Posts Tagged: ‘skytrain’

Sensory postcard: Downtown Vancouver in Transit

February 12, 2014 Posted by Milena D

Even though I drive now, and have been for a while, the sound of various transit and traffic vehicles are still quite forefront in my experience and my urban sensibilities. After all, even when I walk on the street, I am affronted with the sounds of various cars and public transit vehicles. In celebration of finally upgrading my phone from a 4 to an iphone 5S, I have been on the lookout for various applications for ‘urban experiencing’ to play around with. I was hoping for a newer and improved version of RJDJ which would take advantage of the new Motion+ chip, but alas, there appears to be no money in that as RJDJ have closed doors and abandoned even hosting the scenes and recordings I used to be crazy about (see previous posts and this one too). I was dreaming about even more ‘reactive ambient experiencing’ from the company, but alas. They have focused on a niche of ‘intelligent’ delivery of music. Strange, I digress, but their model originally was always that – to deliver music in the urban soundscape, as a music label company. The reactive environmental sound pickup was actually just a smart gimmick – an add-on, to promote small music labels. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who got crazy about the concept and idea of picking up live sound and processing it in real-time. I didn’t really need any musical accompaniment?! I mean, it *sounds* like music, once you grab sounds around you and modify and filter them in, it’s magical, everything is animated, like your otherwise boring commute is telling you a story. Well. That was that. End of rant.

Below, are two videos of an app I have been experimenting with – Speaking Photo, and later, Picle. Both  essentially allow you to snap photo + record sound. Both encourage you (seem to be geared towards) combining these tiny static videos into a ‘story’ or ‘slodeshow’. Picle is better looking but more crashy, and allows only up to 10 seconds of recording (perhaps tearing a page out of Vine’s book?). Speaking Photo is not the prettiest thing but it works and allows up to 25 secs or so of recording (taking after Instagram). I want to come clean right away – what I really wanted was Foundbite but sadly and I’m sure purposefully, it only comes for Windows Phone 8. Foundbite seems perfect – an all-in-one: location-based geo-tagged, you record sound while you take multiple pictures and the app puts it together for you in one nice, slick package – a little slideshow that gets tagged to a location on a giant (global?) soundmap. Oh well. The moral of the story is, there simply isn’t enough interest in audio-based or primarily audio-based applications for ambient, locational experience. I did dabble a bit into Digisocial, Dubbler and Hubbub, which besides the horrible off-putting names (who comes up with this seriously? why does a sound-based social network’s name have to sound like a fat bee buzzing around). But ultimately they all seem a bit silly. Dubbler allows you to change the pitch of your voice (or any sound) as you record so it’s trying to encourage a bit of experimentation, but mostly browsing around it, I’ve found people recording themselves signing, etc. Doesn’t really work as a social network. I mean, part of text-based platforms like the web (and yes, I know it has images) is the anonymity. Voice feels wayyyy too personal, far too revealing about ourselves. I just can’t see it working, and I really want to.

So once again, below is a slideshow of one of my first attempts at using Picle. It’s comprised of several typical downtown Vancouver spaces featuring….yes, the sounds of traffic. Especially when listened to on headphones, what is interesting is to hear the difference in sound levels and sound quality in the different times and conditions. That’s kind of what I like better about this approach to sound recording versus pure sound recording. The photo does provide the context I think, for fully appreciating the contrast between the different sound environments.

In this one here, while it’s just a continuation of my recordings in-transit, is interesting I think because it features richer details of the soundscapes inside different public transit vehicles. I especially like the second one because it is done in one of the skytrain cars from the old, original skytrain – the King George line. That line I find has a pronounced train-like sound, there is something about the construction of the wheels and cabin, how they travel over the rails that is very attractive and more pleasant for me. The newer lines sound very sterile inside, still loud, but somehow wooshy and ambient and hydraulic. Less like a train. The last bit in the video is actually me standing outside, in a bus loop while hearing the passing of skytrain cars overhead.

