Windowsill Recording

In November 2012 I spent an entire month attempting to ‘objectively’ or ‘democratically’ record sounds from several windowsills of my house during eight-hour sessions.

Could placing a humble field-recorder on a windowsill be an interesting approach for people who are shut-in or shut-away? As the outside world often becomes unavailable for chronically ill people, this practice invites some of it in.

If for any reason we can’t be in the outside world physically, can we at least move a soundscape from the street and skies to our beds, chairs, walls and eardrums?

By employing even a subtle form of editing or layering of local field recordings, a housebound sufferer of a chronic illness now becomes an explorer from said windowsill. In the same way writers like James Joyce (or more recently) Jon Macgregor explode minutiae into riveting, spiralling fragments of greater and refined magnification – digital recording and editing enable such a stretching and exploding of one’s frankly boring life into a reassessment of ‘the everyday’.

This is a vital point for the housebound sufferer. Or as the San Francisco Buddhists of the sixties would say “Shit Happens. But it isn’t really shit.” Street noise coupled with aeroplanes flying around Prestwick Airport eight kilometres away is the central drone. Cars arrive and depart. Birds flap near the recorder and shriek in the dawn chorus. Distant helicopters fly women in labour from the Clyde Islands to Crosshouse hospital in Kilmarnock. Neighbours gossip about my visible microphone, a skateboard rattles and football is kicked. A little girl talks about how long I have left our pumpkins to rot on the doorstep post-Halloween. A crow rhythmically shrieks to someone nailing a fence. Other neighbours have a floor polished and a kitchen installed – the sound of which blends into the gentle roar of the A77 to Glasgow, a kilometre away. But in the main, it is the frankly surprisingly beautiful sound of distant aeroplanes that dominates. At night, I take the recorder to bed, sleeping to the world I simply caught on the window-ledge, which I sometimes can’t be in. Through this experiment I feel like I’ve lived a little better.