Experimenting with Geography online forum

An online forum associated with my ESRC-funded Experimenting with Geography project is now live:


In the first instance, the forum will be used to enabled virtual networking between participants coming to our workshop in May.

However, the longer term aim is to create an international network of researchers with an interest in experimental methods for social/cultural research. So if this is you, please have a poke about, register and make a post to introduce yourself.


Audio methods training

Towards the end of February, Jonathan Prior and I organised a day of training in audio methodologies for researchers and research students at the University of Edinburgh. This was the second, advanced level day of a two day programme we’ve been piloting. We invited sound artist John Wynne to come and lead the day, and were totally delighted with his contribution. He has a history of making fascinating work investigating sonic phenomena such as alarms, endangered click languages, a heart and lung transplant hospital and lots of old hifi speakers (see his website for details).

The highlight came at 11am when – moments after John had been presenting his work on auditory warnings – the fire alarm went off. I’d temporarily forgotten that it is tested every Friday morning. It took me a few moments to work out whether this was (a) part of John’s work, (b) a test fire alarm, (c) a real fire alarm or (d) all of the above.

We had people from all over the University attending. The photos below show a musician, a sociologist, a biologist and a guy who I think does neuroscience in a place called the Centre for Integrative Physiology.



I used the day to work on a piece of music/sound art I’m developing using lots of portable tape recorders. I also had a chance to take my newly acquired Sound Devices 702 field recorder for its first outing to record some droning air vents around the University.

The 702 is an awesome piece of kit. It’s built like a tank, the preamps are superb and the LEDs are bright enough to burn your retina, as you can see from the photo below. They make them like that so you can still see what’s going on even in bright sunlight.


I’ll be uploading some recordings I’ve made with this very soon.

The training seemed to go down well. There were lots of positive comments in the evaluations, so we intend to organise more of this sort of thing in the future..

In The Labyrinth

In preparation for the Experimenting with Geography workshop, Jonathan Prior, Eric Laurier and I have made a short film exploring the Institute of Geography at the University of Edinburgh. The building is a reverberant, cavernous space which can feel almost haunted at times. It’s full of stairs and doors and empty corridors, so we wanted the film to reflect this. The building once housed a hospital, and something of that former function lingers. Jonathan says that there is a room now occupied by PhD students which used to be the morgue.

The film ends with Jonathan sitting down in G10, where the workshop in May will be held.

I take full responsibility for the dodgy camerawork here. Film isn’t really my medium, as you can perhaps tell. Thanks to Eric for the use of the cameras and the editing.


Experimenting with Geography applications

I have now been through all the applications for this workshop and have made the decisions about offering places and funding. If you applied, you should have received an email from me telling you the outcome. If you haven’t, please get in touch.

On the whole the applications were pretty high quality. I looked at each application myself and then Hayden, Eric Laurier and Jonathan Prior gave me second opinions and helped to make the final call. So by the end the decisions were pretty solid. Massive thanks to them for helping with a difficult task..

Coffee room

Here’s another composition assembled from recordings of hum from a fizzy drinks machine and the ticking of an old clock, both located in the coffee room at the Institute of Geography. I must be a musician at heart because no matter how experimental I get with my field recordings, I’m always drawn to the ones with stereotypically musical features such as pitch and rhythm.

Drummond Coffee Room.mp3


The mic I’m using, which can be seen in the picture, is a Rode NT4 stereo condenser. I highly recommend it. If you can live with the fixed XY cardioid pattern, the quality is unbeatable for the price. Personally, I find that having the pattern fixed actually makes my life easier as it’s one less variable to fiddle with. You just point and shoot. I see from Janek Schaefer’s website that he’s also a big fan of this mic. It can be powered by a 9 volt battery if phantom power isn’t available, which means you can use it with devices such as minidisc players and cassette recorders. Some of my best recordings have been made with this and an old Sony minidisc recorder..