I accidentally gave myself a bit of writers block last week, as I had two more posts I wanted to make about the Inverness Film Festival but wasn’t feeling at all inspired to write them. Therefore I couldn’t write anything else until I’d written them. Completely logical.
Yesterday, I finished catching up with a really interesting sound-related podcast, Knitsonik, so I decided to write about that instead – and hopefully kick the writer’s block to the curb while I’m at it.
Approximately a year ago, at a friend’s birthday party, I got into a discussion with someone about my twin passions of sound design and knitting. Now the relationship between these two things is completely clear to me, but is not something that is always obvious to other people. In fact, until that point the only person I knew who really shared these as twin, interweaved passions, was my former tutor from my masters course Gary Hayton and he’s now a Textile Artist who applies Fibonacci number sequences to knitted fabric. So to casually meet some in everyday life who not only didn’t think it was an odd combination of passions but did in fact tell me they knew someone who had done their PHD in that sort of thing and that they had a podcast about the subject. The idea that there were enough people into both of those things to sustain a podcast was both surprising and delightful.
(The exception is generally if you’re really into maths. Maths geeks – and occasionally engineers – who knit will nod understandingly and talk to me about Fibonacci sequences and the golden ratio and then be horrified that I’m not only not a maths geek but that I don’t actually like maths. Most sound designers seem to come from either a maths/engineering background or a music composition background, I’m neither, I’m first and foremost a craftsperson. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was altering a knitting pattern the other week – I didn’t have any graph paper to hand so I used an excel spreadsheet – that I realised that I visualise knitting designs the same way that I design soundscapes. Interchangeable blocks that layer and interweave to create something new and unique.)
Having spent the early months of this year clearing out my backlog of podcasts, I was able to justify subscribing to a few new ones and Knitsonik was naturally among the first to be chosen back in March. Why did it take until now for me to work my way through the backlog? Certainly not because the podcast isn’t interesting. It’s not even that the episodes are long, though that does mean I need to carve out time specifically to listen rather than sticking them on in short periods between other things. The problem with the podcast is that it’s…well…too interesting and inspiring. I couldn’t binge listen to it, because I came out of each episode really wanting to go and do some field recordings or make some sound art. Around 50% of my sound recording field trips this year, were as a direct result of listening to this podcast. I’d sit down with a pot of tea and some knitting on a Sunday afternoon intending to have a binge listen and a couple of hours later I’d be standing somewhere unexpected wearing my giant headphones, recording an interesting bird noise or weird echo and wondering vaguely how I’d got there.
I keep forgetting how much listening to other people be passionate about sound design and sound art stirs up my own passion for the work. (You would think that the exponential increase in my sound production work when the hospital radio station I used to volunteer with had an artist in residence would have clued me in but apparently not.) Sound is, in many ways, quite a solitary pursuit. Anti-social even. You spend a lot of time listening really hard to your environment; it’s quite hard to do in company unless you’re working on something that specifically needs another person to achieve. (The idea of embedding sound in a place, or in objects of the place the sound originates from, is increasingly important to me, especially since I relocated to the Highlands.) It is, therefore, quite easy to feel isolated in your work. Especially, if you don’t live in a large metropolis with an established community of sound artists. Even having an outlet like this blog, it can feel a bit like no-one’s listening.
Therefore, it’s been great to have this window into someone else’s sound projects, their passions and quirks, especially that rare confluence of viewing sound design/art as a craft with all that that implies. And oddly comforting to know that someone else finds sheep noises just as compelling and comical as I do.
Perhaps, if this year’s project was to write more about sound, then next year’s project should be to send more sound out into the world. Not just the stuff that I get paid to make, but the little projects that I make just for the joy of making soundscapes too.