Our final sound in an hour spent at the Willkomm Hoeft before driving back into Hamburg is a cracker – a full rendition of the German national anthem as a local ship (the Kuala Lumpur Express – all 93,811 tonnes of her) returns home. The ship returns the greeting with some lively foghorn blasts. The recording was picked out by Mike Bingham, who lives in one of Britain’s great ports and formerly played a nautically-themed band Listing Ships – it seems this recording was an obvious choice for him, but he talks about his version, called ‘Nationalhymne’, like this:
“The field recording I’ve chosen is of the “Willkommhöft” ship welcoming point in Hamburg Port. While a Hamburg flag is hoisted, the national anthem of the ship concerned is played over the loudspeakers, along with a pre-recorded welcome message. I was really interested in this maritime tradition as it dates back to the 50s and as far as I’m aware is unique to this region. Plus you can’t beat the sound of slightly overdriven loudspeakers whilst seagulls chirp in the background.
“My initial intention was to reorder the notes that were played in the national anthem to produce a completely different tune in the same style but it didn’t quite work. The sample was much harder to manipulate than I’d first expected so I isolated fragments of sounds and scattered them arbitrarily across the arrange screen on my computer. After a bit of tweaking a pattern emerged which triggered the idea for a keyboard melody to accompany it. The final arrangement gradually builds and fades over the course of a minute to mimic the motion of a ship going past; it didn’t feel appropriate to string the idea out in to a full blown song. To complete the track I added in a faint oboe as a call back to the foghorn in the original sample.”