Listening to Spaces Project

Spaces and Sounds

For this semester for the listening and spaces project the ideas and themes that initially I decided to look at would be on sounds produced organically by nature as these seem to be so out of reach in this day and age as modern society continuously expands its city landscapes pushing nature further away from its natural source bringing a sort of imbalance between nature and cities.

City sounds like busses, trains, airplanes and other noisy mechanized transportation have become so predominant that these can be heard miles away from nature reserves.

The idea I had was to attempt to bring back the natural sounds of nature in a way they could still be appreciated by many people that work and live in the cities and don’t have the time to be physically present where they’re surrounded by nature.

Nature sounds in my opinion can have a positive effect on society in general if used sensibly. When people are out of reach from such nurturing sounds for long periods of time an imbalance to their wellbeing can be observed, hence why anti-social behaviour can normally be observed in large cities.

“Sound Sense: Nurturing Healing Through Our Sensory Connections

By Sheila Patel, M.D.

Medical Study Points to Healing Power of Music and Silence
Just as some kinds of sound, such as music, are thought to have healing properties, other persistent and annoying sounds (also known as noise) can have the opposite effect. Many of my patients have told me that the constant noises that pervade hospital wards hardly make for a calming, restorative environment. Most people find it hard to rest with the din of machines, televisions, carts, and gurneys humming, droning, and rattling around them.  This is especially true in the intensive care unit, where electrical beeps and alarms are constantly sounding. An interesting study published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) speaks to the power of sound in our environment and how it can affect patients. The authors evaluated two groups of intensive care patients: one group listened to music they selected themselves, while the other group used noise-cancelling headphones to block out background noise. These two test groups were compared to a control group of intensive-care patients who received the usual care with no sound intervention.

The researchers found that the patients who listened to their own music, as well as the patients who blocked out noise with headphones, had less anxiety compared to the patients who had no intervention. More interesting, the patients who listened to music used less sedative medication compared to both the headphone-using group and the control group. This suggests that simply blocking out excess noise benefited all patients, and that there was a difference between simple noise reduction and listening to music.

Although the JAMA study was small and looked at a limited population, the results support the observations of ancient healers that stimuli entering our bodies – in this case, through our ears – can affect our physiology. These findings bring to light the importance of studying how sensory input affects healing. If inexpensive and safe interventions like decreasing noise or listening to music can help patients reduce anxiety and limit their need for sedative drugs, that’s a step forward in making hospitals the calming and restorative places we’d like them to be.”

Source: chopra.com

I would like to see my project which based on this idea, developing more in terms of how it could benefit society in general and not just be viewed as a piece of art, but rather extended to other areas of society where people tend to gather. In hospitals, I think nature sounds like rain, the waves of the ocean or wind blowing the leaves of trees or birds chirping for example, could have calming effects on patients helping them improve their sleep by relieving them of too much overthinking and worry.

In other areas like shopping centers or supermarkets where most people are in a hurry and others just passing their time, different types of soundscapes could be experimented as to be tuned with the kind of ambiance people are gathered in.

Field recording

Critical reflection:

Although for this project which I named Open View, I ended up doing something quite different than what I had initially planned for due to certain circumstances and lack of experience which lead me to rethink my initial idea, I still have preference to natural sounds as to sounds that have had their natural structure changed with filters and effects.

Naturally, for the initial idea of field recording this would require more experimentation with high quality sound equipment and also be more knowledgeable in terms of not only the weather conditions but also geographically as these are important factors that can have a big impact on the desired outcome.

Before I delve into the area of field recording after having had some unsuccessful attempts at recording the waves of the ocean at Crosby beach as it was too windy and rainy, I decided to take steady steps to transition from simple sounds that are easily attainable to more complex sounds that require specific sound equipment and the necessary experience as to capture nature sounds with more clarity.

Contextual Research:


Research done to the three sonic components, Geophony, Biophony and Anthrophony.

Geophony, which include all non-biological natural sounds like water, wind and earth,  Biophony all non-human sounds that emanate from an undisturbed habitat and Anthrophony, all human made sounds like music, electromechanical or theatre.

Reading done to some books I thought to be useful for this project as it had some in-depth understanding on sounds, noise, silence and soundscapes.

The Universal Sense: How hearing shapes the mind by Seth S. Horowitz.

Silence: In the age of noise.

Noise: A Human history of sound and listening.

Listening to Noise and Silence: TOWARDS A PHILOSOPHY OF SOUND ART by Salomé Voegelin

[The Tuning of the World] THE SOUNDSCAPE: Our Sonic Environment and the tuning of the world/R. Murray Schafer.


Researched online for some artists that served as the main source of inspiration for my project I must say that Haroon Mirza was one of the artists that inspired me as for the equipment I chose for my work after having visited the exhibition at the Ikon Gallery, and as for the sounds, Jez Riley French and Susan Philipsz would be the artists that I resonated the most with due to my interest in field recording and the recording of natural sounds without being edited or modified.

