Water Pump Clocks in Staffordshire

Original analogue material

Original cassette recording was made by using a hand held microphone dropped into the water vessel located on a farm somewhere near Keele in Staffordshire. The pumping machine was recorded at about midnight in 1977. There is about 3 minutes of recording, the idea at the time was to create a drum beat pulse for a university punk group that had formed out from a circle of friends.

Audacity Manipulations

  • Digital capture of the Audio Tape in WAV format.
  • Copying the original material into 8 tracks so that it can be manipulated digitally.
  • Each track was treated separately using only the speed change tool.
  • I chose the Fibonacci Sequence (1,3,5,8,13) has a basis of change the tempo of each track speeding up and slowing down.
Capture - Slickstercast Mixing Desk

I selected percentage ratios the following percentages +30% +50% +80% +130% to speed up as well as -30%, -50% & -80% to slow down. Keeping the original track intact as it was recorded in 1977.

I altered the equalization of each track separately making the faster tracks with more treble to resemble a tight high pitched drum or cymbal. These unique graphic equalizations on each track attract the listeners attention creating pseudo instruments and multiple tempi. Only the track at the original speed does not have any graphic equalisation manipulation. Consequently the normal speed track stands out during the piece at about the 3 minutes into the composition and is distinct from the cacophony of the faster drum sounds beginning.

Slowing down and speeding up tracks results in each being different durations. The longest track becoming about 22 minutes in length. So the tracks are mixed by gradually fading in and fading out to produce a composition of about 9 minutes.

The equalization settings promote the bass frequencies in the slower tracks (like a bass drum setting the beat) with the high track being filtered using a wide band notch filter to make a telephone like sound (mimicking a high pitch side drum or cymbal). The tracks that were closest to the original untreated tracks were given frequency haircuts taking out selected frequency bands (see the equalisation graphs below).

The influence of the Fibonacci sequence on the tempi and cross rhythms produce unexpected outcomes or transcendental quality for the listener.

Water Pump Clocks in Staffordshire by Vic Berry

Personal reflection on the composition

As the speed of the tracks are slowed down it is possible to start to understand more about the machinery that is making the noise where the slowest tracks sound like the breath of a human being.

The faster tracks and tracks that have a strong drum beat with the phasing of the beats created by the Fibonacci numbers make moments of surprise with the beat as sounds strike in unison or unexpectedly late.

As the piece progresses and the beat starts to slow down the listener is drawn into a more transcendental state noticing the quality of the sounds and mechanics of the machine more and more. The original track is reveals a metallic pulse as well as the watery sounds in the background that are unmistakable to the a human ear. I envisaged mechanics and engineers listening to the these sounds and thinking about fly wheels, cogs bellows and cam shafts rotate as time itself goes by.

When I recorded this Water Pump in 1977 I thought it would be useful to provide a drum beat for a student punk band form from a friendship group at University. We did use the track as the backdrop to a recorded of an experimental “happening” inspired out of the pop-art movement.

Today the original recording of the water pump in 1977 was recovered from my collection of old cassette tape and reused. I remember walking out with my a girl friend late in the evening it was quiet and pitch dark. We walked out and unexpectedly the strange sound of the pump tick away got louder and louder  as we approached. I had a battery/mains mono audio cassette recorder with a desk/hand held microphone on this late trip to capture this moment.

As the beat gets slower and slower and more is revealed like time itself we get older this recording was 40 years ago it like the ageing process. More is reveal and we have more experience and knowledge to give and yet less to time to share these treasurers as time continually ticks away.

As each layer falls away less and less seems to happen until the final audible tick of the mechanised clock strikes.

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