Ian Baxter
Sound Artist






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Sounds Heard

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Sounds Heard - Skip Explanation

Sounds Heard is the title of a book by Hugh Davies. In the book he writes of found or environmental musical experiences. For example:

"In a wood in the early autumn, listen to the acorns falling around (or even onto) you; especially early in the morning, after a night of heavy rain, with water still dripping from the trees" - Sandford Orcas, Dorset, September 1976

I have come to regard these as an excellent alternative to field recording or so called phonography as they capture the (sometimes) intensely personal flavour of found musical experiences. I resolved to write down my experiences as 'sounds heard' pieces. Even though they are less frequent than I might like, I write each one down in my music journal, each with a simple title completing the "Sounds Heard in....". The essential ingredients being a finely tuned Hemingway-like prose, a haiku-like brevity and an attempt to capture what was magical about the experience in the first place. Noble aims I know. Enjoy.

Sheffield, December 2006 (revised Dec 2007)

Reformatting this 2011 for my new website I realise how out of date such a webpage is in the light of 'status updates' and twitter. I may put sounds heard under it's own hashtag in my twitter feed but this page will serve as the permanent archive. I still prefer to scribble them in my notebook which, unlike my computer, is usually close to hand.

...through the office window 30/7/2010

the roar of a dinosaur as machinery scrapes up the road outside

...in the far north 3/5/2010

the swirling call of a night jar is a ghost on a deserted road

...in town April 2010

the whale song of breaking buses at the bus exchange

...in artificial light 7/2/2010 (8pm)

walking past floodlit sports pitches, confused birds singing away

...on a tree lined road 15/1/2010

the chattering drips and occasional PLOOSH of thawing snow

...in the autumn drizzle 15/10/09

a distant alarm sounds early morning Steve Reich

...on an autumn morning 1/10/09

each passing car brings a crescendo of rustling leaves as I crush beech nuts underfoot

...in a tunnel

the grinding and screaming of train on track reverberates drowning out all thought.

...in the Rain

the water in a downpipe sounds desperate morse code.

...waking up in California March 09

half asleep, the amtrak horns blow in the distance, possibly the saddest song I've ever heard.

...at Point Reyes March 09

the whole air is filled with the whistling of the wires in wind so strong you can't talk just listen.

...on the BART March 09

a whole cloud of mid-pitch drones making curious harmonies and screams.

...in a meeting

A drinks trolley laden with china cups rattles past like a train of chattering teeth.

...walking home

the delicate rustle of thin plastic wrapping caught on barbed wire.

...walking home

a pneumatic drill is a giant steel woodpecker or a huge phone ringing in the distance.

...in the cold

the first gentle flurry of snow produces a crackling in the shrubs and bushes pattering much louder than it should be

...in alarm

A car alarm carried on the wind sounds like the chirping of an exotic bird. Later the wind modulates a burglar alarm in the street into strange chattering noises.

...in the quiet

the sudden and unexplained expansion of some plastic startles me.

...in the heat

At the plot in high summer I ear what I think is a penny whistle. Looking up I see a bike with squeaking brakes going down the hill.

...on Bodmin moor

the wind blows the disorientating chattering calling of birds around.

...at the allotments

Current visits are accompanied by the constant creaking of a willow tree in the wind

...in the waiting room April 08

The rattling of a loose grate on the air conditioning system is distant thunder.

...on a Sunday in Berlin April 08

Creeping around the hostel room so as not to wake anyone up, on the wind I hear the sound of bells.

...on a plane April 08

When landing and taxiing two sine wave like tones beating against each other provide an ever-changing set of rhythm and drone.

...in the giant steel skeleton

A skeleton of a new tower block is resonated by a circular saw. The biggest reverb unit in the city.

...in the spring snow

After a spring snow fall the garden is alive with the sound of melting snow, crackling an rustling. Surprisingly musical sounds.

...like a bell 15/3/08

A workman on a building site is striking the bucket of a digger with a large hammer to remove debris. A huge reverberant crash fills the air and echoes off the tall buildings nearby with every strike.

...in the wind 13/3/08

There is a rhythmic metallic chatter in the air as the wind makes the cable attached to a flag pole strike the hollow metal.

