A sound artist, field recordist and researcher with a love for heritage sites, ruins and buildings at risk.
Anna Celeste Edmonds

Songs of the Sea – Content Test

The fist stage of audio content research for Anna’s PhD took place in 2019 in Brunswick Square, Brighton & Hove, UK, in the form of three interpretations of local composer Roger Quilter’s composition ‘The Sea-Bird’. These interpretations explored music, dialogue, and field recording (later ‘sound effects’). They were formed into three recordings which were presented on the Echoes application to be heard in the square by volunteers at The Regency Town House, and later the public at a Heritage Open Days event September 2019. The volunteers were asked a series of scaled and descriptive questions around content, location, and accessibility, which helped to gain a better understanding of the mobile audio platform, the sounds listened to, and how they fit with the site they were presented in at this early stage.

A listener exploring the square as part of the ‘Songs of the Sea’ experiment

The main aim of this test, was to understand listener preference of content, whether music, dialogue and sound effects had a heirarchy of interest, or if they were balanced, and therefore all suitable to take forward to the next step of research – building the first prototype.

The first research paper, covering listener content preferences and engagement, can be found here:


Track 1 – Music

The first of the interpretations took the form of music, performed and recorded from the original score, at the Unitarian Church, Brighton & Hove, UK. Anna was the vocalist, and fellow SEAHA-CDT PhD student Robin Talbot was the pianist. Two different kinds of techniques were tested, first with the H3 Holophone, and second with the Soundman OKM Binaural microphones, which ended up being the better choice for this recording.

unidentified frequencies of holophone:

Full recording with binaurals, selected for public as ‘The Sea-bird – Track 1’:

Coathanger binaurals and holophone set up

Track 2 – Dialogue

The second track created was in the form of dialogue, surrounding a short passage from the book ‘Roger Quilter: His Life and Music’ by Valerie Langfield, 2002. This passage was about the nuances of the lyrical changes made by Quilter from his 1901 to 1911 versions of ‘The Sea-Bird’, and further details on the collection itself – ‘Songs of the Sea’. The passage was read by Anna, and was first recorded on the Zoom H4n handheld microphone, and then due to issues with popping from ‘P’ sounds, moved to the Soundman Binaural microphone, which eliminated the issue due to the microphones being positioned in the ears, away from the front of the sound source.

Cover of Langfield, V. (2002) Roger Quilter: His Life and Music

An extract of the ‘p’ popping of the Zoom H4n:

The final version chosen for ‘The Sea-bird – Track 2’

Track 3 – Field Recording

The third interpretation took the form of field recording, and was the documentation of a journey Anna undertook from the front of No. 4 Brunswick Square, Roger Quilter’s birthplace, to the sea. This recording was intended to be captured with the Soundman Binaurals, as they are mobile, inconspicuous, and ideal for spatial recordings such as this one. The walk took around 2 minutes 30 seconds to complete, with 40 seconds spent listening to the waves at the end. The journey was done twice due to issues such as wind interference in the first recording, but the same route was followed for both. The second recording was chosen.

Location of the field recording from No. 4 Brunswick Square to the beach

Chosen field recording of ‘The Sea-bird – Track 3’

After this initial research, ‘field recording’ transformed into a word which presented a recording methodology and perspective, rather than a ‘type’ of recording. This ‘type’ was replaced by ‘sound effects’, as natural and man-made sounds were incorporated in the following soundwalks and further research, alongside dialogue and musical composition. See ‘The Golden Hours’ for the next stage of this research.

Note: All recordings on this soundwalk are owned by Anna Edmonds.