Sep 042013
 

wpid-wpid-DSCF3144-2013-01-3-15-10-206x300-2013-09-4-12-52.jpgWe live in a world of images and signs. We are experts in imageology. These signs are both visual and aural. Our judgements take the form of readings and assessments between semiological differences that are measured in minutiae, though to the outsider these differences are negligible.

The world of appearances prefigures and depends on the surface and its corresponding gaze. These surface images have no depth. They are a mask. They depend on the performance of the interlocutor to make them feel authentic within a corresponding economy of signification. It is performance that contextualises the sign.

Meanings are determined and derived within a system of meanings, an economy of signs, a grammatology of performance.

The aural sign is less easily divisible than the visual sign. Aurality does not have the same degree of mimeticism, though like all media, it can be listed by constituent physiological components. The aural sign is tempered with significance that can only be comprehended in the flow of aural exchange and environment in which it is produced. The aural sign would be alien if exposed to abstraction and de-contextualisation.

Aural significance is achieved in time. Aurality cannot exist without time as it is modulated in flows of energy that sustain and decay. Simply put, audio is a primary medium of exchange and reproduction; a medium that is fluid and ever present (silence being impossible).

Our world provides a rich, constant flow of sound that can only be manipulated through the instigation of control mechanisms that would exclude the extraneous and the impromptu. Mechanical mechanisms for reproducing sound are invested with the capability to isolate and to encapsulate, but never to extract.

All is babble and noise unless otherwise determined through a process of generation, addition and blending.

We live within a series of sound-worlds. These worlds are imbued with many complex systems of meaning. Once mechanically reproduced these systems of meaning are made strange and are reborn as the soundscape of another planet – a planet that is similar and from which it draws resonance, but which can never be reproduced in its performance. Much like the map is not the territory.

Past sounds are only something that can be evoked, hinted at or intimated. Past sounds can never be given complete fidelity. Those who master the art of reproduction know that fidelity goes beyond the performance and is transformed by the process of listening.

The attentive ear is an accomplishment that depends on investment and practice. In a world of inattention we are too often satisfied with the instantly gratifying. Anything that takes time to experience and comprehend, and which depends on the physicality of listening rather than simply hearing, becomes culturally insignificant.

Intimation is much more difficult to grasp than aggrandisement. Because we can hear does not mean that we should talk.

The addition of complex digital techniques of reproduction, emulation and synthesis have compounded the urge to experiment with sounds. The mastering of technique, though, is often mistaken for the constitution of meaning. Because we can does not mean that we ought.

Simply employing a reproductive technique does not mean that we will find some significance in the system of meanings. Indeed, the more that we reproduce – or emulate or simulate – the less significant it becomes.

The urge to mass-produce, and to understand only in the context of mass production, is a tyranny. The consumerist mode is only one form of understanding and thinking about the world. It is not the only means of thinking or system of meaning. Because we can consume does not mean that we ought to consume.

Reaching beyond the consumer ideal, into parallel worlds of significance, those states of thinking and being that cannot be exchanged or officially sanctioned in the marketplace or as part of a the civic process of aggrandisement, is an act of resistance.

A resistant act that is emotionally discordant with the majority and which leaves the perpetrator beyond the ebb-and-flow of prosaic normalisation – the tyranny of the normal!

It takes a genuine act of performance to articulate a distillation of voices and sounds. It takes a concentrated act of will to articulate soundscapes (narrative or other), in the employment of offering or evoking that which is meaningful.

It is a wilful act of resistance to engage with sound through performance and through technique alone. Sound is the constant sense, and so it is the forgotten medium.

Sound is ever-present and the world from which we are reluctant to escape. Sound is either a torture or an expedient. We have developed strategies to manage the contingencies of our sound world, both in order to survive and in communicate – either biologically or culturally.

The audiotheque is simply a response to the problem of establishing a equilibrium in a world of sonic-disequilibrium. The audiotheque lacks pre-determination. It is a place perhaps physical, perhaps virtual, often indeterminate, in which meaning making is encouraged beyond the transactional and beyond the formulaic – though it may deploy both in it’s attempts to find equilibrium.

The audiotheque is a collection, a place of intersections. It is both the recorded and the performed. It is both discursive and expositionary. The audiotheque makes no claims to expertise or unique perspectives, only that it is an experiment, an unfolding through performance in a search for meaning.

