog being put on the backburner. I haven’t had time to get out and record at all, which I’m a bit gutted about to be honest. But I will be making every effort to get back out asap!
I did recently have a spare moment at home so decided to do something I’d been meaning to try out for ages. Back in 2008 I visited Nepal and I bought a singing bowl at one of the Hindu temples we were visiting. So I wanted to find out what that singing bowl would sound like if I filled it with water and recorded it using my hydrophone. Well, it sounded not that different to how it sounds when recorded using a traditional mic (i.e. vibrating air molecules rather than through water).
Seeing as I had recorded at 192 KHz sampling rate, I decided to start pitching it down to see what it sounded like. So, I pitched it down 1 octave (half speed), then another octave (quarter speed), then eventually another octave (eighth speed).
Earlier this week, The Quietus published a great interview with sound recordist Chris Watson. He discusses his early career and how he tried to convert documentary filmmakers into thinking more carefully about sound, as well as sharing his thoughts on the ever-growing problem of noise pollution.
In The Field is a symposium exploring the art and craft of field recording that will be held at the British Library Conference Centre, London on February 15th and 16th, 2013. There’s a great lineup of guests, including nature recordist Chris Watson as well as Paris-based sound recordist Des Coulam (Soundlandscapes).
A two day pass costs £25, one day only costing £15. Check the website for further booking details.
A while back, I wrote on this blog about the excellent customer service I had received from Rycote. Just before xmas I received what I ordered, so here’s a little video that demonstrates the Rycote Windshield Kit 4 that has been adapted to house the Rode NT4.
As we head into the Christmas period, I thought I’d share with everyone a recording I made of a music box that I found in amongst the Christmas decorations. It’s a Snow Globe with a music box housed inside the base. The music is “Jingle Bells”.
For anyone using iOS, the SoundCloud mini player won’t be displayed, so click here to access the download.
Recorded with a Sony PCM D50 at 96KHz 24 Bit.
It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s the thought that counts…