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29
Jun

2012 World Listening Day

WORLD LISTENING DAY 2012 takes place on Wednesday 18th July and its purpose is:

  • 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;
  • and to design and implement educational initiatives which explore these concepts and practices.

World Listening Day is organized by the World Listening Project (WLP), in partnership with the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology (MSAE). July 18 was chosen as the date for World Listening Day because it is the birthday of the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, who is one of the founders of the Acoustic Ecology movement. The World Soundscape Project, which Schafer directed, is an important organization which has inspired a lot of activity in this field, and his book The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World helped to define many of the terms and background behind the acoustic ecology movement.

On July 18th, people from across the world will be participating in a variety of ways including listening parties, soundwalks, public forums about acoustic ecology and more.  I shall be out on the streets capturing, as Ludwig Koch said, the atmosphere in sound that belongs only to Paris.

If you would like to participate in World Listening Day, please email worldlistening@gmail.com, and be sure to include World Listening Day in the subject line.

19
Oct

A Silent Swaying Breath: A Public Record

FROM PARIS I WATCHED the TV pictures with disbelief and dismay as the recent riots in London unfolded. Scenes of chaos, looting and mindless violence are never easy to digest. Depressing as the scenes in London were, my heart lifted to see the way the local people subsequently rallied to begin rebuilding their communities.

In our world dominated by the twenty-four hour news cycle events like this seem to fade all to quickly. It’s easy to forget the victims of these riots, those who lost their livelihoods and those who lost their homes not to mention those scarred by these unfathomable events.

Thankfully, there are those who did not forget. As well as the various charitable organisations offering help and support to the communities affected by the riots, many other people are making a contribution in whatever way they can. People like the amazingly creative team at SoundFjord, the United Kingdom’s only gallery dedicated to sound art.

SoundFjord, together with Audio Gourmet’s Harry Towell and Bartosz Dziadosz, came together to curate an album created “by the people, for the people”, to raise funds for those affected by the riots. SoundFjord’s creative director, Helen Frosi, invited people from around the world to submit short, unedited sounds that would be used as the basic ingredients and Audio Gourmet then transformed these sounds into a twelve-track album of sound art.

The finished album, A Silent Swaying Breath: A Public Record, was released on 17th October. All profits raised by sales of this album go towards assisting those that have lost their homes and livelihoods and to provide opportunities for philanthropy, creative expression and collaboration within local community projects.

A Silent Swaying Breath: A Public Record – Introduction:

Here is a link to the album, A Silent Swaying Breath: A Public Record. Do take a look and share the link with your friends. It’s all in a good cause.

When I first heard about this project I was anxious to support it. I was therefore thrilled when I was told that some of my sounds had been included in the finished album. The sounds chosen have appeared elsewhere on this blog. I wonder if you can spot them.


1
Apr

The Bornus Consort

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I was invited by some friends to a party at their home. Nothing unusual about that – except that I live in Paris and my friends live in Warsaw! The invitation intrigued me so I raided my cache of air miles and arrived in Warsaw on a very chilly Friday afternoon.

This turned out to be no ordinary party. It took place in a beautiful apartment in Warsaw with very friendly and interesting guests all of whom, except me, were Polish. But the real stars of the evening were the Polish early music ensemble, The Bornus Consort, who gave a wonderful singing performance which I was privileged to record. This really was a party with a difference!

Established in 1981 by Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski, The Bornus Consort specialise in singing early music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Their original aim was to try to reconstruct and record the music preserved in the manuscripts of the Rorantists of Wawel Cathedral in Crakow keeping as close as possible to the original way of performing these early works.

As well as singing early Polish music, the ensemble also sing Dutch polyphony, French chansons, Italian and English madrigals together with contemporary pieces. In recent years the ensemble has focused on various forms of Gregorian chant, including the Dominican liturgical tradition.

When I spoke to him after their performance, Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski’s passion for early music shone through. He told me that his special interest is in thirteenth-century music about which he speaks with great authority and enthusiasm.

