All posts tagged Audio

  • (Re)sounding holy wells: Creative Ireland Project

    (Re)sounding holy wells was an artistic and cultural heritage project led by Vicky Langan, independent artist, and Dr Richard Scriven, Department of Geography, UCC, to imaginatively explore holy wells in Cork through workshops, audio recordings, and oral histories. It was funded by the Creative Ireland County Cork Grant Scheme under the community participation strand of the Creative Ireland Programme 2017-2022. Using a collaborative approach with both primary schools and community heritage groups, the project examined and highlighted the roles of holy wells as cultural amenities and sites of vernacular heritage. Fresh understandings of the wells were produced through the use of audio by combining field recordings with accounts of the holy wells from young people and community members.

    The podcasts produced as part of the project are available here:

    The project also generated this report booklet:

    Booklet Cover

    Vicky Langan is a Cork-based artist whose practice operates across several overlapping fields, chiefly performance, sound, and film. She has gained bursary awards from Cork City Council and the Arts Council of Ireland. She has also been awarded a residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.

    Dr Scriven is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow and a Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Scholar in the Department of Geography, UCC.

    CI_Mark_Right_Gold Cork County Council logo.jpg

  • Prayers, Waves, Reverberations: An audio engagement with phenomenal pilgrimage

    My second paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2014 is part of the ‘Postgraduate Snapshots: Engagements in Social and Cultural Geography‘ session, which explores the different ways in which postgraduates are (co) producing social and cultural geographies through their research, collaborations, methods and encounters. Each participant presents a ‘snapshot’ (an image, object, media clip etc) of their research in a creative and interactive way.

    Prayers, Waves, Reverberations: An audio engagement with phenomenal pilgrimage
    Using an audio clip of pilgrims praying in St Patrick’s Basilica on Lough Derg in northwest Ireland, I consider how the aural and acoustic induces, enhances and disorientates the phenomenal and spiritual experience of being a pilgrim. My research, informed by the mobilities field and nonrepresentational approaches, explores pilgrimage practices in contemporary Ireland. An audio recording taken during the Night Vigil on Lough Derg, where pilgrims stay awake for 24hrs fasting and praying barefoot on a lake island, captures a portion of the atmospheric and sensuous as they unfold. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork, I present the sounds and audio waves, which reverberate with meaning and experience, as being simultaneously created and received, embodied and asomatous, ethereal and material. Speculation on conceptual and practical approaches to and challenges for the use of audio are also offered.

    My presentation centres on a continual playing of the audio clip, to generate suitable atmospherics, as I verbally offer context, comment and speculation. In foreground the use of audio, I shall build on the increasing role for audio, sound and the sonic in social and cultural geography.

  • Within the Well

    St John 1

    Clam and shade on a sunny late June morning. June is the time to visit St John’s Well. Trees encase the site, as the beehive structure encases the well itself. Noises drift in from out of sight, while rays of sunlight piercing the canopy catch the broken glass spread across the ground, asserting the space’s hosting of other activities. A small flow of water gently emerges, the water which restored sight and started veneration. The edge of the well, the small rectangular entrance, is the cusp. The exact point of significance, the well water is accessed here before flowing off, the sacred diluting into the profane.

    St John Inside 1

    Within the well another realm awaits. An inner sanctum, the tabernacle within the church. Reaching down to collect, to drink or bless draws you into this sphere. The cooling ambiance of the water, the reflections onto the vaulted walls, sparkle and shade on rock, moss and mould. Inside the beehive structure is reminiscent of subterranean consistency. It is calm here, removed from that which is outside. Temperate, dusky and muted; perhaps it always is.

    The steady dripping of the water is a further layer of consistency. It captures an essence of the place. Always present, known but unobtrusive. It invites reflection and appreciation. The water – the substance of the well – emerging from the earth, gathering and flowing. It quietly splashes and echoes about, the reverberations affirming the chamber. Water sounds defining purpose and giving space.

    Within the well remains. A steady emergence: earth, water, well.

  • Beach

    A Sunday morning walk in Myrtleville, Co. Cork.

