THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

Introduction

Discover more about the British Library's 3.5 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

24 October 2014

Inspired by Flickr: Earth

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A couple of weeks ago we featured the first in a four part series of sound pieces, created by French sound artist and composer Stéphane Marin, which have been inspired by the British Library's online collection of over one million 17th, 18th & 19th Century images. Focusing on the four classical elements of air, earth, fire and water, we launched the series with a field recording-based piece inspired by meteorological charts included in the 1886 monograph 'Our Knowledge of the Earth: general geography and regional studies'. This week, we move from air to earth.

Part 2 - Inspired by Earth

"Almost always the word 'hard' is the opportunity of a force (...)

It's a word that cannot go quietly into things. "

G. Bachelard - Earth and Reveries of Will.

At all times the Earth shook.

Whether one is scared about the earth giving way under our feet,

It releasing sheaves of fire, lava flows,

Or the sky over our heads collapsing,

Always the Earth trembled.

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At all times the Earth shook.

Whether the Spider, the Cosmic Dragon-Snake or the Giant Catfish are wrestling,

Whether the Divine Anger strikes us with stupor,

Or whether a simple tectonic breathing hiccups the surface of Mother Earth:

At all times the earth shook ...

 

And we (all) tremble with her ...

or not!?.

"Wait, from afar the hardest warns that which is hard .

Woe - absent hammer prepares to strike! "

Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, (12)

The Quaker


Rhythmic fear, hiccupping, syncopated;

Dynamic fear that in its excess becomes communicative;

Alarming fear to stay protected!

 

Being fearful, scared, or terrorized, is one thing.

Remain transfixed, petrified or numbed ... is another ...

 

Faced with any threats,

Even prey to our scariest Demons

Keep in mind the Gnome's lesson

This lesson about sur-vival

"remain mobile ...

communicate! "

A bunny in its hutch.

The image that inspired  Marin comes from the 1893 publication 'Our Earth and its Story: a popular treatise on physical geography vol 2' by Dr Robert Brown. The first volume, published a few years earlier in 1888, had been received with great acclaim and Brown was specifically praised in The Spectator for his "highly successful method of polularising science". The Brian Cox of his day, perhaps.

The image itself shows the strength of the Tökai earthquake that hit southeastern Japan on the 23rd December 1854, measured by monitoring sea level fluctuations off the coast of California. The earthquake was the first of three major quakes to strike Japan between 1854-1855, a series that was to become known as the Ansei Great Earthquakes. But what is the source of rumbling heard in Marin's piece 'The Quaker'? Is it seismic activity or something else? I'll leave it to you to decide.

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Following many collaborations with street art companies (Allegro Barbaro / Le Phun / Osmosis Cie / 2ème Groupe d'Intervention / Décor Sonore) on projects performed in the six corners of the French hexagon, and in international festivals held in cities such as Suwon, Beirut, Poznan, Grätz, Valladolid, Manchester and Saarbrüken, Stéphane Marin created Espaces Sonores in 2008, a company dedicated to contextual sound creation and sound art. His work includes An Umbrella for 2 - audio walks to be shared by two people under an umbrella which was created for the Saint Charles train station in Marseille (Lieux Publics - Street Arts Creation National Center) and the streets and underpasses of Singapore (Singapore Arts Festival - National Arts Council), Elementaire - an ecological soundscape for relaxing sound naps ; ÉcoutesS d'EspaceS / EspaceS D'écouteS sound walks, sessions of yoga for your ears and finally contributions to events that help others rediscover the pleasures of phonography  (Mingalabar ! - Arte Radio - Paris / L'Oreille Nomade #1 - Myanmar - Kinokophonography @ New York Public Library for Performing Arts).

 

 

 

 

10 October 2014

Inspired by Flickr: Air

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Earlier in the year, we invited individuals working with sound to compose a short audio piece inspired by one of the million 17th, 18th and 19th Century images released by the British Library onto Flickr Commons. The challenge was taken up by a number of artists, who found inspiration in images related to geology, science fiction, exploration and mechanics.

French sound artist and composer Stéphane Marin (aka Espaces Sonores), rather than focus on one particular image, chose instead to create a series of compositions based around the theme of the four elements - air, earth, fire and water. Air is the subject of the first instalment in this series and takes its inspiration from an image published in the 1886 monograph 'Our Knowledge of the Earth: general geography and regional studies' by the German geographer and naturalist, Alfred Kirchoff.

Part 1 - Inspired by Air

Reverie has four areas, four arrows with which she ran in infinite space.

To force the secret of a true poet [...], a word is enough: "Tell me what's your ghost?

Is it the Gnome, the Salamander, the Mermaid or the Sylph? "

Gaston Bachelard - The Psychoanalysis of Fire

Discovered during my studies in philosophy, Gaston Bachelard never ceases to invigorate my mind, sharpen my listening attention, wake up my reveries ... He accompanies each of my creations, which always begin with the ever inspiring reading of his poetry and elementary psychoanalysis. Allow me to choose him to escort us all along this elementary sound quadrilogy.



