RECENTLY I APPEARED in the New York Times alongside Kate Carr and Chris Watson in a piece written by Alex Marshall about field recordists. So if you’ve come here from there, hello.
Alex originally approached me a couple of months earlier and we agreed to head out to north-east London so he could watch me in action. But action perhaps isn’t the right word for what I do. There is a lot of walking from A to B but once you find something you want to record, it’s usually a matter of standing stock-still for a short while.
This was frustrating for a student documentary-maker I met some years ago and the only highlight of that outing was when I stepped on a plank with a nail sticking out of it. The nail went through the sole of my shoe, up between my big toe and the next toe, and then out through the top of the shoe. I sat down on the ground abruptly in surprise and stared at my foot. The documentary-maker sprang out of his despondent state and began eagerly filming me.
Alex made for good company as we first visited New Spitalfields Market in Leyton and then made a long walk northwards to Stamford Hill. The market sounds like this when it’s closing up and there were indeed forklift trucks hurtling about, one of them coming uncomfortably close:
It was a Saturday and the streets around Stamford Hill were full or Orthodox Jews coming out of the local synagogues. Alex took this photo of me frowning at my recorder, which he’s kindly let me reproduce here:
A pleasant Sabbath-day atmosphere filled the streets with conversations and occasional cries of greeting in English and Yiddish. I hung around at a corner where two streets joined together in a fork to try to capture some sense of time and place:
Opportunities like that presented by the New York Times are rare, and I’m always keen to ask journalists about their jobs and the workings of newspapers and broadcasters. Earlier this year Alex wrote another sound-related article for the NYT on the European Music Archaeology Project and he told me about Republic or Death!, his Random House book on the stories behind national anthems. You can read more about the subject on his blog of the same title.
Kate Carr is due to make a live performance at Cafe Oto on Thursday 22 September, for which I’m doing a support slot. More information on the Cafe Oto website.