    Although my knowledge of physical geography is rather basic, I was taken in by the features of my coastal walk, which were shaped by the forces of the sea and weather meeting the rock and land. The toll of the numerous winter storms were evident even on this calm, bring Spring morning. The patterns of the deposited worn rocks, in successive shelves, crafted by the waves were especially impressive, as I walked along one such shelf about 1.5m above the waves breaking with a further shelf rising c.1m further up again.

    A beautiful example of a sea cliff

    A beautiful example of a sea cliff

    Different layers of deposition and erosion

    Different layers of deposition and erosion

    The pleasant waves appear a little off shore before coming in to meet the exposed rock, with slight splashes made. It is at this place, in these actions, that the sea and land meet. The back and forth of the waves creating a liminal layer between these two worlds.

    (Re)Sounding Emergence
    Recorded using my phone and the Soundcloud App, I capture some of the ambient waves followed by my own treading across two of the beach surfaces. The audio of my walking captures the interactions of my feet on the stones, with my prescence being felt in the very action of each impact. With only the sound as the evidence of this process, the beach and I have equal roles in creating these moments. When the feet are mid-stride, in air, they are absent, it is only when the surface and I come into to contact that we are made present, made be.

    For a superb exploration of coastal areas and experiences, see Anna Ryan’s Where Land Meets Sea: Coastal Explorations of Landscape, Representation and Spatial Experience

  • Excursion to ‘The City’ and Tubrid

    Last week Vickie Langan (artist, soundy person and all round lady) and I visited two holy wells, The City, near Rathmore, Kerry and Tubrid, Millstreet, Cork. Below are a number of photos, videos and audio recordings, punctuated with text, that came out of the excursion. I also have a post on Researching with your Smartphone, based on our previous excursion.

    This photo of the well, which was posted while we were on site, shows the cement structure along with a cup and glass. Unlike many other wells, the one at the City is not adorned with many votive offerings or extra materials. Like the site itself, it has a certain rawness. On a wind swept Tuesday in February, with the threat of serious rain, we had the places to ourselves.

    Using the Soundcloud App on my phone, I took several recordings of the cup in the water, you can hear me lifting it, submerging it, pouring out some water and replacing it. This simple activity is central to these wells.

    Vicky with her hydrophone, a superb piece of equipment for working with wells.

    The altar at Tubrid holy well, on the Rathmore side of Millstreet. The altar is sheltered by a structure with offerings, signs and memorial cards throughout.


    This short video of the candles on the altar indicate the recent visits by numerous people that day. Each one serving as an elemental remnant of a believer’s intentions and memories.

    The site is very well maintained, as is demonstrated by this rack made especially to hold the cups used to drink the water and the other structures. It is at this point, where the water bubbling up in the well flows out, that people collect and drink the water.


    Another recording using the SoundCloud App, of the water flowing.

  • Researching with your Smartphone

    On a recent trip to St Gobnait’s Well in Ballyvourney, I used my phone to capture some of the sounds, sights and movements of the place. The capabilities of smartphones and the selection of Apps are making it increasingly possible for all researchers, especially qualitative minded ones, to have a wonderfully versatile device with them at all times. It is now standard for a phone to be a camera, video and audio recorder, and notebook, while all the time connecting you to the internet. While the compact and multipurpose nature means that a phone does not have a quality of each of these items individually, they are a functional everyday tool which offers new potential for research, encounter and dissemination.

    There also has been emerging comment on the use of phones and apps in research. Katharine Welsh and Derek France state that the “multi-tasking and portable nature of a smartphone renders the device an ideal data collection tool” and that “e educational potential offered by smartphones will likely increase over time.” (Smart Phones and Fieldwork). While Jay Zaltzman and Betsy Leichliter point out a whole range of real-time communications and recordings now possible that “can be used to share participants’ experiences and perceptions in more ways than ever” (Mobile Qualitative Research).

    GW VL Tw

    A photo taken during the fieldwork was then sent using Twitter. This serves to both record and disseminate.

    Also, phones offer a means of instant dissemination as all recordings, along with micro commentary, can be immediately posted online. This also ties in with the recognition of the role of social media as a means of communicating research and engaging the public.

