Viewing single post of blog Random String Fellowship 2018-19

Apple mic within a latex cover.

I decided to cover the Apple mic (mentioned in previous blog post) with a finger cut from a latex glove, firstly to keep moisture out of the microphone and secondly to get rid of sharp corners that could catch on my throat. I finally braved an attempt at getting the mic down my throat. Unfortunately due to the 4cm length of the hard plastic section of the mic, I just couldn’t get it to go around the bend of my throat at the back of my mouth. My fingers couldn’t reach to push it, and the wire is so soft and flexible that it doesn’t help to push the mic at all. It was so frustrating!

I decided to hold the mic in my mouth to see what sort of sounds would be produced – the Apple mic is incredibly sensitive and good at picking up even small sounds at a distance, so I was hopeful that there would be some visceral sounds captured from within my mouth through sucking and breathing and generally moving my tongue around the mic. Annoyingly, this experiment left me frustrated again, as the only sounds that I seemed to collect was the scratchy sound of friction as the mic rubbed against the surfaces of my mouth. Instead of the squelchy visceral sounds I had hoped for, I was left with crackling, rattling and scratching. I am finding this to be slightly infuriating! To collect the sounds that happen inside the body seems like a simple concept, but I am starting to worry that it is in fact impossible!

Sketch: a plan of action.

As usual when I feel like I’m getting nowhere I turned to the internet for inspiration, (or procrastination!) I found a Youtube video where someone showed how he had managed to connect a stethoscope to a microphone. I know I have talked about how I thought that instruments that collect sound from outside of the body would not be what I would want to make use of – I previously described how I thought that they seemed like secondary sounds and that they would not hold the integrity of sounds collected directly from within. But… I think that for the sake of trying to progress this work as part of the fellowship I need to try everything out. I try to remind myself that it is important not to box myself in with my experiments by making rules for myself of what is and isn’t okay. I have realised though, that when you have very little kit that it can be difficult to test things out. I don’t own any sound equipment so to be able to experiment with a microphone I needed to buy one first. There’s actually a lot of kit that I will need to invest in if I am to continue to play with sound. For example, to be able to record sounds to my laptop, which I definitely will need to do if I am to make a circuit using sound, then I will need to invest in the right equipment. I think this is an aspect of working with technology that has previously put me off. The not knowing / understanding how the equipment works, the worry that I may buy the wrong kit and the general lack of funds has meant that this way of working has not been accessible to me. This is where the Fellowship has been really useful. I have access to people like my mentor Ben Sadler who has the knowledge to be able to advise me, and I am hoping that Random String will be able to help me accumulate some equipment that will help with this process.

Going back to the stethoscope, I decided that I needed to invest in this idea. I bought a stethoscope which was not expensive at all and I also bought a condenser mic, which I am sure will be useful in the future outside of this experimentation. I really enjoyed sitting with the stethoscope placed on my chest, listening to the rhythmic lub-dub of my heart. It was mesmerising. It felt like a really magical experience – to be listening to the one muscle that keeps me alive. It so easy to forget that this incredible machine is working so hard inside, so when you connect with it, feel it and hear it the body suddenly feels like something bigger and more incredible than any technology that is man made! (I have to find a way to share this experience with others).

I followed the instructions of the video, expecting that by attaching a condenser mic I would be able to amplify the rhythmic sounds that I had heard through the stethoscope…. I was wrong!!! It amplified some noises, but definitely not the noises I had heard. I sat thinking about this and I realised that, when I think about how a stethoscope works, maybe I had just made a large contact mic?! I really thought it would work. Maybe talking it through with Ben at the next session I will be able to make some sense of it, and hopefully I will find a way to move forward. It feels like time is passing so fast and that there’s just not enough time left of this Fellowship to move as far forward as I would like.