Noise Intercepted Collaborators

Alan Gleeson - Sound artist / Musician


Berlin, Germany

Why do I want to participate?

Over the last few years my practice as an electronic musician has taken me to areas such as electroacoustic composition & acoustic ecology.  Through studio productions and live performance I explore field recordings of nature & urban soundscapes in the hope to deeper understand the audio environment and comment on its evolution.

Twitter: @gleesonalan



Urban FoulNoise Challenge #9: The Free For All

I find this recording intriguing as it was recorded in an urban environment and experiencing it in such a placed seemed bizarre but also encouraging.  Our aural lives are becoming so dominated my man-made sounds that over-power the natural soundscape, a great to loss to everyone.

Gathering MossNoise Challenge #8: The Portrait

When fielding recording you often spend hours exploring different locations searching for something of sonic interest.  Sometimes you have success sometimes not.  You are often in search of a particular sound, or you will expect to capture certain sounds in certain places and situations.  But, sitting at your desk or workspace you are familiar with this sound world, with often the only sounds been those of basic movement and the interaction between you and the prosaic objects around your person.  That said, staying in the single location for a long time can allow something unexpected to happen, different sound worlds can enter your space.  Open a window and it’s like a continuously unfolding soundwalk. The day progresses, seasons change, temperatures rise and fall.

This short piece I present here is a collection of a few of those sounds, showing how dynamic a sound world can be experienced just by sitting at a window and being conscious of the unfolding soundtrack.

Chill the F**k OutNoise Challenge #7: The Cues

As with any city in Berlin there are often conflicts between the various groups that use the roads for transport.  Buses, taxis, motorists, cyclists, Mercedes drivers, and even pedestrians all take a strong view on who has the right of way in a given situation.  Luckily in Berlin there is a friendlier attitude on the roads when compared with other cities.  In a lot of areas the cycle paths are on the footpath though.  Talk to any tourist in Berlin and they will tell or encounters, near death experiences, or even injuries suffered after unwittingly strolling into the cycle lane.  Despite all this courtesy there is a certain breed of cyclist that when a pedestrian accidently gets in their way they act as if you have committed the ultimate sin.  They will throw a barrage of insults at you and will probably almost run you down.  Why there are some like this when most others find the balance and show courtesy? Rather than anger towards these individuals I only find amusement.  This piece is dedicated to them, it’s entitled Chill the F**k Out.

Purple Monkey DishwasherFeatured&Noise Challenge #6: The Eavesdropper

I have done tests in the past that proved to me that we also hear with our eyes.  Walking around blindfolded you become aware of your eyes trying to focus in on the sounds and gather more descriptors as to what it is and it’s exact source.  When you couple this with both the source and the observer in motion an array of effects happen to hinder a sound’s understanding, location, and in the case of words, meaning.

In this piece there are 47 samples containing dialogue, which also include sound from the environment in which they where recorded.  The average sample is around 6 seconds long.  In recombining/reconstructing this material I wanted to manipulate some of the positional cues that help us locate sound.  I did this by exploiting “boosted bands”.  These are particular frequency ranges that we always sense coming from a certain direction.  Of course there is also movement in the sound, by the source, myself, or both, which create a Doppler effect.  In this piece (as far as I can tell) the languages are; German, Turkish, French, Polish, English, and Spanish.  What’s interesting is that while this piece is a construction, it does not feel like it.  I was not attempting to create a naturalistic recording by I guess hearing fragmented sounds and conversation is a normal experience of daily life.

The Subtle Lightness of SpringFeatured&Noise Challenge #5: The Senses

In trying to think how my senses are affected by the coming of spring it is hard to isolate one sense.  Linked to emotion, both the literal and metaphorical transformation of daylight, colours, temperature, sounds and smells combine to bring me an overall sense of lightness. Everywhere the pressure of winter reseeds and spring rejuvenates animal, plant, and city.

The soundscape I have created is a walk around my neighbourhood, at evening, night, and day.  The way we hear, listen, and experience sound is influenced by many factors.  To highlight the subtle changes happening around me I filtered the recordings to reveal subtleties masked by the lo-fi din of the city. This allowed me to hear things such as fish jumping for flies in the canal, bats aerodynamics, and also to measure how different birds sing and communicate in different frequency ranges.  This I knew already, but it was pleasant discovery none the less.  It is always interesting to experience the familiar in a new light. The soundscape of a city can be a beast to live with, but discovering that there is life beyond the din is encouraging.  Maybe there is time to still reclaim some of it.

