My Inspiration: Matthew Tuckey – An Audio Diary in Binaural, January 2021 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sound designer/artist Matthew Tuckey (alongside field assistant Corrie Livesey) has captured the peaceful ambience of Northumberland National Park as part of Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice project. An Audio Diary in Binaural, January 2021 is a 33 mins and 42.5 seconds journey through the natural world captured using Binaural sound technology, which allows the creation of immersive spatial audio experiences and gives a more realistic sound experience for headphone listeners.

So grab a cuppa, lay back on the couch with your headphones on and close your eyes to experience the flowing waters of the River Coquet, the dawn chorus in the small town of Alwinton or the eerie ambience of Harbottle Woods. It’s the perfect antidote to those suffering from a case of the lockdown blues.

Before we disappear to the subconscious winter wonderland of our minds, we asked Matthew to tell us more about what inspired his latest work…

The Northumberland National Park has to be one of my favourite locations in the North East. Growing up in the region I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been up and down the Simonside Hills, looped around Sycamore Gap or explored the meandering Carriageway walks of Rothbury. 

It’s this stunning landscape that continues to inspire the field recording practice underpinning my sound designs and art installations, making the National Park an obvious location for my latest field recording project. Thanks to public funding by Arts Council England, I have been experimenting with a binaural microphone to capture the evocative sounds of snow crunching underfoot, a dawn chorus in the small town of Alwinton and the eerie stillness of Harbottle Woods.

I’ve found that lockdown has inspired a different type of listening in audiences, with many people being amazed at the sounds once masked by human noise pollution now laid bare to our ears. The birds in your garden have always been this loud – you’ve just never been able to hear them so clearly! This seems to have improved our willingness to engage with long format recordings – anything to escape the mundanity of life under lockdown! For me, this increased engagement with the world of sound art and audio storytelling felt like too good an opportunity to miss and I set about creating a durational piece for headphones. The result – a 33 minutes and 42.5 seconds long montage titled ‘An Audio Diary in Binaural, January 2021’.

My hope is that through listening, audiences will gain an increased awareness of their acoustic environments. And I am already hearing from listeners who have found themselves engaging more with the sounds around them on their daily walks.

Working with a binaural ‘head’ is perhaps one of the most inspiring recording formats I have had the pleasure to experiment with. The physical properties of ‘the head’, along with the microphones in the moulded plastic ears, give an uncanny sense of space with both distant ambiences and close-up sounds. This can be a confusing experience when working in the field as your brain is tricked into hearing a flock of birds flying over head when in fact they are 10 or so metres away and flying over the binaural head – you only realise you’ve been duped (yet again!) as you start to look around, only to have the sound of the birds move with you! 

My ultimate inspiration to share this work is to inspire my fellow creatives in theatre, audio drama and the wider arts community to consider the possibilities of working with binaural both in the current climate and into the future when we can return to live work.

Personally, I am excited to explore the possibilities for binaural soundscapes in wellbeing applications. And I am keen to get back into the National Park to document more of this inspiring landscape for the would-be visitors who can’t access these beautiful locations in person, whether that be due to lockdown restrictions or otherwise.

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