Posts Tagged: ‘poetry’

Aural Postcard: Blood Diamond Mix

August 22, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Not that I have so much to say, but this happened recently and it was too good not to document. I guess just as an aside note, the iPhone has really “revolutionized” this type of documenting for me. Usually, even though I have a high-quality recorder, I’d only take it on special occasions, go purposefully to record. The iPhone allows me to record on the spot, if something extraordinary or interesting happens. Anyways, what happened is I walked into the skytrain to go home. It was late, but not super late. At first I thought these two people were talking, but then I realized that everyone was pretending to ignore a tall skinny black guy who seemed to be talking to himself or recite something. I remember I was listening to Florence and the Machine on my headphones, and experiencing this, reflecting, at the same time, on how oddly interesting the combination is between the music and the emphatic recitations at hand. I can honestly say I still don’t know if this guy was preparing for an acting part, if he was a street poet, if he was moved by the issue but drunk, or just plain crazy. But I sadly wondered how many of the people sitting around me, trying to not look this guy in the eye, have any idea what Blood Diamonds are. (Not that I know so much but….c’mon, Hollywood took care of that). Sad, poignant issue. Below I have tried to recreate after the fact, the combination I was experiencing – F&M song and a recording from the skytrain with the ‘poet’ in it. Striking, I think.

Aural Postcard: Poetry @Rhizome cafe

March 1, 2010 Posted by Milena D

This is my first attempt at an aural postcard. The reason why I want to do this, inspired by the application “dB” is to give as full and rich idea as possible of a particular soundscape, particular aural context, what happened there for a length of time, details that other measures alone won’t be able to capture (e.g. simply taking a decibel measurement, but also, simply recording the soundscape does not give away the whole picture either).

I am ultimately going to try and make it possible for me to collect and display separate posts relating to aural postcards here, but for now, I wanted to just introduce the concept.

Annotation: As already mentioned, the measurements in dB (the program) are unweighted and therefore anywhere from 10 to 20-something decibels off (meaning, the actual dB is lower). Therefore, in the actual setting displayed above, Rhizome coffee shop, poetry reading, amplified by one mic and at least two powered speakers, with mostly silent audience, but a semi-open kitchen emitting some noise, the actual readings are around the high 50s dB, with peaks of possibly 70 dB as clicking from dishes in the kitchen, as well as plosives popping on the mic do account for sudden peaks in sound pressure.

Narrative: When I arrived, the place was lively but not loud, with people milling about, ordering last-minute food and drinks before the poetry reading begins. I joined in and squeezed in a corner on the righthand side of the speakers, in line of the mic. Because the owner helped lower the mic for the first speaker, everyone subsequently ended up using that setting, which was really too low for most and therefore resulted in a lot of gusts of air and plosives popping out the stereo system. I couldn’t help but think, as I often do at such events, why do we even need amplification? This is a poetry reading in a small-sized venue, with a respectful quiet audience. These speaker could very well use their natural voices (project a bit) and be clearly heard by all. I pondered for a while on the fact that using amplification has become “the default” for really any venue. It’s true the advantage of a mic is that one can achieve much greater sense of intimacy by whispering into it, but then again, what happened to attentive listening? If we have to strain to hear a quiet poetry passage, what is so wrong with that?

Shortly after the first speaker had begun, I became aware of the clanking, water gushing, feet shuffling sounds that came from the kitchen – from its open wall concept. I found that these sounds really clashed with the poetry. No it’s not so much that they were loud, it’s more that one, they were irregular, sudden, unpredictable, yet persistent; and two, they invoked in me a very different context, sense of atmosphere, than the words spoken by the poet – words that are meant to draw mental images, invite us to imagine places, actions, situations. Then I started to wonder whether anyone else was feeling the same way. I had a perfect seat, to the side and at the front, giving me a great, clear view of the main cluster of audience members in front of the stage. A hardcore poetry crowd, these people were poised for absorbing the poetry. Or, they feigned it really well. Or, they were slightly bored and thus – mellow, appearing focussed. It was just impossible for me to tell what was going on for each person. And then, after a little while i started to notice little signs of broken concentration – turning heads, shuffling in seats, nervous picking and rubbing with fingers anything in sight. I tried to relate these occurrences to particularly disruptive sounds coming from the kitchen – and given that they were the only source of  distraction – I felt that there was definitely a relationship. I would even say, had this audience been less disciplined, supportive and respectful of poetry, there would have been a lot more shuffling and straining in order to localize sources of aural onslaught.

dB: Sound portraits, aural postcards

February 27, 2010 Posted by Milena D

So I’ve become somewhat obssessed with sound level meter apps for the iPhone. After I bought dB from  Faber Acoustical I was confounded by the usual complaints I encountered on sound level app comments  pages – that it registers too high decibel levels. I mean, 77 decibels at a poetry reading, at a coffee shop, with  a peak of 92 dB? Yes, the speaker’s voice was amplified, and partly, I was looking to find out how much that  added to the ambience. I did a quick reference check with SPL

(Studio Six) and it read in the low 50s. Then the answer came to me, of course, it’s unweighted, so it’s picking up all those rumbling low frequencies as sound level pressure. Still, 20 dB is a lot! But how can I resist it when it puts out cute overlays like these.


Hard to explain at each one though that it is off by over 20 dB. I guess I’ll have to put together my own using a camera and SPL readings, unless I spring for Faber’s Signal Meter. A more   detailed post to follow about the poetry reading and its ambience, including a couple more readings and snapshots. Look under Aural Postcards.