Corpus CallosumNoise Challenge #4: The Soundtrack

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I don’t listen to music on headphones at all when out and about in Berlin.  Like most cities it’s too noisy, and I don’t want to damage my ears by cranking the music so I can hear, and in a sense feel it.  Sometimes if you are listening to something dense it can work at lower levels.  I often listen on headphones at home, either when people are sleeping or to check a sound mix I am working on.

For this task I focused on my point about not been able to hear the music properly, without outside, unwanted interference.  Currently I am listening to acousmatic, ultra-minimal, or soundscape type music, very chilled most of the time with lots of low-level detail.  While it can be interesting sometimes to have the outside world “join in” and contribute sounds, most of the time this is undesirable. So, I decided to reverse the situation. The track I chose to listen to repeatedly was a nu disco/house track I made some time ago, called Vega.  Using a technique called concatenative synthesis (fancy!), also sometimes called Mosaicing, I used the audio from the 3 previous challenges as a source material database, and the track Vega as the “target.” The result of this process and what you hear is what the 3 source files have in common in terms of frequency, amplitude, and dynamics with Vega.  All you hear ARE the outside sounds, with the target track “playing” the source material.  As the first 3 pieces spoke about the environment I am in, I thought it appropriate to use them.  I could of used additional source material but I wanted this piece to connect to the other works and to the project.  This is a process piece entitled Corpus Callosum.

Corpus Callosum

Empty vessels make the sweetest soundFeatured&Noise Challenge #3: The Empty

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Teufelsberg is a famous urban explorers location on the outskirts of Berlin.  The location has had an interesting history, mostly notably of being a US cold war listening station, which housed the latest tech to listen in on the Reds.  All this tech is long gone but some amazing buildings remain.  In the highest tower, enclosed by a strange globe, features an almost spherical room with amazing acoustics.  When I visited this room I made some recordings and also made an impulse response (IR) of the space.   Creating an IR allows you to place other sounds into this space, similar to artificial reverb.  This composition is a mix of sounds from the space, some manipulated, and using the IR of the space the ambience is further enhanced in order to get a sense of what the space is actually like.

Empty vessels make the sweetest sound

Aeolian ConstructionNoise Challenge #2: The Little Things

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Wind through Scaffolding  – A recording of the plastic covering on the scaffolding of a building under construction, blowing in the wind.

Definitely not little in the literal sense, but the sights and sounds of construction in a city are so omnipresent that you would never usually stop and listen to them with the notion that they are soothing and pleasant.  Yet that’s how this event sounded to me.  Reminiscent of waves crashing on a beach, nature here in the form of the wind, interacting with steel and plastic brought a foreign soundscape into the confines of the city.

The original recording is processed to make it sound more “cinematic”.  I also analysed the recording and used the dynamic and timbral content to create additional layers of sound.

Aeolian Construction

Rush hour at KottiNoise Challenge #1: The Pulse

This is an Idealized soundscape of rush hour at a busy city intersection. Unfortunately this is an illusion, but we can always dream.

The recording is from number of busy locations around the city of Berlin, with the main part from a busy intersection, Kotbusser Tor.

In the past I have studied the sound of a number of cities in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Berlin, Germany. The conclusion I arrived at is that all cities sound the same, more or less. Of course there can be individual features in a city, eg clocks or the transport system. But when I talk about the sound or pulse of a city I mean the everyday sound that people encounter, this is less than unique. Ever since the industrial revolution the din in cities has changed to a “lo-fi” drone, on top of what sits a cacophony composed of cars, trains, construction, and demolition, spitting out its omnipresent song. This is where the power of our own ears has helped us. We are able to filter out a great deal of this disturbance so we can function and communicate amongst this onslaught. This is possibly also why we have let the sound of our cities deteriorate so much, to the point where it can cause physical and emotional, and mental damage. People are now starting to wake up and realise we need to protect our soundscape and treat our most sensitive organ to more pleasant surroundings.

Through using a recorder we can hear the full force of this sonic barrage, minus the filtering carried out by our ears. Using computer processing and filtering I have created an idealised, but not perfect impression of how I wish Berlin could sound. When compared with the original recordings, this work is lighter and more spacious. There is a sense of less physical pressure on the body, leaving more space to think, reflect and breathe.

In 2011 the European Regional Office of the World Health Organisation published a document entitled ‘Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise’. It suggests that there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population. The publication provides an evidence base for the future development of suitable guidelines on noise by WHO. It supports the recommendations as set out in the ‘Night Noise Guidelines for Europe’ publication and supports this view based on a review of evidence based assessments of the impact of noise on health. (The Traffic Noise & Air Quality Unit, 2012)