Bitsphere's Weblog

… a bitart weblog

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Soundmapping: Appeareance, Technology and Shortcomes

neuchatel_mapHere are some news from the soundmap project which Bitsphere promised to keep you up to date with: Things are going on. The initial idea of recording some nice sounds and put them on a map let to some difficulties and interesting insights.

it turned out field recording is not plug and play. There are some issues a newbie is not aware and gets to learn:

  1. Get good equipment as soon as possible. If not the precious time you spent is lost apart from some research value.
  2. Car noises are ubiquitous: Best time to do recordings of environmental sound in a township seems to be at night when you may have the chance of not getting disturbed by cars.
  3. There are good news: If ever you start doing field recording and even if it is on a very basic level your listening abilities will grow and your mind will get insights in different qualities of noises like:
  • There are a lot of sounds around which may be called dynamic: building sites, cries, car breaks, thunder. This sounds enrich the soundscape but are only of partial interest for soundmapping since even when put on a map they may not be found again.
  • On the other hand there are dynamic sounds which appear and reappear regularly, typically church bells or trains passing in a regular interval.
  • Finally there are more static sounds which may be put on a map for they are long-lasting or eternal: Waves on the seaside, highways, rivers, echoes and many more. This sounds are what seems most valuable in soundmapping where people are invited to do soundwalks with a map constructed in another time.

Considering this it seems easier to go on by defining interesting sounds on a map and record them afterwards with a proper equipment which has to be evaluated, set up, tested and properly handled. The main work is about finding the right sounds by walking with aware ears. Once they are mapped there are several ways to transmit the places to an audience: Handling over a copy of the map, publish it on google maps, mark the places as audibly interesting or even make recordings and put them on a disk. If you know any others please let me know in the comment section!


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Listening to two radios

I would like to add a new listening post to the others filed in the category listening. The exercise is simple but it may enhance your ability to distinguish different sounds. It is inspired by John Cages Imaginary Landscape 4.

To start you will have to organize two or more sources of broadcast or playback-media. Best is playback so when in doubt you may reset your setting.

The exercise asks you to play all the sources you gathered at the same time and and while listening take notes on a sheet on what you hear either in quality of sounds or in musical terms. That is all you have got to do.

The longer you do it the more you will be aware of your inner ability to “mute” one sound and focus on the other and to strengthen your force not to do so.

If you have comments on the exercise or own exercises to propose please use the section below this post!

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Developing a Neuchâtel Sound Map

neuchatel_mapCurrently Bitsphere is working on a sound map of the town Neuchâtel in Switzerland. This is inspired by the Canadian composer, R. Murray Schafer, who wrote several books covering the topic of sound environment. The Neuchâtel sound map will be opened for the public as soon as there are enough sound snippets to expose.

The recordings are made with a cell phone and uploaded to In the Evernote notebook the exact location is set via the inbuilt google map. The planning goes to open the notebook to the public and link to the sound from google maps. Maybe there is a simpler solution so if anyone knows about it please leave a comment. Bitsphere is by now not sure whether this is a proper solution to avoid people deleting content. If not, the map will be copied to another website.

The bad news about recording with the mobile phone into Evernote is the fact that one cannot choose the sound quality and the media format. So the sounds are always recorded in the file format the cell phone provides. The good news is that the cell phone is almost any time at hand and one can enjoy the sound mapping as an ongoing side project.

So if you do not want to create your own sound map, but you still want to take part by telling which typical sounds of a city you would like to hear in a Neuchâtel way, just post your comment!

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Listening to the most quiet sound

For November, Bitsphere is describing another listening exercise. Bitsphere advises to begin with the other exercises you find under the category “listening” ( ) but you can start straight away with this one if you like.

The description of this exercise is rather simple but it enables you to listen to surprising many sounds if you get in the habit of doing this for a couple of days or weeks. There are more possibilities to do so than you might think.

This listening exercise goes like this: Listen to what you hear! Notice that sound and then try to listen to a different sound or noise which surrounds you! Whenever you have found something to listen to, mark it “heard” in your inner register and try to find something new to listen to. Search for silence and you will find many subtle sounds!

This is it all. For sure you can do this in many situation in your daily life. As you go ahead with this exercise you will develop an ability to listen to many hidden sounds in your noise environment. Enjoy!

If you would like to share your experience with this exercise or even propose your own one you are welcome to use the comment section!

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Name what you hear

In addition to two listening exercises on this blog which you find here and here, there is a third one which is worth to share. It may seem even more simple than the others but increases the awareness of your sounding environment.

To practice the exercise start by noting which sounds you hear in the very moment you do this. If you note a new sound then name it in your mind like “bell” or “woman talking” or “rustling”.

After a while you notice that you become more aware of your sounding environment than before. You may notice that you here consciously sounds that you heard but not remarked before.

It seems the exercise is getting the more interesting the more the sounds disappear in the environmental noise. When naming sounds try do it as precise as possible! This is hard when you are unable to check visually or otherwise what the source of a noise is. But it also brings in some fun factor. Try it yourself!

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Concentrate on one sound

In order to sharpen the ear Bitphere found one listening exercise – which is also a mindfulness exercise – very helpful. You can practice this wherever and whenever you want.

To start listen to a noise you hear. This may be every noise around like the dropping of a tube, a distant road or whatever you hear. To practice try to listen to the sound as long as you can. This means as long as your mind stays concentrated on it.

This is all the exercise. After a while you will notice that you no longer stay focused on the sound. To improve your awareness of sound it is enough to this repeatedly. But maybe you find out what it is that turns your mind away from listening. And if you find out why you were no longer concentrated you notice a point in your life which disturbs you. Maybe there is something you can do about it.

An advanced version when your listening abilities are very good and you can concentrate a very long time on one sound then you might go on and concentrate on more than one sound at the same time.

Enjoy listening to your environment! If you like this exercise you maybe also find the last listening exercise on this blog useful: Back in Time.

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Is there such a thing like abstract music?

Music always is in time as a given function thereof. The invention of the recording machine has added recursion to this formula and changed music as a we perceive it and how it is accessible. Some musicians used to bring loopers or other devices on stage during the last decades. Some play music which they call ‘musique sérielle’ which provides some answers to the new listening habits.

When comparing the shift in the audio world before music recording as it might was and afterwards to the painting world before and after inventing photography there is obviously one big difference: In painting there was a shift to abstract painting which cannot be found as such in music.

What do you think? Is this observation true? Please leave a comment in the comment section below this post if you have any thought about this subject!