Outside-In: Ed Nixon

by 5:4

Today’s contribution to the Outside-In compilation comes from Ed Nixon in Canada. His recording takes its starting point from the recent killing of George Floyd – specifically the now notorious length of time it took for that atrocity to happen. Ed writes:

I suppose I wanted to know what eight minutes and forty-six seconds feels like; and to memorialise, even in a small and personal way, the recent murder in Minneapolis and its consequences.

I call this park The Ravine, and it’s a site I use for inspiration when I’m working on my photography, or video, or music. For example, as a result of this project, there is now a short, 8’46” video in the works; I’ll likely use this recording as its soundtrack. But things change.

The recording was made beside Small’s Creek, Merrill Bridge Park, Toronto, and was done on an old Zoom H4n, using the stereo cross-field mics on the top. Not ideal for a small run of water that is seldom wider than 18″. But it I’ve made it sound larger than that through distance and wide-ish stereo pattern, all the better.

The recording was made in the afternoon of Thursday 3 June, 2020, around 1pm.

That point of emotional inspiration hangs over this recording. From that perspective, eight minutes and 46 seconds feels like a horrendously protracted duration of time. All of which makes the overall sense of calm that pervades its soundscape feel all the more incongruous, almost literally a world away both from what happened on 25 May, the day George Floyd was killed, and also the current uproar of outrage that has spread throughout the USA and far beyond.

There’s another interesting incongruity; when i first listened to Ed’s recording, partway through i looked up the map link he had sent. It came as a surprise to see that ‘The Ravine’ – which could have been located in remote rural countryside – is in fact in the midst of urban sprawl, and right beside a railway line. As such, this recording is something of an oasis, capturing an air of placidity and peace in an environment seemingly populated only by a handful of birds and the quiet tumbling noise of Small’s Creek. Occasionally, this generalised sound of water is complemented by one or two glimpses of individual sploshing droplets toward the right-hand channel, a contrast that adds some subtle perspective. The proximity of the railway line becomes all too apparent around two-thirds through when a train passes – it’s a breathtakingly vivid moment, yet there’s something reassuring about the way the surrounding soundscape is untroubled by this intrusion. In the starkest of contrasts to the terrible event that motivated this recording, at the end of these eight minutes and 46 seconds, life simply goes on.

All of the recordings featured in Outside-In are available to download or stream; there’s no charge for downloading, but you’re free to make a payment if you wish, and all proceeds made will be shared among the contributors.

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for this project, please see the Call for Recordings information below.

Call for Recordings

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for Outside-In, the guidelines are very simple:

  • approximately 5-15 minutes’ duration – long enough to allow some decent immersion;
  • no obvious editing – recordings can be discreetly edited but should generally sound like a single recording, with no sudden cuts;
  • no indoor or underwater recordings – all in the open air;
  • no speech or overt human noises, apart from perhaps in the distance or as a part of the ambiance/surroundings;
  • the recording doesn’t need to be made using high-end equipment, but should be good enough to be enjoyed transparently, without attention drawn to its shortcomings.

Please note: the idea is that the recordings were made before the lockdown, but if you would like to make one that reflects the current, quieter state of the world – without breaking any local rules on going outside in the process! – then that’s absolutely fine.

To send your recording, please use the 5:4 Contact form and in the “Your Message” section please include the following:

  • a download link to your recording (via WeTransfer, or equivalent), which should preferably be in compressed lossless format (e.g. FLAC – no lossy recordings!);
  • information about the place, time and situation in which the recording took place – as much or as little detail as you would like to share;
  • a Google Maps link to the exact/approximate location where the recording was made.

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