Last year I started making monthly posts about the audio projects and productions I was working on or enjoying each month. Despite being a highly enjoyable project, I somehow fell off the wagon back in April last year and never quite got back into the swing of it. As I seem to have fallen back out of the habit of writing anything at all here, I thought it was high time I resurrected the project.
I started this year with lots of plans and schemes for sound related projects that I would do this year and naturally life happened and most of them fell by the wayside. One of the major problems I have with making New Years Resolutions is that its easy to get half-way through the year and realise that you’ve not got round to half of them and just give up for the year. To tell yourself that you’ll ‘try again next year’. It’s easy to let it become a vicious circle of ‘next year I’ll write more’ or ‘next year I’ll do more field recording’ instead of just getting out there and doing more of the thing.
One of my plans for this year was to go out making field sound recordings more often. I started out with good intentions in January spending an afternoon making some field recordings and setting myself the target of doing that once a month to get myself into the habit. Of course the danger of starting that kind of challenge in January is that, well, it rains a lot in Scotland at the best of times and its really easy to find excuses/reasons to not go out sound recording. It’s entirely reasonable to not go out when you know your recordings are going to be ruined by howling wind or pouring rain. And then with the spring work picks up again and so the world turns.
It’s also all too easy to get hung up on getting the ‘perfect’ recording. Finding the perfect spot and the perfect conditions is all very well when you know the place well but sometimes it can interfere with getting anything recorded at all. And then there’s the ever present doubt of whether a sound is ‘interesting enough’ to be worth committing all that time and energy to capturing properly.
Last month I found myself in Budapest for a long weekend and I made the last minute decision to take my sound recorder with me. Being in Budapest neatly overturned all my doubts and worries about the ‘usefulness’ of the sounds I was recording. Almost everything I saw and heard in Budapest was new and different. The rattle of the trams and the chiming of the cathedral bells, even the buzz of conversation on the street was worth recording because it was unique to the place. I spent some glorious hours puttering around on public transport recording the sounds of engines, echoes and announcements.
I’ve long known that the world sounds different through a microphone and headphones, but I’d forgotten how differently you’re viewed when you’re wearing headphones and holding a microphone. In general there are two different responses to the giant headphones and a microphone, either people want to talk and to hear what you’re recording or you become completely invisible. In Budapest I became invisible, when I wasn’t focused on what I was doing, I watched people recognise what I was doing and – sometimes visibly – categorise me as harmless and ignore me. Even the dreaded ticket inspectors didn’t bother investigating what I was up to, apparently holding a microphone was a license to wander and lurk. The hawkers and street people, ignored me utterly, perhaps they’d learned by experience that I would likely be delighted to listen to their patter, but only interested in recording it. It was like slipping on a disguise or a costume, one that allowed me to shed my tourist skin and blend in as just another piece of street theatre.
I got some lovely recordings of trams and metro trains, of fountains and church bells and street performances. A small flavour of the city. Every time I look at the file marked ‘Budapest’ I feel inspired, I feel delighted, I feel…like I need a bigger memory card for my recorder…