Here are scanned pages from my notebooks. Although all the vital contents have been rewritten onto this site, here they are in their original form.
I sketched and talked through several techniques for building the walls of the space with technicians. With their input, I decided on a two flat right angle structure with extra timber for bars as support. The particular way in which it was built required no drilling into the masonry, as the back wall was supported by being wedged in by the second flat which intersected it, and the second wall was drilled into a support timber, which itself was wedged and drilled into the first flat.
(instert sketch here)
The acoustic foam worked like a charm, although at first a few of the squares were falling off overnight, though this was soon rectified by a stickier brand of carpet tape and topped off by adhesive glue. This worked much better.
After originally planning on utilising the strip lights within the room and affixing baking or tracing paper over the gap between the top of the flat and the ceiling to diffuse the light, I decided to try and purchase a light externally. I needed a clip-on lamp to clip onto the top of the flat which could be adjusted to point in the right direction. I also didn’t want the spread of the light to be too wide as this would hamper the experience for the audience.
I bought 2 bulbs of different lumens and colour balance (strength and warmth) to try out in the space, eventually opting for the warmer and less powerful of the two to create a more secluded atmosphere.
An issue I encountered was trying to keep the light and the sound from the outside corridor from leaking into the space. For the light, I landed on a curtain, which was black fabric hung from the ceiling two layers thick.
The sound that leaked in was possibly a larger issue, although it was reduced fairly significantly if the door remained closed, therefore for the degree show opening, I will affix a sign to the door asking for it to be kept closed, and that only one person should enter the space at a time.
If I had the budget or time, I would like to have been able to fully soundproof the room, although this was not possible on this occasion. Having the audience wear headphones as opposed to playing the sound through speakers does more strongly enforce the distinction between listener and outside world, with less sound leaking out, and less ambient sound heard by the listener themselves.
(instert final image here)
The Listening Project is a collaborative project between Radio 4, BBC Local Radio stations and the British Library. Its premise is poetically simple: one listens to, or perhaps eavesdrop on, to two people having a conversation with each other. They are short – around about 3 minutes long, and the conversationalists know each other beforehand, often friends, and sometimes family.
There is never a prescribed topic or theme, and I don’t think there are rules (although I never hear swearing) so each conversation is not only unique but also doesn’t necessarily fit with any of the other conversations at all.
The low barrier to entry – anybody in the UK could have their conversation recorded, either in their nearest BBC Radio, or in their home – means that not only do you get a variety of topics that are more reflective of the population that a lot of what is often broadcast on Radio 4, but you also get people who are better reflect societal demographics in terms of age, in terms of class, and in terms of accent. Far from ‘BBC English’, on conversations in ‘The listening project’ often have a broad Black country, or Yorkshire, Glaswegian or Swansea accents. This is a breath of fresh air on Radio 4 the West Midlands accent, in particular, feels like home.
Although much of this makes it similar to ‘This American Life’, ‘The listening project’ is distinct in several key ways: the lack of overarching theme, the absolute brevity, the immediate familiarity of the British context, accents and references. It’s collaboration with the British Library also lends it another element – that of the archival. The conversations will act as, and the project is designed in part to generate, something like ‘Time Capsules’. This links with the British Library’s recent exhibition of sound resources. I’m reminded in particular of a clip from the beginning of Radio Four’s ‘Today’ program on the day after the European Union Referendum. The conversations in ‘The listening project’ are also a piece of recorded oral history, but coming from and connected more directly with the general population.
What I gained from this:
What I’m going to take forward:
I’ve been listening to podcasts for several years now, and my absolute favourite has shifted during that time from a design podcast called ‘99 Percent Invisible‘ to a publication with a large following and space in general public media space – ‘This American Life’.
I’ve listened to it so frequently that the opening lines, almost always exactly the same, and almost always uttered by Ira Glass in similar but not identical intonation “It’s This American Life, I’m Ira Glass…”. He’s said it so many times and considers it almost an aside (judging from the credence he often gives it compared to the later part of the sentence – often the topic of the show) and rushes through it.
The format of the show is to choose one particular topic, for example, ‘Words You Can’t Say”, ‘In Dog We Trust’ or ‘Essay B’, and then present three separate stories, known as ‘Acts’ which are variations on the given theme for that week’s show. The stories are often journalistic, but could also be essays, memoirs, short fiction pieces, field recordings (such as stand-up comedy sets) and found footage.
Although the stories and they are most often known as stories regardless of media, do necessarily vary in the topic as well as tone, they are often intimate and enthralling.
This is the real strength of the show, the pieces tend to be around 20 minutes or so long, long enough to be substantial but short enough not to feel dragged out or overwhelming – the time limit is not strictly enforced, but it is an average and that balance of brevity vs substance works well.
What I gained from this:
What I’m going to take forward: