Ian Baxter
Sound Artist






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Landscape - an ambient webpage

Note - don't worry this is quiet, it is meant to be.

In early 2015 I submitted some recordings to Janek Schaefer's foundsoundscape his simple and brilliant idea being to create an ambient radio station, made up of quiet recordings that can be left on in the background, inspired by the "birdsong" radio station that used to be available on DAB radio as a test station but found fame from people who liked to just tune in and hear the sound.

In 2013 I contributed to a show "Out of Context" with a piece called Landscape - taking field recordings from Corfu and putting them into the gallery as a reconstructed mise en scène or reconstituted soundscape.

The process of listening to foundsoundscape made me think about my the possibilities of using the web as a means for disseminating work. This is particularly relevant for sound installations that are 'infinite' in scope (which is my PhD research topic). Such installations are not bound by opening times, or having to sit in the gallery. My idea is that this webpage can be put on in the background, whilst you're reading, or pottering.

I wanted it to follow Brian Eno's original criteria of being both ignorable and interesting, and providing "an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint." (Music for Airports Liner Note, 1978). I was especially keen to use these quiet recordings I took in Corfu, precisely because not a lot happens. It was very peaceful up on that hill, with the main punctuation provided by the goats being herded up the hill and their massed bells producing a sound almost like running water. Hang around, they pass every so often. As Eno recommended in his notes to Discreet Music, 1975 "I suggest listening to the piece at comparatively low levels, even to the extent that it frequently falls below the threshold of audibility."

Eno juxtaposed his ambient music with that off Muazk saying "...extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies" (Music for Airports Liner Note, 1978). A google search for ambient websites turns up many new-agy relaxation type sites of rain noise, rainforests, rain and jazz tones and so forth. I therefore, perhaps presumptuously, juxtapose this experiment with those sites, which to my ear, impose themselves too forcefully (although I quite liked the coffee shop one).

I wanted the footprint and overheads of the website to be low, so the simplest HTML5 Audio and Java elements are used to create it. I am aware that fancier algorithms could be used, and a greater stock of recordings could be drawn upon if such a work were custom created, but sometimes a simple system works. Perhaps this is luddite in a world of interactive apps.

Further plans include moving between day and night, as in the original installation.

Sheffield, July 2015