Sep 022013
 
Play
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Acoustic Bridge

I went to the beach today at Port de plaisance de Carnon, just outside Montpellier. Walking around the harbour there is a very ugly concrete bridge spanning the channel leading out of the inner part of the marina. It’s only when you get inside the bridge that it’s design makes sense. I recorded this on my Zoom H4n recorder, and other than boosting the levels a little there has been no manipulation or combination of the audio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 072013
 
Play

The latest audio drama workshop run by Mike Lane was based on an extract from Othello. Kirsty Mealing’ and Jennifer Smith played  Emilia and Desdemona. I’m picking-up loads of very useful coaching techniques from Mike, who has a very carefully and organised way of helping the participants ‘unfold’ the meanings and expressions within the text which gets brought out in the performances. These recording sessions are a work-in-progress that have helped me to understand how performers bring the written text to life, through a combination of understanding and intuition. Kirsty and Jennifer’s emotionality really starts to open-up and come through in their successive performances, as the workshop developed and as we made each recordings. I’m really looking forward to developing more of these workshop sessions and to sharing the content that we produce.

Jan 202013
 
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Matthew Performing in the Studio

Yesterday was the first Audiotheque workshop for 2013, where a group of audio drama enthusiasts met up, despite the snow, to work in the De Montfort University audio recording studios and write, perform and record some short dramas. As this was the second workshop day that we’d run, we had a stronger sense of what we had to do, and so we could introduce the newbies to the pleasure of making audio drama much more quickly.

We started off by breaking into small teams, about half of the group are creative writers and half are media or audio production students. The creative writers are great. They have the ability to develop ideas and get them down on paper without any prevarication or procrastination. To help the creative process along I gave each team two randomly generated words from an app on my phone, then each were dealt an Oblique Strategy from another app on my phone, such as: ‘unsaid’ ‘brother’ and “faced with a choice do both”.

Once we had started to form an idea of the situations and the setting of the dramas, it was possible to hunt out and record some sound effects. Ross Clement did his usual sterling job wandering around the Queens Building with his portable audio recorded collecting various sounds, including the noise of the toilets to simulate a locker room, the sound of bashing metal cabinets to simulate the sound of a car crash, and background room sounds to help layer the mix.

Jurgis, Max and Ross took control of the recording studios. It’s a privilege to be working in such a well resourced set of studios. The quality of the recordings that we can capture is really outstanding. It’s great practice for the audio reduction students to be working against a tight deadline and to be forced to make decisions about mixing and editing in a short space of time. As my colleague Andrew Clay is fond of saying, “this is not about storing knowledge, but using it”.

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Jurgis Setting up the Desk

The next stage was to get in the studio and record the scripts. This is where the real challenge comes in, because I’m certainly no performer or frustrated actor, so we are totally dependent on the people who turn-up and their performance abilities. Luckily we had some very engaged and expressive performers with us on the day. The proof is in the final pieces that have been posted. It’s very important to learn that the impact and resonance for an audio drama doesn’t come from the technology or the studios, but from the person who is able to dramatically perform the words that have been written on the page.

The mix can supplement the performance and give it more impact, if the edit is handled wisely. Too much compression or over-use of effects can detract from the believability of the performance. Knowing when to pull-back on fantasy and when to emphasise reality can only be achieved by careful listening.

We managed to all get together at the end of the day and listen to each groups work. There is some strong work here that deals with some pretty demanding and compelling dramatic issues. I can’t wait to put together another workshop. We might go lo-fi in the next one, and certainly getting away from the studios seems like a potentially invigorating opportunity. Have a listen and tell us what you think by leaving us a message at https://www.facebook.com/audiotheque

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Max & Douglas Getting in to Character

Nov 182012
 
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Getting Ready in the Studio

Audio drama has a huge scope for creative development and presents many challenges both in terms of creative writing, performance and audio production. Yesterday we held the first of the De Montfort University Audiotheque Workshops, where a small group of audio drama enthusiasts got together to create some mini-dramas over the course of the day.

The Audiotheque project has been running for a couple of years now, and it’s zigzagged a bit in terms of it’s development. We’ve tended to move in sudden bursts and stops. This is one of our more active periods, which I’m hoping will be sustained and allows us to establish a base where we have a regular crew of people producing independent audio dramas.

I organised the workshop via Facebook, with the help of colleagues at DMU, Ross Clement and Jonathan Taylor. Ross is an audio and multimedia whizz, and Jonathan is a creative writing champion. Between us we managed to get fifteen people to turn up on a Saturday morning to take part in the workshop. We had audio production, drama and creative writing students all working together to produce a short drama.

