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June 18, 2010

5

My Audio Diary

by soundlandscapes

I’ve always been fascinated by reading diaries. History is littered with enthusiastic diary keepers some well known, others less so, who have published their diaries for people like me to read. But for every diary that is published there surely must be thousands or perhaps millions of diaries kept by ordinary people leading ordinary lives that go unread by anyone except the author. One can’t help thinking that there are many windows into many worlds that may never see the light of day.

I keep a diary, an audio diary, which I began in October 2006. The date is significant; at least it is significant to me.  It was in October 2006 that I looked death in the face and didn’t much like what I saw. Without trawling through the details, suffice it to say that I found myself in hospital with time on my hands and a microphone and sound recorder within reach. To occupy the time and with little else to do I began to record some thoughts. It wasn’t until I escaped from the hospital and got back home that I realised that I had unwittingly begun to create an audio diary.

It was during the evening of my first day back at home when I was still feeling very weak and vulnerable that I listened to the recordings. I was shocked. It wasn’t what I had said that affected me but rather the ambience, the noises-off, the background atmosphere underlying what I had said that had a profound effect on me.  The persistent bleeping of the heart monitor, a sound impossible to ignore, the constant hissing of oxygen pumping into the mask I was wearing, the ever present sound of trolleys being pushed, nurses coming and going, drips being tended to, the doctors’ examinations with the repetitive instruction in French to “Respirez” with what seemed like a worrying urgency.

I never intended to start an audio diary but I came to realise that the record I had made in sound was different and more powerful than anything I could have produced in writing. This fascinated me and continues to fascinate me as my audio diary has grown. And grown it has. Since those days in October 2006, I have recorded entries into my audio diary almost every day and have never tired of doing so. I record for the diary when the mood takes me wherever I am. There are entries made in airports, in aeroplanes, on trains, on buses, in railway stations, in cafés, on the street, in a variety of countries including my home now, France, as well as in England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic and probably several others that I’ve forgotten. The diary includes recordings made at wide variety of events I have witnessed and records in words many events that I have not witnessed first hand.  The content ranges from the reporting of my ordinary daily doings to the places I’ve been and the things I have done to my comments on the world in general and all points in between.

My audio diary has become important to me and so I have it saved on my computer, on two external hard disks kept in different places as well as on, at the last count, 149 CD’s. I haven’t calculated the actual playing time but I imagine that it totals somewhere in the region of 160 hours … so far! I haven’t created the audio diary for publication, at least not yet. I do occasionally use extracts to make “sound postcards” of a particular place or event for friends and relatives but essentially the diary remains a private thing. I do have in mind though that when I am no longer in a position to add to the diary that I shall offer it to the British Library Sound Archive. Maybe they will be able to preserve the window on my world for posterity and who knows, maybe some keen researcher studying the early twenty-first century in a hundred years from now will find it of some use. I hope so.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 22 2014

    Hi.
    I’ve only just found this entry and have been thinking about doing the same myself. I follow your blog which I find a really interesting way to document an area. What recorder do you use for your diary. Do you record wavs or mp3, lav mic or built-in, so many questions…
    Many thanks
    Martin (Seddon, England)

    Reply
    • Jul 22 2014

      Thanks Martin.

      Over the years I’ve used a variety of sound recorders and microphones to record my audio diary. For the last couple of years or so I’ve been using my Marantz PMD 661 MkII recorder and either a Rode Reporter or a Rode Lavalier microphone. But, depending on where I am and what I’m doing, I sometimes use my Nargra LB recorder and whatever microphone I happen to be using at the time. Occasionally, I use my iPhone with a Rode SmartLav mic and the Rode Recorder app. I record all the files in Wav format although for an audio diary high-end mp3 would be perfectly acceptable.

      My audio diary now amounts to approximately 300 hours of recorded material which I keep in approximately one hour segments and I now store them on four separate external hard discs – belt and braces I know, but I can’t bear the thought of any of the files being lost or corrupted.

      I thoroughly recommend keeping an audio diary. It takes a while to develop your own style but with trial and error you soon get into the swing of it. Once you get started it’s all too easy to get hooked!

      Reply
      • Jul 22 2014

        Thanks for that (I’m sorry, I don’t know your name).
        I was thinking of keeping a diary completely separate from my ‘good’ recordings and just using my phone or a relatively cheap recorder. However, I suppose if you want to make diary and good recordings it would be worth starting with wavs. I have cameras that allow you to choose to save a raw file after you have taken a photo and a similar facility on a recorder would be useful. I can’t recall ever seeing this but I suppose you could always MPEG those diary only files.
        Even better would be an iapp that combines photos and sound like AudioBoo but I would prefer to save entries locally rather than rely on the cloud.
        Thanks again,
        Martin

  2. Mel Garcia
    May 13 2015

    I’ve have so much going on emotionally that I NEED to journal. But the thought of writing my emotions already makes my hand ache…and I’m only 29! I want to start an audio journal. I have 2 old recorders (I can’t remember them off the top of my head). But I also have an iPhone that I can use to record. Thank you for the inspiration to make this idea a reality soon. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of journaling to see how my penmanship (or lack of) has changed over time. I can see the benefit of still writing in a journal that somehow correlates to an audio and picture.

    Reply
    • May 13 2015

      Thank you for your comment, Mel.

      I can recommend keeping a journal, either a written one or an audio one. I’ve been keeping my audio diary since October 2006 and it’s still going. I think I now have over 300 hours of recordings which are fascinating to look back on. Do keep in touch and let me know how you get on.

      Reply

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