The Bornus Consort recorded in a Warsaw apartment:

This was the final piece the Bornus Consort sang during the evening. It is the motet Nunc Scio Vere by Waclaw from Szamotuly (1524-1560). It is particularly interesting because the music comes from the Cracow organ score of 1590 which had the music and the title but no words. The words have been reconstructed by Professor Miroslaw Perz.

Sometimes in life we are privileged to enjoy “cameo” experiences. For me, this was certainly one of those experiences and the memories of this evening in Warsaw will live with me for ever.

I am most grateful to Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski and the Bornus Consort for their permission to publish this piece and to my friends for their very kind invitation and gracious hospitality.

3
Feb

Another Good Read

The Flâneur by Edmund White

A flâneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through a city without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the place and in covert search of adventure, aesthetic or erotic. Edmund White, who lived in Paris for sixteen years, wanders through the streets and avenues and along the quays, into parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many Parisians. Entering the Marais evokes the history of Jews in France, and a visit to the Haynes Grill recalls the presence—festive, troubled—of black Americans in Paris for a century and a half. Gays, Decadents, even Royalists past and present are all subjected to the flâneur’s scrutiny.

In his opinionated fashion, the flâneur visits bookshops and boutiques, monuments and palaces, providing gossip and background to each site, looking through the blank walls past the proud edifices to glimpse the inner human drama. Along the way he recounts everything from the latest debates among French lawmakers to the juicy details of Colette’s life. In this, the first book in The Writer and the City series, Edmund White lures the reader into the fascinating backstreets of his personal Paris. It is an exhilarating adventure with a most seductive companion.

This text was taken from Edmund White’s website which you can find here.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The flavour of Paris simply oozes from the pages. I highly recommend it.

8
Jan

Another Good Read

For more than a generation , Gertrude Stein’s Paris home at 27 rue de Fleures was the centre and of a glittering coterie of artists and writers, one of whom was Pablo Picasso. In this intimate and revealing memoir, Gertrude Stein tells us much about the great man (and herself) and offers many insights into the life and art of the twentieth-century’s greatest painter.

Gertrude Stein’s close relationship with Picasso furnished her with a unique vantage point in composing this perceptive and provocative reminiscence. It is indispensable to understanding modern art.

I bought my copy of this book from the best bookshop in the world, Shakespeare & Company, on the Left Bank here in Paris. I also happen to know someone who lives in the Boulevard Raspail in an atelier once occupied by Pablo Picasso so this book has a special resonance for me. I recommend it to you.

This book was published by B.T. Batsford, London, 1938

29
Nov

Another Good Read

This is another of my “good reads”. I have just finished reading for the third time, Ernest Hemigway’s “A Moveable Feast”. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

A Moveable Feast is a set of memoirs by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years in Paris as part of the American expatriate circle of writers in the 1920s. The book describes Hemingway’s apprenticeship as a young writer in Europe Paris during the 1920s with his first wife, Hadley. Some of the later prominent people who are featured in his memoirs include Aleister Crowley, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Hilaire Belloc, Pascin, John Dos Passos, Wyndham Lewis, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. The book was edited from his manuscripts and notes by Ernest’s fourth wife, Mary Hemingway, a respected journalist. It was published in 1964, three years after Hemingway’s death. The memoir has Hemingway’s personal accounts, observations, and stories of his experience in 1920s Paris. He provides specific addresses of cafes, bars, hotels, and apartments, some of which can be found in modern-day Paris. The title was suggested by Hemingway’s friend A.E. Hotchner, author of the biography, Papa Hemingway. He remembered they had a conversation about the city during Hotchner’s first visits there: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I commend it to you.

11
Nov

Lest We Forget …

THURSDAY 11th NOVEMBER – the eleventh day of the eleventh month – Armistice Day. A chilly, wind-swept day in Paris with heavy rain for most of the day.

In the centre of the Arc de Triomphe, the tomb of an unknown French soldier from the First World War, the eternal flame and, on this day of remembrance, a guard of honour.