To get things started, after tea and biscuits, we worked out our ideas. This is always the hardest part, because you are starting from a blank sheet of paper. To help kick-start the ideas I downloaded a couple of apps to my phone. WordDot is a random word generator, and Oblique Strategies is a technique used by Brian Eno when he’s producing bands to help move them one. These helped us set a frame of reference for the stories that would be conceived, which where then put to a setting derived from a photograph shared by the writing teams from their phones. The range and variation of the stories was really interesting, from a car crash to a walk in the mountains, and from a business meal to a fairy-tale with a wooden boy.

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Recording Sessions Under Way

It took us most of the morning to get the ideas defined and scripted, so we had a working lunch. Then we moved into the recording studios, which where ably run by Jurgis Masilionis. This is the fun part, though it had Jurgis working flat out to quickly capture the sessions, but he rose to the challenge admirably. We got a bit perfectionist at one point, when it would have been better to have run through the performances quickly. We learnt that the performance is best done in one take, that way the performance has more energy and there is less to do afterwards in terms of adding sound effects.

Ross was brilliant at collecting sound effects, and he stretched every sinew of his imagination to find sounds that supported the actions and the interactions of the characters. Padding a jacket as a substitute for footsteps on a mountain worked wonders. Adding the noise of a glass of wine being pored and drunk, added the punctuation that moved the story from being something that is merely being talked through by the characters to something that is lived and experienced.

At the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted. We didn’t hit our target of getting the pieces on to the Audiotheque site in the same day, but there are promises that they will be edited, mixed and posted to the site very soon.

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Jurgis Setting Up the Studio

We are going to run another workshop day in January, but in the meantime we are going to try and produce and share some simple dramas made on mobile phones and recorded in impromptu places, like cafes and shopping centres. Keep an eye on the Audiotheque site and listen out as more of the dramas are posted up.

Sep 152011
 

Audiotheque – Web Development Project

Project Brief: To develop the website of www.audiotheque.co.uk .

Number of Students Needed: Up to Four students

Outline: www.audiotheque.co.uk is a collaborative project between De Montfort University and BBC Radio Drama. The aim of the project is twofold:

  • To introduce a new generation of producers to the experience of creating audio drama.
  • To introduce new, non-traditional listeners to audio drama.

Audiotheque aims to act as a social media hub for the collaboration, discussion and comment about the audio dramas produced for the site. Using social media techniques, Audiotheque allows contributors to share ideas, distribute their work online, and to experiment with new forms of audio drama. The website presently uses Drupal as an open-source content management platform, which works by building pre-designed php modules that are developed through the Drupal Open Source project. The site also uses CivicRM as it’s contact management system, which allows the site managers to develop communications with members and to organise events and training sessions. The site is presently being managed by David Watts, who is part of the DMU External Relations team.

What is Expected from Each Student: Developers will be asked to manager and improve the website for www.audiotheque.co.uk, so that content producers are able to distribute audio media to a new audiences. Development of the site will include ensuring that it operates in a robust, secure and scalable manner, while interconnecting with other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The site is aimed at non-technical users, so a strong emphasis will be placed on usability and interface issues.

To What Standard will the Work be Produced:  Developers will be expected to manage the website in a professional way, using up-to-date and industry standard solutions, while innovating in the use of interactive social media functionality. Developers will be expected to represent De Montfort University in its capacity as an official partner of BBC Radio Drama. BBC Radio Drama has high expectations about the standard of work that enables the Audiotheque website to function, as this will be used to promote the project to an international audience of drama producers, journalists, students and members of the public.

What is the Time Frame: All production work to be completed by Easter 2011

What Skills are Required: An ability to manage a complex project. An ability to work as part of a team. An ability to overcome significant technical and production issues. An ability to talk with non-technical users to specify design issues. An ability to liaise with representatives of official organisations, sponsors, agents and other supporting bodies. An ability to write-up technical and editorial production plans and reports in detail.

A positive outcome may result in a supportive statement from a senior BBC representative, and contacts within the BBC web development team.
 To find out more information please contact Rob Watson by email rwatson@dmu.ac.uk or on 07817 720 688.

Audiotheque Web Development Student Project 002 150911

Sep 152011
 

Audiotheque – Social Media Development Project

Draft Project Brief: To develop the Social Media Capability of www.audiotheque.co.uk .