...in the rain Jan 08

The drip from a gutter resonates the hollow overhang of a shop front. Deep marimba tones in an irregular rhythm.

...in the wind Jan 08

One of the light fittings from the Christmas lights is gently knocking against the lamppost it is suspended from sounding a delicate glockenspiel tone from the metal tube of the post.

...near Christmas

Through the fog of a hangover the sound of carol singers in the street wakes us up.

... in a gale

Some hazard tape tied taut between traffic cones at a roadworks vibrates violently in the strong wind. An unrelenting, rasping, angry note.

... in Delamere Forest

In a part of the forest dominated by firs, pines and other evergreens, the sound of the wind through the trees is a note: a deep, haunting moan.

...at work

For sometime I was convinced I could hear an insect in the office were I work. A lone cricket calling out. Later I discovered it is the sound of the ratchet on a clickwheel mouse.

...in the wind 1/11/07

A large gate made up of a sheet of steel hangs loose and is blowing like a sail in the wind. Every thirty seconds or so it builds up enough momentum to smash against its jamb letting forth a great crash.

...near the hospital 29/10/07

A car screeches round the corner in a mult-storey carpark with impressive reverb. There is a pause then another long decaying screech. This goes on several times as the car makes its way up the levels of the carpark.

...on a windy night 28/10/07

The wind blowing over the chimney pots is causing the entire chimney breast to resonate in deep base tones.

...at Weston Park 20/10/07

There is a 'safety fence' on the path near the trees, one of those temporary ones held up in concrete blocks which consist of a lot of thin long bars. Occasionally a leaf falls and hits the fence causing it to resonate like an old spring reverb.

...at the Bus Exchange

The skwawking and squeaking of bus brakes en mass makes for a curious composition. They all step down in a mournful, minor interval.

...all summer long

There's many sounds heard on the huge building site near the building where I work. As well as every morning is a percussion symphony of pneumatic drills, hammers, angle grinders and other heavy plant, two strike me in particular. There's some kind of machine that plays a strange scale as it goes up and down its gears. Also, a huge drill seems to have four oscillating notes going on at once as it spins, they collide and beat against each other in a strange pulsating chord.

...at the flat - 13/9/07

A bus passes by our flat and it's brakes - perhaps its engine - makes a Wagnerian trumpet blast that shakes the window frames.

...whilst lost in the supermarket 9/9/07

A piece of plastic is trapped in the trolley wheel providing an irritating soundtrack to our shopping trip.

... near the Winter Gardens Aug 2007

The automatic door to the gardens is obviously too large for it's hole. It scrapes along the stone floor producing an incredibly piercing shriek.

(I made a recording of this)

...on the way to a new job January 2007

On the way to work. White noise created from the main road and fountains. A pile driver on a building site sounds like distant thunder. ...on a Foggy Day 14/11/06

There's some cranes on a building site near the office where I work. Whilst walking to work I can hear a regular honk of some kind of warning system as the crane turns. It sounds like a distant ship out in the mist.

..on Western Bank 10/10/06

Near the Children's Hospital, the air ducts were giving out a curious whistling, which reverberated in the steel pipes.

...at Hodgson Street 7/8/06

The sub-station on Hodgson Street looks inaccessible by road. I had no idea you could get round the back of it and hear the powerful electric buzz and hum. Intriguing. I wonder what it sounds like in the night, away from the traffic noise.

...in Newcastle 30/5/06

There's a hole in the bedroom window somewhere. It produces a whistle. Not a high near dog whistle that could be filtered out by my slumbering brain, but a rich woodwind like whistle. In the middle range of a flute probably. Interesting but annoying.

(note: this put the brakes on my aeolian harp project - imagine that wailing away all bloody night!)

...at Home 11/4/06

My home town has a Motorway nearby and because Cheshire is so flat the hum and thrum of the cars travels some 3 miles to my house. I must of heard this as a child. It's a mid range hum. Best heard at night when there's no other sound and if the wind is blowing the right way.

...on Blakeney Road 13/3/06

The way my attic bedroom is set out I have a velux window on each side of the roof. The rain pattering down tonight is at such an angle that each window is like a different speaker in a stereo system. One like a delay of the other.