Listening In Snow

Snow Garden

It has happened, the snow finally arrived throughout Yorkshire, and with it?  A new listening environment, snow on the ground and cloud cover above, the audio perspective with a white twist.  This is the most noticeable seasonal change to my regular listening out in the garden (pictured), and I find it very inspiring.

Defining this sound is difficult unless there are comparisons to be explained and my garden acts as the control setting.  It is located near many major transport routes, less than half a mile from the East Coast mainline, near the A1 and under the flight-path of Leeds/Bradford airport, with a fairly constant background noise of engines, motors and blackbirds.

During the year I notice subtle changes to the quality of sound. The hazy, hot summer middays, drizzly autumn afternoons, showery spring mornings or just dull, grey winter days each put a different EQ to the garden visits.  Or to put it another way, the balance of frequencies I hear in my controlled setting are affected by the weather.  The most recent atmospheric conditions, low cloud and a complete covering of fresh snow, create dullness to the sound, but with some very clear elements appearing, depending on the wind direction and their distance from the garden.

The crunch of snow underfoot has always been one of the sounds that appeals to me.  Perhaps it unlocks childhood memories of fun with sledges and snowball fights or it was a sound I strived to reproduce as a theatrical sound effect but never managed to get just right.  Either way I have always enjoyed listening to it but not always enjoyed the other conditions that often accompany it, ice, cold, blizzards…

As I was stepping through the snow with microphone in hand, I remembered some other recordings I had captured last summer and the idea to amalgamate the two appeared in my imagination.  I listened again to what I had recorded, retraced my steps to record the sounds with a slightly different tempo in mind and squashed the snow, ice and slush until I was satisfied there was enough material to work with.

I am not going to describe the composition or sound design or processes, or even give the new work a descriptive title that might influence the approach of the listener.  It will appear on SoundCloud as “Blogwork 20/01/13” and I hope you enjoy the experience.  The picture below shows some collaborative work from 2009, with my colleague Al McNichol, to measure and identify frequencies of musical instruments, including those featured in popular music.  A recent Sound On Sound magazine had a similar graphic.


I am a sound designer, composer, manipulator of audio, organiser and producer, are you?  Would have been a more complete title for last week’s post but without as much impact.  It could be the start of the job description, then add negotiator, promoter, performer, pitcher, evaluator, assessor, financial manager, employer, managing director to the more creative attributes of dreamer, innovator, ideas generator, developer, designer, initiator, instigator, catalyst and even trend-setter.

Be radical and non-conformist, shun labels, tags and categories, be true to your own beliefs and instincts and above all be confident in the worth of your music.  When you are assured of your own abilities, you can consider yourself a composer (and all the other names and roles above).  Enjoy your work and output, and challenge yourself regularly to keep your ideas exciting and rewarding.  Most of all make sure you listen, in snow, sun, rain, cloud and any other of the many weather conditions that occur.  Out there you may find some inspiration, I often do.


About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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