A Sound Investment…

I’ve been pretty busy for the past couple of days recording and editing a group of sound files for a local arts event called the Electric Lantern Festival (Elf for short) taking place in Tunbridge Wells this week.  For reasons I won’t go into, other than to say ‘skool holidays’, which should be explanation enough for most single parents, I was a bit late out of the traps as far as recording goes and finished up recording the files at home by myself rather than on location, as originally planned, with The Elf Man himself, Sam Marlow.

Sam, when recording other members of THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS WRITERS, my co-conspiritors in the project, had several lovely bits of high-tech kit at his disposal, including a two-headed digital recorder-cum-mic that looks like something that might have fallen off the back of a cyberman and a giant, fluffy, lucky rabbit’s foot of a boom to cut out background noise, wind-whistles and s-s-s-s-sibilence. I had my cheap and cheerful Sony Dictaphone (“no you can’t – use your finger like everyone else”… not sure that old chestnut works in these days of voice recognition and auto dialing, but I’ll leave it in for old time’s sake), a twin ended 3.5mm jack lead (yes it’s that cheap and cheerful – not even a USB port!) and an old sock, the last of which probably helped to block out some of the worst background noises like the yapping Chihuahua up the road but made finding the various buttons and knobs I had to twiddle rather more complicated than I would have liked.

Once recorded I had to plug the Dictaphone (ooer, missus) into the ‘line in’ port on my PC, boot up Audacity and spend two or three hours watching squiggly lines write themselves across my monitor while cringing, as everybody does when they hear their own voice, and wishing that I had a couple of hundred quid to spend on a professional voice artist. After that it was just a case of whipping out as many stutters, blunders, coughs, farts and chair squeaks as I could without leaving the reasonable bits incomprehensible, plus a quick NR, bass-cut and ‘normalise’ before burning the lot to disc.

And if that was boring to read, imagine how boring it was actually doing it…

Anyhoo, got them done, and delivered them to Sam-the-Man ‘on-location’ on Tuesday afternoon, arriving in good time to support a couple of my fellow writer’s, Chris and Jess, as they recorded another piece of the project; a short sketch based on an early morning conversation between the 17th Century Poet, John Wilmot, and his mistress, Mary – a saucy little doxy and no mistake!

So, my recording tribulations aside, what, I hear you ask, is the ELF festival, who are the TUNBRIDGE WELLS WRITERS, and what exactly is this project? Well, I’ll give you the short answers, and then you can follow the link to ELF at the bottom to read the longer answer if you’re interested, where you can also grab a fairly decent handful of free audio and pdf files.

The ELF is a week-long arts festival, now in its second year, showcasing the talents (hem hem) of artists and writers living in and around Tunbridge Wells. It’s pretty much a case of anything goes, and while this year the focus has been on art, photography and writing the festival has previously involved theatre, film, comedy and music and just about anything else that might whet the appetites of the nine muses. And it’s all lovely and free.

The TUNBRIDGE WELLS WRITERS are a motley collection of would-be writers and poets who meet once a fortnight to swap ideas, talk about all aspects of writing, drink BEER AND WINE and occasionally even put pen to paper and/or offer feedback to others who have been putting pen to paper. It’s a very informal group so we don’t have membership numbers or anything like that, but there seem to be more of us every time we meet up and it’s getting increasingly difficult to fit around the several tables kindly reserved for us by a local purveyor of BEER AND WINE. That’s a problem we’re happy to have, though, and if you live in or near Tunbridge Wells and like scribbling (or typing) things onto paper we’d be happy to budge up and make room for another one or seven.

THE AUDITOURY / WELLS READ PROJECT is an online collaboration between ELF and TWW offering a collection of MP3 sound recordings and PDF files (maybe an e-book later, or even a Kindle if we can ensure its availability FOC) that can be downloaded freely by anyone accessing the ELF website. Each file-set contains a sound recording read (in most cases) by the author and a transcript of the recording. Also included is a location in Tunbridge Wells that relates directly to the action or events depicted in the file.

In effect, then, the project is an ‘audio tour’ of Tunbridge Wells, but for those who prefer reading hard copy to listening the option is open to do so; hence the twinned project name. As with everything else about ELF there are no hard and fast rules, so the pieces available include everything from poetry through short stories to the two-header playlet mentioned above. There are also a couple of non-fiction pieces and a smattering of monologues based on personal reminiscences, although the reliability of the narrators in the latter cases may be questionable ;-).

So that’s what I’ve been doing this week, and I hope it’s of interest. Here’s a link if you want to check out the ELF (click on ‘Wells Read’ for the stories and stuff) and here are several more if you fancy checking out the TWW’s on their WEBSITE, MEET-UP page or FACEBOOK page. My stuff may not be on ELF yet but should be in a day or two, along with that playlet and some other late arrivals, so don’t forget to check back.

A 17th Century poet and his saucy doxy giggling like kids at the size of a local peasant’s lucky rabbit’s foot.
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