Haroon Mirza



Susan Philipsz



Jez Riley French

jez riley french



Fifth day Gathering Sounds With A Portable Audio Recorder (Tibetan Singing Bowls)


Tibetan Singing Bell Bowls have been used as instruments for producing healing sounds by monks in Tibet for many centuries, in fact it’s believed that the first singing bowls were made in Mesopotamia around five thousand years ago.

These mysterious objects have gained interest and much curiosity by western society when travelers managed to bring these along with them after having visited the Himalayas.

It’s also believed by some people that along with the different metals, legends say that meteorite iron would have also been used as one of the primary metals, being maybe one of the reasons the authentic Tibetan singing bowls produced such a unique sound. Tibetan monks state that they replicate the sound of the Void and of the Dharma and when striking and ringing these bells the positive healing vibration could have the power to undo the negative energy of those trying to destroy the world by restoring harmony brought about by the force of Dharma.

Although the manufacturing of the modern singing bowls only use metals like copper and tin they can still produce a high quality reverberation when struck.

These extraordinary sound healing instruments are now also largely used by sound healers and music therapists along with many yoga practitioners.

Personally I began using singing bowls to heal my headaches and now simply use them by meditating or contemplating on the sound. Monks also believed the sound of a good singing bowl not only affects the person who plays it but also the entire surrounding area and even to distances where the sound can no longer be physically heard.

Maybe due to my fascination with singing bowls I decided to base my project on the sounds generated by these “instruments” and therefore recorded some tracks from the three singing bowls I have.

After having collected some sounds I then began experimenting adding some filters and editing these sounds with a software recommended by our tutors called Reaper and later used an additional plugin called The Mangle to further add some sound effects.

Tibetan Singing Bowl #G688
Three Singing Bowls

Fourth day Gathering Sounds With A Portable Audio Recorder (Household Everyday Sounds)


Today I expanded my experimentation by recording the sounds generated at home like a kettle boiling water, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, footsteps etc.

I also recorded some under water sounds by using a homemade hydrophone by inserting a Lavalier microphone inside a balloon, placing it inside a container and filling it with water.

Although the homemade hydrophone didn’t quite capture the sounds I was hoping for, most sounds recorded had good quality.

Here are some audio samples:

3 Singing Bowls
Vacuum cleaner

Third day Gathering Sounds With A Portable Audio Recorder (Ocean Waves)

(Crosby Beach)

This would be the third day experimenting with a portable audio recorder (Zoom H1n) where also I had the opportunity to visit Crosby Beach as to attempt to record natural sounds from the sea-side, even though having recorded some nature sounds from parks and from walking in the woods for the project I was looking to capture the soothing sound effects of waves on the beach.

After some attempts of recording sounds near the cost during the winter periods I decided to postpone this and try again later during spring or summer time as I struggled with the limited resources I had when recording the sounds of the waves at Crosby beach, it was unsuccessful because unfortunately the day I had available for the field recording was spoiled by the strong winds and rain brought about by Storm Gareth.

The wind was so strong it blew away the “cat-fur” from the audio recorder and obviously the sound didn’t have good quality afterwards.

Although I didn’t get the sounds I wanted I did get some great pictures from Crosby Beach taken in March 2019.

Second day gathering sounds with a portable audio recorder (Rain Sounds)


image source: www.coventrytelegraph.net

I have been waiting for some opportunities to record some rain sounds and this is what I did when I was at home, as soon as it started to rain I setup the audio recorder outside my garden and left it under a waterproof gazebo. I left the audio recorder unattended for about an hour or so and later would come back to it, I also recorded some rain sounds from inside a car while diving. Although having recorded some good quality sounds of rain for short periods of time there seemed to be too much noise from vehicles passing by as I live near a busy road.

Driving in the rain

Rain Under a Tent

First day gathering sounds with a portable audio recorder (Swan Sounds)

(Handsworth Park in Birmingham City)

Image source: Image source: mapio.net

Today (25thFebruary 2019) would be the first day that I learned how to record some sounds by participating in the field recording workshop with Ana Rutter and Lee Hewett our tutors for this project spaces and sounds from Birmingham School of Art.

We went to Handsworth Park in Birmingham City where everyone would walk around the park with an audio recorder and record whatever sounds would be most appropriate for our projects.

There would be a variety of sounds from trains and planes to swans and birds and even the chatter of people walking in the park. It was quite impressive the quality of the sounds I was able to capture, I also learned how to work with the functions of the audio recorder (Roland R-26) like adjusting the settings of the sound limiter as to reduce the dynamic range of the signals that pass through the microphones as to prevent any signals from clipping and distorting, as this is a useful function that could prevent the recording signal going into the red. I was also explained that by saving the files in an uncompressed format like WAV instead of the compressed file formats like MP3 would be best for retaining the maximum quality and clarity of sounds.