I’ve been accruing more recordings of incidental drones so it’s about time I posted some clips. Here are a few of my favourite buzzes and hums from the last 6 months or so.
First up is the hum from a substation near to my office on Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh. There are actually two drones going on here – there is a coffee booth nearby that has a petrol generator, so you can hear that chugging away too.
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/BuccPl-substation.mp3|titles=Buccleuch Place substation]
I recorded a lawnmower through my window back in summer. It kept stopping and starting, which I found annoying. But when I listened back, this makes it even more interesting, because when the main mower stops you can hear lots of quieter drones around the neighbourhood – possibly from other lawnmowers or power tools.
The next two recordings were made near the premises of a firm of joiners, shopfitters and builders in an old industrial area of Dundee. In the first one, the machine making the droning and sqeaking sounds was an odd contraption – it had a large metal hopper, elevated about 6 feet, with wide duct pipes leading into it. My guess is that this machine was sucking dust and swarf away from the workbenches inside, like a massive vacuum cleaner. Every now and again you could hear things rattling inside the pipes, a bit like when a piece of lego goes up the hoover.
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/joiners-drone.mp3|titles=Joiner’s machine drone]
Around the side of the building was a metal shuttered door, through which could be heard more droning and various sounds of metalworking:
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/DundeeJoinersDoor.mp3|titles=Joiner’s door drone]
The next recording is from near a hotel, Ten Hill Place, in the centre of Edinburgh. There is a basement with air vents from which various drones emanate. They change in pitch periodically, as though the machines are stepping up and down in speed or something.
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/HillPlaceVentFan2.mp3|titles=Hill Place vent]
Next up is another vent recording made at the rear of the university main library. There is a loading bay with a massive air vent at the side. I suspect from its size that it’s related to the heating system for the entire building. It’s pretty loud when you get up close.
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/MainlibRearVent.mp3|titles=UoE library vent]
Finally, a kind of semi-drone recording I made on Infirmary Street in the centre of Edinburgh. I was just walking home one day after work when I heard all these sounds coming from a grill close to street level. At first I actually thought it was some kind of band, fans of Einsturzende Neubauten or Faust perhaps, practising in a subterranean rehearsal room. I was quite into it. Listening closer, what I thought were primitive drums turned out to be hammering, punctuated by power tool drones.
[audio:https://www.michaelgallagher.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/InfStConstruction.mp3|titles=Tearing down old buildings]
One of the things that both annoys and amuses me about Edinburgh – and most cities come to think of it – is how you can never get a moment to yourself. Infirmary Street isn’t a main road so I was hoping I’d be able to record relatively undisturbed. But just as I was hauling all my gear out of my rucksac to get set up, a group of about 30 European men came walking by trundling suitcases behind them. It was a slightly surreal moment, standing there in the street with a big furry mic and fat headphones, with these proto-industrial sounds coming from who-knows-where underground, and a whole delegation of Dutchmen traipsing past..