Number of Students Needed: Up to Four students

Outline: www.audiotheque.co.uk is a collaborative project between De Montfort University and BBC Radio Drama. The aim of the project is twofold:

  • To introduce a new generation of producers to the experience of creating audio drama.
  • To introduce new, non-traditional listeners to audio drama.

Audiotheque aims to act as a social media hub for the collaboration, discussion and comment about the audio dramas produced for the site. Using social media techniques, Audiotheque allows contributors to share ideas, distribute their work online, and to experiment with new forms of audio drama. The website presently uses Drupal version 6.0 as an open-source content management platform, which works by building pre-designed php modules that are developed through the Drupal Open Source project.  The site also uses CivicRM as it’s contact management system, which allows the site managers to develop communications with members and to organise events and training sessions. The site is presently being managed by David Watts, who is part of the DMU External Relations team.

What is Expected from Each Student: Developers will be asked to manager and improve the social media capability for www.audiotheque.co.uk, so that contributors to the site are able to distribute audio media to a new audiences. Development of the social media capability of the site will include ensuring that it interfaces in a robust, secure and scalable manner with a range of social media applications, such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The site is aimed at non-technical users, so a strong emphasis will be placed on usability and interface issues.

To What Standard will the Work be Produced: Developers will be expected to manage the social media capability of the website in a professional way, using up-to-date and industry standard solutions, while innovating in the use of interactive social media functionality. Developers will be expected to represent De Montfort University in its capacity as an official partner of BBC Radio Drama. BBC Radio Drama has high expectations about the standard of work that enables the Audiotheque website to function, as this will be used to promote the project to an international audience of drama producers, journalists, students and members of the public.

What is the Time Frame: All production work to be completed by Easter 2012

What Skills are Required: An ability to manage a complex project. An ability to work as part of a team. An ability to overcome significant technical and production issues. An ability to talk with non-technical users to specify design issues. An ability to liaise with representatives of official organisations, sponsors, agents and other supporting bodies. An ability to write-up technical and editorial production plans and reports in detail.

A positive outcome may result in a supportive statement from a senior BBC representative, and contacts within the BBC web development team.

To find out more information please contact Rob Watson by email rwatson@dmu.ac.uk or on 07817 720 688.

Audiotheque Social Media Development Student Project 001 150911

Sep 152011
 

Audiotheque – Audio Drama Content Development Project Draft Project Brief:

To produce a series of audio drama podcasts for the Audiotheque website.

Number of Students Needed: Up to Four Content Developers.

Outline: www.audiotheque.co.uk is a collaborative project between De Montfort University and BBC Radio Drama. The aim of the project is to introduce a new generation of listeners to audio drama.

Audiotheque aims to act as an online social media hub for collaboration, discussion and comment about audio drama, allowing people to share and distribute their work, and to experiment with new forms of audio drama.

The aim of the site is twofold:

• To enable new producers of audio drama content to collaborate online.

• To enable non-traditional audiences to access audio drama.

What is Expected from Each Student: Audio content producers will be asked to run collaborative projects that produce a series of short-form audio dramas that will be presented on the Audiotheque website. Content producers will be expected to produce work that is of high quality, innovative and creative in the use of audio, in the sound design techniques deployed, and in the way that it helps to introduce new creative talent to the process of creating audio drama.

To What Standard will the Work be Produced: Content producers are expected to work to a high professional standard, producing audio content that stands with the professionally produced content on the website. Producers will be expected to represent De Montfort University in its capacity as an official partner of BBC Radio Drama. BBC Radio Drama has high expectations about the standard of work that is submitted to the Audiotheque website, as this will be used to promote the project to an international audience of drama producers, journalists, students and members of the public.

What is the Time Frame: All production work to be completed by Easter 2012.

What Skills are Required: An ability to manage complex projects. An ability to work as part of a team. An ability to overcome significant audio technical and production issues. An ability to talk with writers, performers and members of the public. An ability to liaise with representatives of official organisations, sponsors, the festival, agents and other supporting bodies. An ability to write-up technical and editorial production plans and reports in detail.

A positive outcome may result in a supportive statement from a senior BBC representative, and contacts within the BBC Radio Drama team.

To find out more information please contact Rob Watson by email rwatson@dmu.ac.uk or phone 07817 720 688

Audiotheque Audio Content Development Student Project 001 150911