At 11.00 this morning, the national act of remembrance took place – the tributes were paid and the wreaths laid.

After the crowds had left, I made my way across to the wind-swept Arc de Triomphe as I do every year on this day. 

The Unknown Soldier was interred here and the eternal flame lit on Armistice Day 1920. Originally, the tomb was a memorial to the unknown French soldiers who died in the first world war. The inscription on the tomb reads – ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918  – Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918. Today, the tomb embraces all those who died in the first and second world wars as well as all the subsequent conflicts. The tomb was the inspiration for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey in London.

One of the things that always moves me is that, after the official ceremonies are over, anyone can approach the tomb and pay their respects either with a simple bow of the head or by offering a wreath to one of the attendants. On doing so the guard of honour, as if by magic, always come to the salute as a sign of respect – the same salute is given to a President as to an ordinary individual paying their respects.

In today’s busy world it is easy to forget the “Lions led by Donkeys” – which seems just as relevant today as it was in 1918.

I always try to remember the first verse of ‘Aftermath’ , a poem by Siegfried Sassoon:

“Have you forgotten yet?
For the world’s events have rumbled on since the gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways;
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game …
Have you forgotten yet?
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.”
30
Sep

A Good Read

I’ve just finished reading an excellent book – The SoundscapeOur Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World by R. Murray Schafer.

The Soundscape – a term coined by the author – is our sonic environment, the ever-present array of noises with which we all live. Beginning with the primordial sounds of nature, we have experienced an ever-increasing complexity of our sonic surroundings. As civilisaton develops, new noises rise up around us: from the creaking wheel, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer, and the distant chugging of steam trains to the “sound imperialism” of airports, city streets and factories. The author contends that we now suffer from an over-abundance of acoustic information and a proportionate diminishing of our ability to hear the nuances and subtleties of sound. Our task, he maintains, is to listen, analyse, and make distinctions.

As a society we have become aware of the toxic wastes that can enter our bodies through the air we breath and the water we drink. In fact, the pollution of our sonic environment is no less real. Schafer emphasises the importance of discerning the sounds that enrich and feed us and using them to create healthier environments. To this end, he explains how to classify sounds, appreciating their beauty or ugliness, and provides exercises and “soundwalks” to help us become more discriminating and sensitive to the sounds around us.

The book is challenging but to anyone interested in our sonic environment it is well worth a read.


16
Sep

Our Noise Footprint

Ian MacMillan, writing in his column in The Guardian a couple of days ago made me smile, but also made me think.

He was writing about a theme that much interests me, noise and its effect on the environment and in particular, about our own personal noise footprint.

Towards the end of the piece, MacMillan develops his theme to include what he calls noise miles.

He writes:

“And what about noise miles, the equivalent of food miles? Think of the deafening jet engines of the plane that brought that fruit from Africa to the supermarket. Think of the forklifts in the warehouse, crashing containers of vegetables around like tracks from live noise music concerts. Think of the shouts of the workers, the slamming of great steel doors, the revving of engines and the clattering of tumbling stacks of tins. Think of your recalcitrant trolley as you push it out of the store.

Every time I eat beans on toast, I should be made aware of the noise miles used up by the bringing of The Greatest Snack in the World to my table, and then maybe I’d chew more quietly and I wouldn’t slurp up the juice. And I wouldn’t drop my plate in the sink, enjoying the splash.

So let’s make today the day we reduce our noise footprint, even slightly.”

Food for thought indeed!

You can read the full article here.

24
Aug

Blog Update

Two new things:

First, to let you know that I have added a new sound file to the “street music” page of this blog. This is a recording I made a few weeks ago of six jazz musicians having a lot of fun playing outside the gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg here in Paris. It’s well worth a listen. I have also included this as my “Sound of the Week”.

Second, I have added a link to the site of Vladimir Kryutchev under the “Links to other sound sites” segment. Vladimir is a journalist who lives in Russia and he specialises in binaural ambient recordings of his home town. I recommend that you click on the link to his site and have a listen.

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