Shure microphones created a 3 part mini series
about TheBigRecordUK & the kit I used
Hi, I’m Paul Cheese
On May 26th 2019, I set out to discover what the UK sounds like.
I cycled almost 5000 miles – to every region of the UK to capture the sounds of people and places. In addition, I asked people to send me sounds from their lives.
The cycle took me just over three months, but I met so many people with so many great suggestions for locations to record in that more than a few detours were made.
What an experience. It’s a cliché, but it was such a pleasure to meet so many brilliant and different people and places along the way. Thank you.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve listened to 1000s and 1000s of sounds that I recorded and orchestrated them into a piece of music - the sounds of the people, the friendliness, the sound of the elements interacting with the architecture and nature, the activities or everyday life - the sounds of people's workplaces and tools, hobbies, art and the different rhythms of different materials, the echoes bouncing off concrete, or through tunnels – all combined to create a unique reflection of The Sound of the UK.
Here are just some of the sounds used in the track…
The tempo of the middle of the TheBigRecordUK track is set by the speed of a man with a 2 piece metal walking stick recorded in Cambridge.
Rhythms on this section come from Sharons Chip shop chip scoop and bag shake in Dorset, Kingsley road sweeping in London, Toms art graffiti spray can in Bristol, a Zumba class in Kent, Rufus raking leaves in Devon, skateboarders in Suffolk and Newcastle, the slam of the Bronte sisters front door in West Yorkshire, a builder filing metal in a doorway in Hull, Max cleaning a large plant pot outside a pub in Cumbria, the rhythm of the old control levers in a train signal box at Instow/Barnstaple, the stamp in a long tunnel in Glasgow, Simian bouncing a basketball in Birkby near Huddersfield, Horses hooves on the North Yorkshire moors and Newmarket, A nail gun near Mossley, Manchester, The clack of the Tor point chain link ferry in Plymouth, the sound of the choir in Tewksbury Abbey a church choir Omagh, Northern Ireland.
The breathing of the the shingle on Brighton seafront, the waves on steps in Rhyll, north Wales and footsteps on the North coast of Guernsey. The Buttercross Morris in the centre of Leeds.
The high instrument melody was created from sounds merging in the Kelham Island museum in Sheffield , Building site drilling in Leicester and Crawley, mowers and strimmers from Norfolk, Essex, Cumbria, Gloucester, a barbers razor in Kirkwall, Orkney and notes extracted from the layers of sound as they merge together.
The bass is made from:
A helicopter from Shropshire, The hum of the Scrabster to Orkney ferry, a diesel pumping engine from the Highlands, a recycle factory in Northumberland, the transporter bridge in Middlesborough and 12 Electric substations from across the UK, one of which was recorded underwater in Cumbria.
Here is what I did, I put my speakers in a waterproof bag, put a microphone in waterproof bag, then submerged them both underwater in a lake Bassenthwaite, I then played the sound of an electric substation back through the speakers, then I recorded the sound it made, yep, underwater)
Yep, I plunged the largest electrical substation I heard into a lake in the lake district and recorded the sound it made.
I cycled from Folkestone in Kent to the Orkney Isles off the north coast of Scotland via Northern Ireland, then a cycle zig-zag back down across the UK to the Channel Islands via Norwich, Shrewsbury, Bangor, Aughnacloy, Belfast, Glasgow, The Scottish Highlands, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Keswick, Newcastle, Hull, Lincoln, Stoke, Leeds, Blackburn, Manchester, Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Newquay, Truro, Plymouth, The Channel Islands, Portsmouth, Brighton, Reading, Oxford, Gloucester, Birmingham, Coventry, Milton Keynes circling around London and finishing in London city centre.
The Counties I visited:
Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Down, Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, Derry/Londonderry, Antrim, Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, Argyll, Perthshire, Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney, Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire, Angus, Fife, West Lothian, Midlothian, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire, Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire, Dumfries shire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, York, East Yorkshire Ridings, Hull, North Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Derby, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Blackburn, Greater Manchester, Warrington, Merseyside, Cheshire, Snowdonia, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Brecon, Neath, The Valleys, Bridgend, Glamorgan, Powys, Monmouth, South Gloucestershire
Bristol, East Somerset, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey) Southampton, West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Swindon, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, West midlands, Warwickshire, Coventry, Northamptonshire, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire, Greater London, Central London
I captured so many fantastic sounds –
Firemen retracting ladders in Suffolk
The rhythm of chalk marks as the sign writer marks out the new lettering at a carriage restorers in Ballantrea on the West coast of Scotland,
lock gates in Leicester,
the sound of curlews and electric fences on the Orkney isles,
metal girders being dropped in Cornwall
electric sub stations in Cumbria
crop sprinklers in Shropshire
The transporter bridge into Middlesbrough
Hull Cathedral bells and the flicker of bunting
The favourite chord of an organ master in Newark on Trent
The one o clock gun in Edinburgh
Clog dancers in Leeds
Kicking the bar in Aberystwyth
The wind whistling in the rigging of boats at Sandwich bay, Kent.
To the sound of train tracks and in London
He talked to people across the whole of the UK finding out local information about great sounding locations.
The sound of bull dozers pushing metal into compactors on the north coast of Wales,
Manchester town hall clock,
The rhythm of builders re-pointing a wall in Somerset,
The sound decay of the reverb is in a old railway tunnel in West Yorkshire,
The sounds of Rossy boatyard at Clydebank,
A spitfire flyby in Folkestone on the Kent coast,
The audio tones of the different sluice gates and weirs on the Kennet and Avon canal
The rhythms and clanks of metal works in Keighley,
The beat of a working watermill in the Brecon beacons,
An old man with a 2 piece metal walking stick in Cambridge,
A motorbike dealers favourite engine idling in Norfolk,
‘relay for life’ walkers footsteps in Barnstaple…
I've used between 3500-4000 sounds that I collected during the 5000 mile cycle.
I've only used the sounds I collected and was sent and kept the sounds as true to the original sound as possible.
The piece of music goes through 5 different movements, with 3 key changes and 3 tempo changes.
I listen to every sound collected, grouped them into their nearest note and nearest tempo...
A large majority of the sounds were in F# major, then D major, A# Major
two thirds of the sounds were at 98bpm, then 108bpm, then 122bpm
I wanted to show all the different aspects of the UK,
The epic UK, the industry, the people, the humour:)
Every sound has a story...
I also collected recordings of people saying the names of their towns (because I didn't want to pronounce the towns wrong)
I have over so many voices/accents from across the UK, I grouped them into folders of their syllable count and created rhythms from the town names:)
For example: tap a 4/4 beat and say:
Wells, Mesham, Middlesborough, Jersey,
Buckfast, Hexham, Liverpool, Hull.
The first melody section is made from, mowers, strimmers, drills, machinery, passing cars on rumble strips, harbour defence re building, construction, bees, birds, the list goes on:) ha ha
So many possibilities
I've used the accelerating of the Torpoint chain-link ferry and the Brecon Beacons steam train to increase the tempo between sections.
All the melodies were extracted from sounds collected.
From my experience...
The loudest sparrows were on Jersey
The loudest blackbirds were in Norfolk
The loudest seagulls were in Devon (Sidmouth)
oh and... 3 out of 4 UK builders render a wall at around 98bpm