The sound of a tsunami

The indescribably chilling sound, recorded on the ocean bottom, using hydrophones belonging to a group researching undersea volcanism, of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that tore up Eastern Japan in March 2011. The sound has been sped-up 16 times. Lots more information, and a second recording, on the Vents Program’s web site.

Download the MP3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stanley Kubrick in 1966

This is surprising and charming. Stanley Kubrick, that most severe of creative forces, is positively playful in this interview with journalist Jeremy Bernstein from 1966. He talks about his college days and his early work as a photographer.

Download the MP3.

Bernstein’s Kubrick page has some other nice items.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bells and projectors

These two recordings made for a lovely ride home from work today. Both are from Touch Radio, which is the podcast of unorthodox record label Touch, founded thirty years ago by Cabaret Voltaire member and elite sound recordist Chris Watson and friends Jon Wozencroft (thanks to Mike Harding for correcting me on Touch’s origins in a comment).

The first is called ‘Bells‘ and it was recorded in the tower of St. Mary’s Church, Walthamstow. A sequence of peals, some simple, some quite complicated. It’s haunting. Concentrate and it’s like a trip back to the origins of music – something so primitive (not in the pejorative sense) about these primal rhythms and tones (a counterpoint, by the way, to this amazing new work by Howard Skempton, scored for church bells – available for another couple of days on the Radio 3 web site. Also, you can hear church bells every Sunday morning on Radio 4).

The second is a lovely conversation with two collectors and restorers of historic film projectors, David Cleveland & Nigel Lister. Their knowledge and enthusiasm is hugely endearing and the sounds of the projectors themselves, one of which dates back to 1904, are amazingly subtle and intriguing. Also a quite gripping journey here – across the history of moving pictures to the halls and parlours where the first films were shown. Further testament to the special power of sound too, if you needed it. Not that you needed it.

Bells. Download the MP3.

David Cleveland & Nigel Lister. Download the MP3.

The Touch archive is a thing of beauty. Subscribe to the Touch podcast here or on iTunes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Human mic

If the Occupy movement has a sound it’s the mic check – the sound of a crowd arriving at a consensus without the aid of amplification. Invented specifically to circumvent the prohibition of megaphones and PAs in the public spaces occupied, the mic check (or human mic) is an almost insanely polite, maddeningly slow means of communication that’s as much about the rather self-conscious rejection of hierarchy as it is about passing a message across an open space. Mic checks are now used as a means of protest and disruption too – George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff Karl Rove was singled out for a mic check at a recent speaking engagement. He wasn’t happy.

Here’s one from a Soundcloud set recorded by Matt B. Carrboro and published under a Creative Commons licence. More on Soundcloud.

Download the MP3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Sound Survey

Something extraordinary going on here. IM Rawes is building a finely-textured archive of London sounds, published under posterity-friendly licences and with a range of clever ways to access the audio (maps, historic and current, being the main way in). I’m somewhat in awe – and quite excited about being able to contribute my own sounds via the Soundcloud dropbox. This one – I could have chosen dozens – is a lovely suburban snapshot recorded on Horsendenhill golf course in North-West London. A minute of stereo sound, recorded by IM Rawes, including all the signature sounds you’d expect: “rumble of distant traffic with sirens, bird song,” and, my favourite bit “occasional thwack of golf clubs.”

Download the MP3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The instruments of Harry Partch

This one fell from the sky – or at least from WFMU’s Twitter feed. The whole of the third LP from Partch’s 1969 triple album release of Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion

A marvellous disquisition on the origins of Partch’s many instruments. More on the WFMU blog.

Download the MP3

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The sound of a Warcraft dungeon

Kindly recorded for me (in binaural ‘headphone mode’) by my thirteen year-old son Oliver. I’ve always been intrigued by the sound of the great battles and quests unfolding on the screen when he’s playing World of Warcraft. So he’s recorded eight minutes from a level-74 instance – in this case a dungeon, which is a challenge for five players in which they kill bosses and mobs, win rewards, gain EXP (experience) and reputation. You’ll hear: the beginning of the dungeon, the player dying and running to his corpse, the despatching of many mobs (‘mobiles’, non-player entities), the attack on the boss, lots of running and gunshots, the voice of a dragon, the summoning of pets, some aspect switching and map rustling. In short, the whole experience!

Download the MP3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Malaysia, 1903

A haunting recording from 1903. The artist is a Malaysian musician called Qasim, the piece is called ‘Lagu Nuri Terbang Malam’. It was among the first recordings made in Asia by recording industry legend Fred Gaisberg. It’s collected here, in WFMU’s Free Music Archive, by the esteemed Excavated Shellac, whose library of old folklore recordings is wonderful. More information about this recording on the Free Music Archive’s web site and on the Excavated Shellac blog.

Download the MP3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

James Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake

From Ubuweb, of course. Joyce is reading – in a lovely, comical brogue – a passage about Anna Livia Plurabelle. I might tell you something about ALP but that would be to give you the impression that I have read the book. I have not read the book. Sylvia Beach, proprietor of legendary Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, who paid for the recording, at HMV’s factory near Paris in 1924, introduces it here. A blast of warm air from the same year in which Gershwin wrote his Rhapsody in Blue.

Download the MP3 from Ubuweb.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Circe equestre, Paris

This is gorgeous. A field recording of a very good nine-piece Romanian gypsy band at a Parisian circus, made in 2009 and published under a Creative Commons licence by notthisbody at the excellent

Download the MP3 from

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment