Listen to the Oxford Sounds installation

Listen to the Oxford Sounds installation

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Tonight we’re excited to present a bespoke sound installation at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford – the oldest public museum in the UK.

We’ll be taking over the Chinese paintings gallery (Gallery 11) with an interactive, participatory installation in which visitors can experience the real and imagined sounds of Oxfordshire, and create their own experience by moving around within the space, and within the sounds.

For those of you who aren’t in Oxford, although we can’t recreate the experience of the physical installation, here are the sounds you can hear, presented on this interactive map of our home city – enjoy:

Wytham Woods: the sound of environmental research

Wytham Woods: the sound of environmental research

A sound close to home for Cities and Memory today, to dispel the wintery blues. Have a listen to summer birdsong in full flush, in Wytham Woods, one of the most beautiful spaces in Oxfordshire, England.

There’s more to Wytham Woods, though: a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the woods were bequeathed to Oxford University in 1942, and as well as being preserved for public use, they’re a hotbed of scientific and environmental research.

They are, in fact, one of the most researched areas of woodland in the world – and any organisation can apply for a research permit.

This sense of exploratory scientific research informs the memory version, with waves of synth sounds and sounds derived from samples of glass (as in test tubes and other scientific equipment) filling the air.

Here, as we walk around Wytham Woods, through these sounds we become aware of the intense amounts of research going on around us, even though most of it is invisible to the average visitor at first glance.

City version:

Memory version:

The choir of New College, Oxford University

The choir of New College, Oxford University

new_college_chapel_interior_1_oxford_uk_-_diliffA beautiful recording today from our home city of Oxford – here’s the choir of New College at Oxford University rehearsing inside their stunning college chapel, with its natural cavernous reverb.

And the reimagined sound is no less striking – Leonardo Rosado has transformed it into an ambient drone piece of rare beauty. He explains the direction from which he approached the sound like this:

“The title “of nothingness” represents the feeling of abandonment and hope. It is supposed to contrast the source material, full of spirituality and the existentialism that lays the foundation for atheism.

“Quoting Wikipedia “Sartre, and even more so, Jaques Lacan, use this conception of nothing as the foundation of their atheist philosophy. Equating nothingness with being leads to creation from nothing and hence God is no longer needed for there to be existence.””

City version:

Memory version: 

The Toy Horse Derby

The Toy Horse Derby

3903853833_c1173554d5_oThe recent Prison Songs project is complete, so we’re back to ‘business as usual’ for Cities and Memory – which is to say touring the world, listening to an alternative, reimagined world of sound created by hundreds of artists.

Today we’re returning to ground zero – our home city of Oxford, England, and a sound I recorded at the annual St. Giles street fair (see here for what I learned while field recording at a funfair). And here are some other sounds from St. Giles fair.

The toy horse derby is a traditional funfair game – everyone pays £1, which they bet on one of the eight or so toy horses, which set off on a quick race across the stand. The winning horse takes home a prize.

What’s interesting here, of course, is the commentary and how it apes and mirrors real horse racing commentary, except without the manic excitement that comes along with the the real Grand National or Derby races.

For the reimagined sound, we’ve placed the toy horse derby right inside the real UK Derby horse race, overlaying slabs of real commentary, with samples of the pounding hooves of galloping horses.

To add an extra bit of power to the piece, we’ve layered several versions of the horse hooves and effected them with ‘outside the nightclub’-style heavy bass emphasis to add weight to the bottom end, and added some old microphone effects to the voices to make this a timeless derby race from any time in the recent past.

City version:

Memory version:

Andrew WK and US gun control

Andrew WK and US gun control

Andrew WKA recording from the UK’s Truck Festival in 2014 – before Andrew WK took to the stage to deliver his hard-partying set, there was an increasingly-intense warmup guy and intro tape, culminating in the crowd chanting ‘tonight we party’ over the sound of air raid sirens.

All quite dramatic, and unsettling once you listen back to it for how much it brings to mind political rallying, the madness of crowds and the danger of the herd mentality.

Listening through, I was reminded of stage rhetoric and orators, and of recent coverage I’d seen of the gun control debate in the USA.

I decided to present the chanting intro tape through the filter of onstage rhetoric and snippets from both sides of the gun control debate – the measured passion of Obama’s anti-gun messaging, and the outright bombast of Charlton Heston delivering his most famous line.

This is presented over a bed of multiple drones and a simple melody that spaces out the rhetoric and moves the piece along to its climax, leaving the final word to the US president.

City version:

 

Memory version:

Bodleian Library: centuries of reading and study

Bodleian Library: centuries of reading and study
The Radcliffe Camera from outside.

The Radcliffe Camera from outside.

A recording today from our home city of Oxford – we go inside the Radcliffe Camera, the most well-known and iconic part of the city’s famous Bodleian Libraries.

The field recording is from inside the grand, reverb-rich upper reading room of the library, and is the sounds of pages being turned and study taking place.

The soundscape is notable in that it’s relatively unchanged from how the reading room would have sounded throughout centuries of reading and study – no mobile ringtones or machine bleeps going on here.

Since by its nature a library field recording is quiet(!), the reimagined version looks to take some of the details of the sound and highlight them with synthetic additions – all of this is underpinned by a vocal commentary from the Bodleian’s archives about how to restore an ancient volume to its former glories.

We take elements of restoration and preservation and apply them here to our own sonic preservation of the library.

