Living with noise

Our residence March 2013 - March 2014
Our residence March 2013 – March 2014

Up until March 2014 my partner and I had been living in a first floor two bedroom unit which is located on Cross Road near the south eastern Adelaide suburb of Westbourne Park. Cross Road is one of several major transport arteries which comprise the southern network of roads in the Adelaide city area. Cross Road is particularly significant as it leads on from the Princess Highway and carries a large density of cars, public transport and semi-trailers at all hours of the day. As a consequence there is the almost constant presence of vehicle sounds; increasing in frequency and volume during the peak periods of the morning and the late afternoon. During this time, the ambience of a domestic environment is held to siege by the activity on the road; surrounded by a dense sonic cloud of  shuddering engines, screeching brakes, bleating horns, the wail of sirens and a sustained murmuring of low frequencies.

When we moved to this location the previous year I wasn’t particularly concerned about living next to a major arterial road, drawing comforting sonic parallels between the clamour of traffic and a rushing river – full of complex frequencies and dynamics, yet predominantly consistent and relegated to the background.  Surely it couldn’t be all that bad?

This optimistic view remained with me throughout 2013 at various points as this entry in my notebook from November 2013 attests:

“As I write this now at close to 10pm on a Tuesday night, I have the spare room’s window slightly open and the activity on Cross Road has dissipated considerably from a heavy continuous stream of indecipherable vehicles to an infrequent trickle of cars passing by.  These water references are appropriate  as I happen to be listening on studio monitor speakers to Annea Lockwood’s ‘Soundmap of the Housatonic River’ with its gentle ebbing and rushing of waterways making for an ironic sonic accompaniment to the vehicle sounds outside.”

I knew this outlook was precarious and my aesthetic position (which I believe was initially due to the excitement and distractions of moving house) rapidly gave away as the day-to-day routine of life resumed.  Whilst the noise was not unbearable, it was certainly an unwelcome presence on a number of occasions. The idea that one can live with noise (aesthetically or otherwise) is ridiculously naive. The road and its vehicles were not the only source of noise as the neighbours’ house on the eastern side of our block played host to incessant techno, revving engines and the occasional domestic dispute.

I started to imagine our first floor unit as a tiny island surrounded by a vast ocean of noise.

There was also the aspect of noise affecting the other senses, such as the visual boundary that a major road represents, as well as the occasional stench of engine fumes and a the oily byproduct of a nearby McDonald’s wafting through the kitchen window.  Maybe I’ll touch on these other forms of noise another time.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.03.30 PM

Now, far removed from our tiny island and that ocean of noise, I write this post in the peaceful environment of a quiet suburb, where the window is open  and only the sound of birds, a distant lawnmower and (if I strain my ears) a very faint murmur of traffic is heard.

Noise – by its very definition has negative connotations, and it’s certainly apparent that this post’s preoccupation with the negative aspects of the past year run the risk of suggesting that an otherwise good year of domestic life with my partner was just a day-to-day ordeal of living with noise. I can reassure you that this wasn’t the case. Rather, noise became a backdrop to our lives: like a radio station prone to occasional interference and drop-outs, but carrying on nonetheless.




I feel my stuff


Over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve been suffering from recurrent muscle complaints about my legs and lower back.  It would seem problem stems from a lack of magnesium and salt coupled with bouts of muscular exertion in the form of my routine bike journeys to work and sitting improperly with my laptop in the evenings.  I’m steadily repairing myself on a steady diet of supplements, but my legs still aren’t in bike shape and as a result this morning I called in sick and got onto living the post thesis life, which involves planning upcoming shows/exhibitions and general hobbling about.

The Music:

There’s a couple of shows coming up – a solo spot supporting Collarbones (NSW/SA) on the evening of the 25th of February in Eden Hills at a ‘house’ show dubbed “Fuck The Fringe” – no doubt a nod to the inconvenient reality of the Adelaide Fringe Festival swallowing up most available venues/performance spaces this time of year.

Panoptique Electrical plays its first show in 6 months at the Wheatsheaf International on the 8th of March as part of COMA’s Summer programme.  It will be a thrill to perform again alongside Jason Sweeney, Jed Palmer and Zoe Barry.

Later in the month (28/3) I’ll be doing a solo support slot for sound artist Robert Curgenven at the Electronic Music Unit (EMU) as EMU begin rolling out their new programme of live music for the year.  As this gig and the Panoptique show gets closer I’ll post details.

OSC (stopgap post) – OS/iTunes issues/rant

No update on the previous post yet I’m afraid – my ipod touch freaked out rather violently last night and I place the blame firmly on the unstable iTunes Version 9 which seems to have given my beloved device a temporary personality disorder.  Thankfully, by updating the touch OS to the latest version it seemed to resolve the issue.  On that note, beware of the latest Mac updates – if other updates are out of synch it’s going to create a number of issues for you, iTunes v9 is a case in point -> you can’t access the iTunes Store if you don’t have Safari V4 installed, and Safari requires the latest security update.  *sigh*

Anyway, it’s all good now after dl-ing a quarter of a gigabyte of updates and I’ve finally been able to get my mits on the new Eno/Chivers app Trope, which ironically is sorely underwhelming.  *long sigh*

Not much of a trope
Not much of a trope

More here:

Another OSC post will be coming soon, and I’ll be going over some non-Touch OSC interfaces soon as well.

Play it safe #2

My light case of the (swine?) flu has started to abate.  To evade cold weather illness I recommend that you 1) rug up warm in fashionable scarfs and a trendy jacket, and 2) present at a Dorkbot or equivalent art/technology forum.  Lastly, 3) avoid heavy rain at all costs!  If your good friends offer a lift home, for goodness sake take it.  (Thanks again to Seb and Lauren for the mobility the other night.)

Image: Seb Tomczak
Image: Seb Tomczak
Image: Seb Tomczak
Image: Seb Tomczak