this edition of framework:afield has been produced in the uk by dallas simpson, and also features joe young, phill harding, and lisa whistlecroft. for more information see http://www.dallassimpson.com. about the program in dallas’ own words:
‘Call and Response’ – an Environmental Panel Discussion, in memory of the 120th anniversary of Ludwig Koch’s first wildlife sound recording (aged 8!) in 1889.
Following some conversations about 18 months ago, concerning a collaboration with actor and sound recordist Joseph Young, the topic of a ‘conversation piece’ came up. Sadly it never happened. But then I had the invitation from Patrick McGinley to curate a radio programme for the Framework Afield series.
So the idea evolved of a panel discussion – a conversation across time and place, featuring four environmental sound artists I had met at some point, even if only fleetingly. Consequently Lisa Whistlecroft, Phill Harding, Joseph Young and Lucy Gibson were invited to join me in a conversation and panel discussion.
The Brief: Each artist would choose a sound work of another artist that had influenced them or had inspired them (the call), plus a work of their own that had been created as a result of hearing that work (the response) – hence the concept – Call and Response. We would listen to each others Call and Response and comment. OK, a standard conventional panel discussion scenario. Sure, been there done that…. but the twist was that we would record the programme live in the woods with sound replay equipment on location, and each of us would record our own individual binaural perception of the experience simultaneously during the recording. For the location I chose the pastoral magnificence of Shining Cliff Woods near Ambergate in Derbyshire, a location that I was familiar with, and which has provided me with many happy hours recording experiences over the years.
The Programme: My ideas evolved as the deadline for the event (Sunday 29th March) gradually loomed nearer. As we were all individual environmental sound artists, with different approaches, we would walk in to the recording area from different directions through the woods ‘entering by the Four Winds’ (North, South, East, West), as it were, each of us recording the our own binaural trajectory through the woodland. The ‘Theme Tune’ for the programme would be excerpts from the recordings of birdsong by Ludwig Koch, from an original set of 1937 BBC 78’s I had acquired many years ago, and played live on a mechanical HMV wind-up gramophone – as a tribute to the fact that Ludwig Koch nearly always recorded mechanically. Playback of the guests pieces would be on a portable CD player with speaker system, using a 12v car battery to mains inverter for power. Then at the end we would all walk off in different directions – scattering to the Four Winds, so to speak, while each of us would continue to record for a few minutes.
The Recording: And so the day came. Sadly Lucy had had an unfortunate accident a couple of days before, was totally incapacitated and could not make the recording. There were thoughts of re-arranging, but for a number of reasons it was impractical. However, there were consequences. Phill was going to have a lift with Lucy, as he does not drive, so now he would have to come by train to Derby and I would pick him up from the station on the day. Meanwhile the major part of the gear for the recording would be carried to the location by some intrepid helpers – John Sampson, Sam Simpson and Jon Simpson, (for whom extreme thanks are due) carried some distance through the woods and set up near an exquisite small lake. Oh, and by the way we had also decided to video the proceedings for good measure!
So I arrived fresh and enthusiastic, with Phill, at about 11:30 in the morning to find my guests and the others completely shattered having collectively carried all the gear (including seats, tables, 2 car batteries, speakers, CD player, sound recording equipment, video equipment, sandwiches, drinks…) from the car park at one end of the woods to the recording location. Having given my profuse apologies, and being reassured by everyone that it was “nothing… really!”, we caught our breath and made a start. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we made the recording, (twice) and generally speaking we were all happy with the overall result.
The Edit: When I reviewed the recordings it turned out that the first, and best recording, including the walk-ins and walk-outs lasted about an hour and a half. Rather more than the prescribed absolute maximum of 55:40! So things would have to go. Out went the walk-ins and walk-outs, still had to lose about 15 minutes. Decided to cut a lot of my intros and comments and focus on the guests. Still about 7 minutes too long. I wanted to preserve their conversations and comments primarily, so further cuts had to be made to the works brought by the guests, and I hereby apologise for the inevitable editing of these works – the time constraints of the programme would not permit their full length versions being aired. So finally, after much agonising, I had cut the length down to 55:37, phew! But it wasn’t easy and I wanted to preserve a lazy, casual, real time feel to the whole proceedings.
But there was more to the edit than just getting the length right. I wanted to incorporate the different binaural perspectives of myself and each guest into the recording, so editing involved both switching perspectives between myself and individual artist’s recordings, (in the video / film editing tradition of switching between different camera perspectives) as well as running some sections in parallel – up to 4 binaural recordings are running in parallel in some places, so spatial ambiguities, and variable phasing effects, due to deliberately slipped time alignments, are also encouraged in the edit, which becomes a composition in itself!
Ultimately the programme is about us all inhabiting an outdoor environment and the ‘call and response’ therefore clearly extends into this realm. And this is really the object of the work, to take the form of a panel discussion out of the formality of a studio or other enclosed venue and allow the event to unfold in the openness of an outdoor environment, where the random and unpredictable intrusion of environmental sounds into our conversation and the effect of the environment on our listening experience becomes the real focus of the exercise. The result is both phonographic and documentary, creative and inspirational. And the fact that each of us has a totally unique and beautiful experience of the whole makes it relevant to us all.
Once again, I would like to thank my guests on the day, Phill Harding, Lisa Whistelcroft and Joseph Young, for their invaluable contributions to the event, and
Wishing Lucy Gibson all the best for a speedy recovery.