City version:

 

Memory version: 


 

The tower of drones, Oxford

The tower of drones, Oxford

20140907_120023A recording we picked up on our local travels today – there’s a fascinating architectural salvage yard at Milton Common in rural Oxfordshire, full of ancient gates and archways, old telephone boxes, disused bits of film set and so on (it’s well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area). At the back of the salvage yard is a huge concrete tower, which would seem to be a water tower, but with several radio attachments at the top, which emits warm, full, pulsing drones out into the air, which we recorded using just the mobile phone we had at the time. The tower of drones is like something from a mundane, Oxford-based version of War of the Worlds.

Andy Lyon chose this sound as his source material for our Oblique Strategies project, and was allocated the cards Do something boring and Focus on the flaws. He writes:

“I took the sample and chopped it into 12 equal parts. The length of sample is 1m 27s = 87s so each section is 7.328 seconds. I subsequently found that not all lengths were equal and I have no idea why because all of the timings seemed ok.”

“I decided to join odd and even samples together i.e. 1&3; 2&4; 5&7; 6&8; 7&9; 8&10, 11&12 I started with the process but realised that there was a flaw where pairs got wrongly assigned part way through the process.”

“I used a Paulstretch on samples using 12 intersections and 0.7328 interval in line with the numbers for the initial sections and then used this as a drone but the note is not continuous, has more of a random pattern.”

“I used ‘Serenity Free’ VST with the Heart of the Statue preset and TAL Reverb 2 airy mono plate preset for a drone chord and played a simple melody over the top. I then played four of the joined samples in sequence twice with a series of different delays. I left them as they were without further processing.”

“The boring strategy was to use arbitrary lengths for the chopping the sample into sections and then joining the odds and evens together. I also used a number of presets without additional processing and randomly assigned delays to different samples. Because I didn’t edit the chopped samples to fade in / out etc these flaws from the arbitrary chopping are focussed on when these samples play.”

City version:

 

Memory version:

 

Anti-ISIS house music

_Following on from our recent slice of anti-ISIS techno, based on an anti-ISIS protest in Hamburg, we now follow up with anti-ISIS house music.

We took a field recording (on a mobile phone – another example of the best microphone in the world being the one you happen to have with you) of Oxford’s Kurdish community protesting against ISIS in the east of the city.

San Francisco-based DJ Lemonodo took on the recording and produced a full house track, blending in the sounds of the protest as another instrument in the track.

Protest music you can dance to, with a suitably dancefloor-friendly title: ‘ProgresXAnti-ISIS (Lemonde Bootleg)’.

City version:

 

Memory version: 

The sounds of protest: Marine Le Pen

The sounds of protest: Marine Le Pen

2015-02-06_09.36.02It’s protest week here on Cities and Memory, with sounds from a couple of political demonstrations coming your way over the next couple of days.

 

The sounds of protest are rapidly becoming one of the defining sounds of our age, as people find their voice and express their passion and beliefs on a whole range of topics.

 

Here are some sounds from a recent anti-fascist protest against the Oxford Union for allowing French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen a platform to speak.

 

A hundred or so protesters lined the street outside the Union with klaxons, megaphones and placards, and the story was plastered over the local media.

 

From the sounds of protest come some very interesting reinterpretations, as we saw when we featured some anti-ISIS protests in Hamburg recently – and here Irish sound artist Drombeg has turned the Le Pen protest into a wistful thing of beauty with layered piano and pad synths. Enjoy.

 

City version:

 

Memory version:

 

Take a sonic tour of Oxford

Take a sonic tour of Oxford

3904637104_676dcd82f9_o (1)Over Christmas, we compiled a sound tour of our hometown Oxford for Sonospace – with a difference. It’s a 30-minute mix that takes in both field recordings from the city of Oxford, but also blends in reimagined versions of some of those sounds throughout, as you travel through the real and the imagined versions of the city together. You’ll hear everything from tranquil feeding of the ducks to a techno remix of a car wash, through to anti-ISIS political demonstrations, with contributions from five sound artists. All sounds below are by Cities and Memory unless otherwise indicated, and you can listen to the whole thing here.

Full tracklisting:

  • 00:00 – Feeding the ducks in Grandpont (field recording)
  • 01:31 – Frideswide Square traffic (field recording blended with remixed version by Laurence Colbert)
  • 03:01 – St. Giles fair – win a prize (field recording)
  • 04:26 – St. Giles fair – win a prize (remix by Mike Bingham)
  • 06:48 – Christian preacher on Cowley Road (field recording)
  • 07:34 – Kurdish anti-ISIS protesters on Cowley Road (field recording)
  • 08:36 – Cowley Road carnival (field recording)
  • 10:53 – Inside a car wash (field recording)
  • 12:29 – Inside a car wash (remix by Alan Bleay – all sounds made from the original field recording)
  • 17:30 – The church bells of Cumnor (field recording)
  • 18:59 – Piano improvisation and road bridge (field recording by Martin Atkins)
  • 23:01 – Students in Oxford post office (field recording)
  • 23:38 – Singer and preacher on Cornmarket in Oxford (field recording)
  • 24:25 – Oxford Cornmarket (remix by Ian de Quadros – all samples made from Oxford field recordings)
  • 27:22 – The Quaking Bridge (field recording and remix together)
  • 29:30 – Under Grandpont bridge (the first ever field recording on Cities and Memory)