One of the core parts of my work is helping radio producers make and realise their radio programmes. A recent example of this was for a programme called The Houses That Fall Into The Sea for BBC Radio 3. This is in the Between The Ears strand and is a documentary series, but as the strand name suggests requires a significant amount of sound design in the development and completion of the programme.
Here is some background information on the programme…
Lyz Turner’s house, in the East Yorkshire town of Withernsea, is falling into the sea. “My house has started talking to me,” she says. “It produces haunting sounds like far-off women wailing.” This programme, combining interviews with music and the sounds of the sea, the wind, the land, the dying houses, explores how people cope with natural calamity: with anger, stoicism, distress, and art. One winter, Ron and Judith Backhouse watched as first their fence, then their shed, and finally three trees slipped over the cliff at the bottom of their garden on a private estate above Scarborough. “The crack is running up towards our next door neighbour’s house,” says Ron. “It’s maybe five or ten metres away from his bungalow now and we’re connected to him. So if he goes, we go, too.”? Artist Kane Cunningham bought a condemned bungalow on the same estate so that he could live in it, use it as an artistic installation and document its demise. Since he moved in, the neighbouring three houses have been demolished for safety reasons, and he reckons his is next. “You can’t fight Nature,” he says, “so you may as well celebrate its destructive force. Houses aren’t immortal, and neither are we, despite what we may want to believe.” “As I listen to the soft wailing through the wall,” says Lyz Turner, whose family have lived here for three generations, “I feel the house knows what’s coming. Since Domesday there’s been a dwelling where I live, and it seems all the voices of the past, whoever lived here, all the people from the lost villages under the sea, are crying for us now.”
I had great fun working form my collection of 40,000 plus sound effects weaving sounds of wind and the sea from the appropriate perspectives into the interviews. For example, when we meet the artist Kane Cunningham who bought the condemned house on his credit card, and uses the house as a studio and as an art installation too. He explains that as part of an art project people can write letters to the house. From those that the writers agreed could be opened we had some children read out quotes from the letters which I matched with Kane’s reading.
At one point we had a reference to a message in the bottle so out came my TL Space convolution reverb and selected a suitable ‘small space’ and put the reader in the bottle. I also had fun creating sounds as the contributors talked about the houses groaning and moving and wind singing and whistling through gaps and cracks.
There were a number of times where I wanted element of the programme not to be in the foreground, especially when we wanted hints of sounds, like the use of an excerpt from My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. So I created a dedicated track with a suitable reverb effect from Reverb One and then automated both the Wet/Dry and Decay times as well as the volume, all in real time, to blend in the sounds into the soundscape of the programme.
UK community members can listen to the programme very easily via the BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days. For non UK residents, if you would like listen to it you will need to find a proxy service that will enable you to pretend to be in the UK.