Thursday, 8 July 2010

Out Of Sight - Out Of Mind

Blimey – have you ever tried to capture a clean recording of something outdoors in Britain?
If you had, - you would probably notice a loud background rumbling after a while – which our ears seem to filter out, so we don’t realize it’s actually there.
I was recording a thunderstorm in the communal gardens, which we share with our neighbors, and I realized that there was a weird rumbling hiss, which was even louder than either the rain – or the infrequent thunderclaps I was trying to capture.

The microphones I were using were extremely good Rode stereo mics, so that wasn’t the problem – and I was recording in 24bit on an Olympus LS 10 – so there shouldn’t have been any quality issue at all.

There wasn’t any wind on the mic heads, so that wasn’t causing the issue – and then it occurred to me that the sound was actually car engines, and the sound of tyres on the surface of a road – I’d just never noticed it previously! It’s just there in the background – compartmentalized by our brains into a folder somewhere, named ‘Pay No Attention’ I had never noticed how loud or intrusive it actually was, - or how consistent.

So – I took my recording equipment, and set it up in the countryside to record some running water (or something like that) miles away from any major roads or motorways, - and of course – somewhere in the distance - a plane engine went by – then another, and then another. Deep, massive, rumbling engines that fill the air with sound for minutes - one after another, throughout the duration of the day.

Now I’ve realized that because I know it’s there, - I can hear it all the time – and it goes on consistently for about 20 hours a day.
A couple of months ago, when the Icelandic ash cloud caused flights to be cancelled for weeks across Britain – I realized that the noise pollution levels had dropped away a little bit, because there were no in or outbound passenger flights.
The skies were spookily silent. It was amazing!

On another occasion – I was standing at the very
end of Bournemouth pier, to capture some water sounds. The perfect place! I couldn’t have been any more out to sea unless I was in a boat. All was going well, until somebody on the beach cranked up a generator, and then another one started up a rickety van to move beach huts around! Unbelievable!

Motors, engines, fans and man made sound is everywhere, and we seem to have evolved in order to accommodate noise pollution, and literally refuse to realize that it’s even there – to the point where you can’t even record nature anymore.
The implications are ridiculous. It’s making me paranoid even writing about it!

Out of sight – out of mind!