RjDj Universe!

November 17, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Ok, I have discovered a whole new way of experiencing everyday listening….still through my iPhone. Will the possibilities never end????? (Steve Jobs, pay me now, for free promo, or gimme cheezburgr, ktnx). After downloading this app called RjDj a while back, and wondering what the heck it does, something made me go back to it again and discover a whole new world of experiences. Initially, I only tried out the few simple interactive modules like Can of Beats and Scrambler. I have to admit, one thing that stopped me, or rather, made me lose interest at the time was, these were super quiet. Like suuuuuuper quiet. And there were only a few. I know I’ve updated it several times but I never checked back to see what was updated. And then recently I went back to discover a ton of new content, with the “scenes” separated by themes and modes of interactivity. Albeit still glitchy, probably due to the fact that most of this is user-generated content (using their great Pd-based software!!!) it contains a number of quite sophisticated, cool sound modules. The ability to record these scenes has been amazing for me. It’s like new style composition! One type of scenes called Soundtrips is especially interesting, relative to my research (I am thinkging of including it as an activity in the next two user sessions) – it contains modules specifically designed to interact with, sample and re-mix the environment around. Once again, I remember thinking about this a long time ago, trying these out at home, without headphones – “but it’s quiet here??!? I want to create music not wait for a sound to trigger something!!!”. So I thought, if I have to put on headphones at home, forget it, and if it’s so quiet, how would I hear it outside in all the noise of the city.

But now, I take this baby on the road and just listen to it go. Amazing! It was a big mental shift for me to put on the earbuds and go out. I often opt not to listen to music on the go becuase everthing is too loud and i just don’t want to ruin my hearing by turning it up too high. So the shift was precisely that – listening to a Soundtrip scene IS both like listening to music and listening to the outside environment at the same time, so the fact that they blend only adds to the experience. The whole point is ambient listening and the integration of the outside environment into that ambient listening experience. In other words, I am no longer trying to separate my inner and outer worlds, but combine them. Michael Bull could have a field day with this, but I found it first yesss!

I’ll likely blog about this a few more times, and for now here’s a little taste from my RjDj universe, a series I think I’m going to call “Commuter Music”. And since RJDJ have now closed their website, here is a bit of an oldie I saved on Soundcloud:

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: Canada Line Skytrain

March 10, 2010 Posted by Milena D

I originally started this recording going out to meet my mom on one of the busiest Olympics 2010 weekends. I see now that I have made the dB measurement the evening before – also a busy Olympic evening. Actually ever since the Canada Line was open I’ve been wanting to measure the sound levels there, because it seems excessively louder than the other underground skytrain lines. First, even the spatial acoustics for some reason sound boomier, bigger (as per Truax’s notion of ‘volume’) and more reverberant due to the lack of any damping material and the open mid-section architecture that allows sound to travel up, resonate and form standing waves (something which isn’t the case in Granville station or Waterfront, etc.).

Because of this space, the skytrain sounds quite ominous and noisy, more of its broadband spectrum contained and audible inside…as it arrives through the tunnels, it literally sounds quite a big bigger – like a commuter train on railroads pulling into a station. To add to this, the PA system announcing the trains and other information, when first installed was really too too loud – I heard informally that due to complaints Translink actually adjusted the volume down…It still sounds very loud and reverberant in large part to the issue described above – the spatial acoustics that allow it to reflect, resonate and reverberate in a bigger space.

The next recording I took inside the train, partially because I wanted to capture that moment of inside-outside acoustically (I have always been fascinated by it) and partially because I’ve always been struck by how loud the skytrain can sound on the inside, particularly when it picks up speed. It can be heard here again, increasing in intensity almost to painful levels, almost to a “jet pause” – where people no longer being able to compete with the engine noise have to seize their conversation temporarily. Then…arriving at the next station, it seizes to almost silence, then it all repeats again.