Tuesday, October 7, 2008

how to make an audio walk

Last Sunday I finished co-tutoring a workshop for the Fruitmarket Gallery with sound designer, Jules Rawlinson - three sessions to develop an intimate narrative focused on a walk around Edinburgh's old town which creates interest whilst also being open-ended. We were using Janet Cardiff's audio walks as our inspiring starting point, and like her, using binaural sound. There was a lot to learn - how to use sound recording equipment and edit the results, how to combine voice, image and captured sound to develop different textures and suggest narrative, and the whole sensitivity to what's dictated by the physical spaces we passed through. Robert Louis Stevenson provided us with some resonances with his descriptions of the decaying splendour of the old town in his day, describing it as a 'huge old human beehive', 'a black labyrinth', the great cliffs of houses piling up and up so that 'the population slept fourteen or fifteen deep in a vertical direction'.

One thing I found interesting was how quickly a narrative developed out of observations of the places we went to. The cool dark enclosure of the little-visited Advocate's Close slowed our pace after the public hub-bub, buskers, and walking tours of the High Street. A small garden amongst scaffolding and graffiti suggested the magical beneath the mundane and began to imply a character who had tended it and had perhaps sat in that abandoned, broken chair. But then the close itself, its broken windows, urine stench and Buckfast empties, started to tell another story, suggest a threat, and so the pace increased again, towards an exit.

The resulting sound piece is quite rough and raw as you might expect from several of us working together under pressure of time and at our own pace of learning, but if you'd like to listen, it can be downloaded from Jules Rawlinson's website listed as 'audio walk' (use headphones).

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