    Here are some of the items collected and transmitted using my phone on the trip. I was able to use the phone and apps together to take photos, to make audio recordings and record video, and then transmit these using the apps.

    The Soundcloud App is particularly handy as you can easily record (and pause and resume recording) edit and post the clip. This App actually captures nicely how easier apps than older tools, even using recording devices and computers together.

    Instagram allows you to record, edit and upload video, while also instantly sharing the post via social media sites.

    The massive leaps in technology and capabilities mean that we can only speculate on the tools that will be available for research an the potential they will over. In the meantime, get exploring and transmitting.


    Smart Phones and Fieldwork from Enhanced

    Mobile Qualitative Research from  New

  • The Sounds of St Gobnait’s Well

    As part of UCC’s Doctoral Showcase – an annual event which encourages research students to develop innovative ways to communicate their research to non-specialists – I developed a short video which intends to convey a sense of place through the use of sound and images. I used a collection of audio recordings and photos from St Gobnait’s in Ballyvourney to make the video.

    The showcase presentation also involved members of the audience engaging with the place tactily as well, through the distribution of rosary beads, stones form the site and water from the well; although this isn’t possible here, I feel the video still goes a long way to giving a solid glimpse at St Gobnait’s. The sounds in particular – feet crunching gravel, stone scrapping against stone, water dripping – evoke the place and what it is to be there.


    P.S. I’ve previously blogged on Podcasts & Place and many thanks to my cousin Eilín for narrating the video.

  • Radio, Podcasts and Place

    I listen to radio frequently, with one always on at home and when I drive. I also listen to many podcasts, mainly as I walk. I subscribe to different shows, some of which are radio station content that is recorded and made available for download and others which are exclusively produced as podcasts.

    Form a geographic perspective, I am struck at how radio shows and podcasts can convey a very rich sense of place. I feel that podcasts/radio are powerful and under-appreciated tools for describing the world. The limitations of the medium require presenters, reporters and producers to compensate by combining thick description with high-quality sound recordings. Podcasts, and audio more generally, can play a significant role in exploring, understanding and presenting places. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this point.

    The first, is an episode of the NPR programme Hearing Voices, which is a weekly show that presents a series of segments, mostly collected from radio broadcasts, documentaries, podcasts and found-sound, relating to a single theme. The episode, Sacred Places (HV079), presents a selection of short pieces that really capture the essence of the places, and the people and practices involved. You can experience the Hindu holy city, Vrindavan through ‘talking notes’ and a the background track of the ambient sound, and get a sense of a Lutheran Church in Montana through an interview intermixed with sounds from services at the Church. It is a really fascinating episode, which I find myself returning to time and time again.

    The Royal Canal is a beautiful piece that uses the qualites of good radio/podcasting to portray a journey down a waterway. It is an episode of the Curious Ear, a short radio documentary series that is produced by RTÉ Radio 1, the Irish national public broadcaster. It features “Six miles of canal; six miles of stories”, as it follows the presenter/producer Ronan Kelly as he canoes along the Royal Canal in Dublin city. The use of recordings of the water and paddling is particularly evocative.

    This final example is more meta, in that it is a podcast that is about making or understanding/analysing radio and podcasts. How Sound is a very interesting short show, from PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, that explores the world of audio and radio/podcast making. The episode, Show, Don’t Tell, looks at how sound and recordings can be effectively used to demonstrate a topic to listeners, such as recordings of the presenter walking waste deep into ocean water and the difficulties of a man in a wheelchair trying to exit his car in an unsuitable disabled parking space.

    Radio, podcasts and the use of audio more generally raises questions about how researchers present their work, especially geographers. Ultimately, most academic work is conveyed in text, which is supported, sometimes, by illustrations, diagrams and maps.  However, audio is rarely used. The potential that it offers is considerable, especially in examinations of place. In my research, I frequently make audio recordings, even if it is just of the ambient sound. The use of such recordings are an important component of my methodology, which tries to gain a deep appreciation of the places being studied. I would encourage other researchers to consider the role that audio can play in their research.

    Audio version of this blogpost