Chris Watson: Inside the Circle of Fire

On 5th April, field recordist and sound artist Chris Watson helped set the CitySounds project into a wider context by presenting recordings from his sound installation Inside the circle of fire: A Sheffield Sound Map. Before a large audience in the Reid Concert Hall, Chris guided us through a project that describes the sound world of the city of his birth in dynamic multichannel sound.

Audience at Reid Concert Hall, University of Edinburgh

As Chris said: “We tend to hear everything, but we rarely listen. We live in such a noise-polluted environment.” The event was a great opportunity to focus attention on the richness of urban sounds rather than ignoring them.

CitySounds Makes a Noise

We are lining up a number of exciting events to round off the current phase of CitySounds. Check out the details below.

Thursday 5th April, Talk by Chris Watson

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Thursday 5th April, Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Square

We are holding a presentation featuring guest speaker Chris Watson. Chris is a field recordist and sound artist, and will reveal sounds from his sound installation Inside the Circle of Fire: A Sheffield Sound Map, a project that describes the sound world of the city of his birth in dynamic multichannel sound.

Registration (waitlist only) and more information here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-sounds-chris-watson-tickets-43932741011

Thursday 5th April, sonikebana v1

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Thursday 5th April and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Friday 6th April, St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street
Sound artist and composer Martin Parker has been listening to material recorded by Edinburgh’s CitySounds project and has been recording audio from the Meadows himself. He has placed some of these sounds inside custom-built portable loudspeakers. At this installation, visitors are invited to move the loudspeakers around the space in order to design and reorganise the soundscape as they hear-fit. The sounds playing are not fixed but actually morph-based on the direction that the speakers face — every change in position of the speaker will change the sounds you hear. Think of it as a kind of audible flower arranging.

Registration and more information here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-sounds-sonikebana-v1-tickets-44409895192

Friday 5th April, sonikebana v2

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Friday 6th April, St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street
Sonikebana installation open to the public.

Friday 6th April, Zoë Irvine Workshop, Sensing Information from Sound

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm Friday 6th April, starting at St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street

Zoë Irvine is an artist working with sound, exploring voice, field recording and the relationship between sound and image. Join Zoë for a listening and recording sound walk around Edinburgh’s heartland. Rather than listening out for the usual ghouls, you’ll be listening for the noises made by people, their machines and the environmental sounds of nature too. You’ll then explore ways of revealing information about the soundscape and what everyone and everything is doing within it.

Registration (waitlist only) and more information here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-sounds-zoe-irvine-tickets-44549730443

Collaborative box building

Come and help us build some wooden tree boxes, which will be installed around the Meadows with microphones inside them for the CitySounds project. This will be a great chance to learn some basic woodwork skills, whilst also contributing to an exciting community project. No previous woodwork experience required!

Please register using this Eventbrite link.

Into the Trees

Monday 12th March was something of a landmark for us: Simon finally got to install one of our Audio Capture Devices (ACDs) on a tree in the Meadows! He is using a clever combination of bungee cords and bike cables to make sure that they are firmly attached.

BACD securely attached to a branch

A few teething issues in getting the ACDs to talk the server are being ironed out, and we should be able to report back soon on what data is being collected.

In preparation for this public launch, Silje toured notice boards around the Meadows to put up information leaflets. And for those who want to know more, we’ve added a QR code to the poster that points to our Privacy Notice.

One of the Meadows Notice Boards

Site survey of trees on the Meadows

Simon Chapple and I met with Peter Davidson, one of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Park Rangers, to look at the options for installing our Audio Capture Devices (ACDs) in trees across the Meadows. Although there was a fresh wind, we were fortunate that it was a clear, sunny day to carry out our survey.

Simon and Peter sizing up a tree

To start off, Simon gave a brief introduction to his ‘bird box’ enclosures and electronic kit, and explained how they would be attached to the trees using bungee cords, plus a padlocked cable for security.

Screen grab showing 2 bars for the organicity WiFi Access Point
We then did a quick tour of parts of the Meadows where we could see that we were in range of the newly-installed WiFi Access Point, appropriately enough named ‘organicity’, The main challenge was to find trees with branches in the ‘goldilocks’ zone: high enough for the ACDs to be out of harm’s way, but not too high for us to change the battery if necessary. (No, we haven’t yet got the point where we can use solar panels or tap into the power source of lamp posts!) Another constraint is that we need to avoid trees which have been marked as possibly suffering from Dutch Elm Disease, though fortunately that doesn’t seem to be too prevalent on the Meadows.


Two views of the Community Garden supported by Greening our Street and FOMBL

We concluded with the happy feeling that there was a good number of trees that we could use when we are ready to launch the devices in public.

Project Kick-off Meeting

Although we held a number of meetings between different partners during the inception phase of the experiment, it was only on 4th December 2017 that most of us managed to meet face-to-face in the Alt-W LAB in Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.

After a quick review of the project deliverables, milestones and schedule, Simon Chapple provided an update on the audio capture framework and plans.

Graham Stone pointed out that it will be important to be able to correctly interpret *missing* audio data, such as the absence of certain bird sounds. He suggested that one way of providing a baseline of detectability would be to play pre-recorded samples of wildlife sounds at natural levels to determine the sensitivity range of sensors.

We agreed on the importance of providing transparent information about the project to relevant stakeholders and the general public. This will be addressed in the New Year as we make more progress on understanding the technical dimensions of the project.

Finally, we discussed the fact that we have very Little time to prepare the end-of-project sound installation, and planning the content and requirements for this will have to be addressed as soon as possible.