A tale of serendipity … by way of a story.
Three strangers embarking on the Society and Space masters at the same time decide to produce a radio show together. Inspired by the theoretical readings and innovative research on the course, they come to inhabit the university’s radio studio once a week for between one and two hours.
What started out as a sonic exploration bringing together themes of the course and interesting stories in and around Bristol, soon evolved into an experimental practice of mixing music, recorded ‘found’ sounds and our voices. Nervously preparing hours ahead of the first show to only a few weeks later rushing into the studio last minute and improvising an entire episode, our time in the studio is spent asking what it means to listen and attend to the experience of sound in our everyday environments. Sometimes shows have a clear theme, sometimes they wander off in unexpected ways, but they always take us on a journey.
We have been delving into phonographic research for a year now, with more than twenty live episodes (fifteen of which are recorded) over two seasons. The third season has already commenced and we want to share our experiments and story so far. We want to do this both in this introductory blog article and by inviting the reader to tune in on a Sunday evening and listen for themselves.
Soundscaping: a theoretical and methodological exploration of sound, curation, collective research practices and attentive listening
Our experiments with recording sound and the regular practice of curating an hour show have led us down novel, vibrant and thought-provoking avenues in geographic and specifically phonographic research. On one level the show itself exhibits an interest and engagement in an incredible variety and richness of themes through listening to, recording and playing back ‘found’ sounds. These span topics from planetary noise and the Anthropocene, to home and place making, to Bristol’s colonial history and storytelling as well as journalistic reportage on last years strike action. However, we have come to appreciate ‘what the show is about’ as something much greater than the sonic inspired pathways and themes it leads us down. Rather, Bristol Soundscapes has come to take on great significance methodologically (and personally) as a research practice.
Our collective forays into the phonographic are a form of guidance in how to experiment creatively with theory and innovative methodologies in geographical research. One might say that Bristol Soundscapes involves a lot of doing. The following actions serve as more useful aids to understanding what it is Bristol Soundscapes might be: recording, playing back, transmitting, tuning in and tuning out; listening, conversing, reflecting, thinking, making noise and sounds; improvising, imitating, telling anecdotes as well as laughing, making mistakes, playing, experimenting and freestyling. We attempt to make space for a practice of listening and attunement – a practice that is not necessarily pre-defined, easily categorised and therefore applicable but one that is dynamic, generative and constantly evolving. Such a practice affords us many challenges and opportunities. Responsiveness, improvisation and communication among others are a number of such considerations. This has necessitated honing a craft of ‘attentive listening’. How we pay attention to the experience of sound in our everyday lives through listening and thoughtful reflection has led to an engagement with places, environments, ambiences, technologies, processes and ultimately an engagement with each other as co-curators of a creative research practice. We also hope that this one hour – now fittingly on a Sunday evening – will also envelop our listeners in a space of attentive listening themselves, an immersive space in which to slow down, check in and reflect.
This is our last season on Burst Radio, which gives us the impetus to reflect on our practice and our intentions. We have come to an exciting point where we are looking to deepen the scope of our research and look beyond it to see what potential this burgeoning interplay of sonic and curative research methodologies in the interstices of geographic and creative research. Consequently, we want to expose our practice and encourage more people who might be interested to tune in, engage with us in listening and thereby encourage us to explore our research in greater depth.
Bristol Soundscapes is live every Sunday evening from 6pm-7pm on Burst Radio.
To tune in:
Previous episodes are uploaded regularly and can be found on either Facebook or mixcloud:
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Written and edited by Stanley Connell-Longman and Lukas Peter