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this edition of framework:afield has been produced in scotland by mark vernon. for more information see his website at http://meagreresource.com. producer’s notes:

Lend an ear, leave a word
Audio Archaeology series Vol.1: Lisbon

The composition of this soundscape combines field recordings of contemporary Lisbon with found tape recordings from the past; reel-to-reel tapes, micro-cassettes and Dictaphones collected from the Feira de Ladra market – a popular and lively flea market in the Alfama district.

Each tape recording is an audio snapshot of a specific time; a family album in sound, a musical performance, a compilation of treasured music or even just the fun of playing around with a tape recorder captured for posterity. Every thoughtless edit or push of the record button teleports us to a different time and place. The musical material extracted from the tapes is also an evocative signifier that locates it within a specific era. The thing that interests me is how the tapes accumulate different strata of time even within a single side. There are consecutive chronological recordings but also sequences with unexpected breakthroughs where the user has carelessly fast forwarded through the tape randomly ‘dropping-in’ new recordings. These accidental edits create instantaneous new collages of sounds and voices. I have endeavoured to retain the essence of these unintentional edits and unexpected outbursts in this programme. The noisy whir and clicking of the various tape mechanisms is evident on many of the found recordings. As the material is sped up and slowed down it acts as an internal clock, a continuous, steady marker of time, almost like the second hand of a timepiece.

One particular tape bought from the market also contained recordings of that location itself. The stall owner is captured repeatedly demonstrating the functions of the Dictaphone to a customer. In this exchange we also hear the customer testing out the machine at the market with the seller and later, presumably having purchased the recorder, back at home taping messages to the mysterious ‘Anna’. Then, somehow, after an unknown period, the Dictaphone appears back for sale at this same market which was captured yet again on my field recorder as I purchased the Dictaphone. There is a circularity to this. The unmistakeable sound of the air raid siren that signifies the close of the market is audible on both the Dictaphone tape that came with the machine and in the higher fidelity digital recording that I made of the market myself.

All of the recordings contained here within explore one particular environment – the city of Lisbon. Field recordings by their very nature are time-based but the introduction of found tapes into the mix expands the timescale of these studies from just the short period spent in the city making recordings, backwards to possibly forty or more years in the past. It is a portrait in time and place, an archaeology of sound. The result of the audio flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shores of low commerce in the flea markets of Lisbon.

‘Lend an ear, leave a word’ was originally released as an LP on Graham Lambkin’s KYE label in 2016. This is a reworked soundscape version of that project containing large amounts of additional material that wasn’t used on the album due to time constraints. All recordings made or found in Lisbon in 2012.

Mark Vernon, Glasgow, February, 2021

The tape recordings uncovered amongst other things:

  • Someone waiting in a car at an airport for over half an hour, occasionally blowing raspberries into the microphone to relieve the boredom
  • An eight minute recording of someone eating in extreme close-up to the microphone
  • Numerous different mic tests (1,2.. 1,2.. testing etc.)
  • An accidental answerphone recording of a drunken phone conversation about stolen car parts.
  • Baby recordings
  • A child singing
  • Accordion playing
  • The answerphone messages of the family Carmino Vazio
  • TV, popular music, radio, white noise, pause button clunks, wowing, fluttering, wrong tape speeds, cross talk, feedback, mic handling noise.

Amongst the field recordings used in the piece were:

  • An air ventilation unit
  • A band practicing for a presidential visit to the Mouraria area
  • Workmen re-laying a cobbled pavement
  • Caged canaries
  • A creaky tap
  • Traffic and street noise
  • A recording of a man crying and praying in a toilet cubicle in Lisbon airport (accompanied by the sounds of farting, shitting, automatic paper dispensers and toilets flushing)
  • Exercise machines in the Jardim de Estrela park
  • Waves breaking on the coastline at Cascais
  • Peacocks at the Castelo de São Jorge
  • Overheard conversations
  • Traders at the Feira de Ladra flea market
  • Trains and tannoy announcement bongs at the Metro station
  • A sun lotion dispenser
patrick 2021, framework:afield

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