While I was producing street art soundworks 'for', 'in' and 'with' public spaces, so many dust particles and rain drops, agitated by wind bursts, fell on to my computer screens, my microphone diaphragms and sound cards connections, not to mention the frequent sunburn....The "weather fluctuations" (in a pragmatic sense), also called "Elementary Forces of Nature" (in a more lyrical sense), are the incoercible factors which (dis-)orientate every day the work of the outdoor composer. But better to go with these forces, instead of fighting against them in vain.



These may be, beyond the pure fascination imposed by natural phenomena, some of the reasons which also forced me to open up a bit more, every day, my attention to elementary environmental sounds. To create, sometimes, enough transparency to let them be heard in their most naive and bare manifestations, but never without an inch of genuine or fictive drama.

1_AIR :

//////// inHALE...

The Poet breathes in the world:

 

"The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,

Are waves that beat on heaven's shore."

W. Blake,  Auguries of Innocence - The Pickering Manuscript

 exHALE ! //////// 

The Philosopher breathes out the poet :

"The wind, in its excess,

is the anger that is everywhere and nowhere,

that is born and reborn of itself,

which rotates and overturns. "

G. Bachelard - Air and Dreams:

An Essay on the Imagination of Movement

//////// inHALE...

Microphones breathe in the time of a space.

Raw energy, this excessive wind,

came banging at my window on a winter morning.

exHALE ! //////// 

Speakers breathe out the trace, the elemental ghost of that moment ...

Like any anger requires a breathing space to afford a lull. 

//////// inHALE...

This monograph invites us to gather all these swirling sources to two clear and distinct directions.

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exHALE ! //////// 

As binaural stereo facilitates the drainage of ardent energy flow to brittle ear canals

1_MATIN_D_ARIEGE

Fin

Such a variety of visual content was included in Kirchoff's monograph, from images of wildlife and natural landscapes to maps and meteorological charts. For reasons known only to our artist however, it was the above image that caught his eye and inspired his mind.

Earth will be the subject of our next Inspired by Flickr elemental series, so keep an eye and an ear out for that! 

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Following many collaborations with street art companies (Allegro Barbaro / Le Phun / Osmosis Cie / 2ème Groupe d'Intervention / Décor Sonore) on projects performed in the six corners of the French hexagon, and in international festivals held in cities such as Suwon, Beirut, Poznan, Grätz, Valladolid, Manchester and Saarbrüken, Stéphane Marin created Espaces Sonores in 2008, a company dedicated to contextual sound creation and sound art. His work includes An Umbrella for 2 - audio walks to be shared by two people under an umbrella which was created for the Saint Charles train station in Marseille (Lieux Publics - Street Arts Creation National Center) and the streets and underpasses of Singapore (Singapore Arts Festival - National Arts Council), Elementaire - an ecological soundscape for relaxing sound naps ; ÉcoutesS d'EspaceS / EspaceS D'écouteS sound walks, sessions of yoga for your ears and finally contributions to events that help others rediscover the pleasures of phonography  (Mingalabar !Arte Radio - Paris / L'Oreille Nomade #1 - Myanmar - Kinokophonography @ New York Public Library for Performing Arts). 

 

 

07 October 2014

The Barbara Weinberger Police Interviews collection

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Fiona Laird, National Life Stories intern, writes:

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New recruits for London's Metropolitan Police
, photo courtesy of Paul Townsend under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

As a National Life Stories intern I have been cataloguing the Barbara Weinberger Police Interviews collection. This project consists of 69 interviews conducted by the social historian and writer Barbara Weinberger for her 1995 book The best police in the world: an oral history of English policing from the 1930s to the 1960s (Scolar Press; Aldershot, c1995). Weinberger interviewed police officers from sixteen different forces across England and Wales.

Covering the 1930s to the 1960s, Weinberger captures first-hand accounts of key changes in policing, such as the introduction of female officers, the 1960s Royal Commission, motorisation, and policing during the Second World War. Interviewees are encouraged by Weinberger to draw comparisons and distinctions between county and city police forces; police work before, during, and after the Second World War; and crime rates during their careers and at the time of interviewing in the 1990s.

As oral histories these interviews also provide an insight into the working and social lives of police officers during this period. The effect of being a Freemason on an officer’s promotion prospects, the vetting of fiancés before a policeman could marry, and the effect of the career on an officer and their families social and family life for example.

From detailed accounts of bombing in Coventry; through the social politics of being a rural policeman and Second World War undercover work resulting in treason charges; to accounts of the scandalous Sheffield Rhino Whip Affair, the Weinberger interviews have a lot to offer to researchers. Now that this valuable, varied, and fascinating collection is fully catalogued its details and transcripts can be much more easily be accessed through the British Library’s sound archive catalogue; search using the collection reference number C684.

I have no doubt that researchers will enjoy using this collection as much as I have enjoyed cataloguing it!