My residency at STEIM has provided me with access to a wonderful source for my next piece: the city of Amsterdam. Over the past 3 weeks, I have collected over 20 hours of field-recordings from different locations in the city. These recordings have been edited and categorized, and my pre-compositional work has begun. A combination of recording equipment was necessary in order to successfully capture sources within the urban environment. When discretion / stealth was necessary, I used my Sound Devices 702 with a worn pair of DPA 4052 miniature omnidirectional microphones. When discretion was not necessary, I instead utilised a Sennheiser MKH30/60 M&S pair within a Rycote windshield: in contrast to the DPA mics, these microphones are highly directional (if somewhat conspicuous!). All recordings were made at 96khz / 24-bit.
The Fall, by Camus, was my inspiration for writing a piece using the sounds of Amsterdam. However, my work is not intended to follow the narrative or structure of The Fall. Instead, the text has helped me to develop a number of ideas concerning specific images and sonic vocabulary. For example, Jean-Baptiste describes Amsterdammers as:
“…funeral swans drifting throughout the whole country, around the seas, along the canals. Their heads in their copper-coloured clouds, they dream; they ride in circles; they pray, sleep-walking in the fog’s gilded incense; they have ceased to be here.”
This passage led me to focus upon collecting the sounds of bicycles (admittedly, not a difficult task in Amsterdam!).
As well as capturing incidental street activity, I focused my attention upon a few specific locations, for example, the beach / disused land to the West of Centraal Station, Vondelpark on a Sunday morning, St. Nicolaaskerk on Christmas Eve, Museumplein on New Year’s Eve etc. I have begun to compose a number of studies that each explore specific musical vocabulary (impacts, rhythms, tonality, acceleration / deceleration etc), specific locations (St. Nicolasskerk, Vondelpark) or specific materials (bells, bikes, birds, boats, crowds, laughter, rain etc). From these studies I will eventually extrapolate my final piece.
Thanks to all at STEIM and Happy New Year!
New Year in Amsterdam by Sam Salem