This post supplements my edition of The London Podcast on St Pancras Soundscapes
What’s a guy doing wandering around a London rail terminus in the middle of the evening holding a mike, but with no interviewee and nothing but the surrounding sounds to pick up? Fortunately, nobody asked me this at the time, not even the two patrolling police officers armed with what looked like sub-machine guns. They were on what seemed to be a routine patrol – this is an international port, after all. For a moment I thought they might mistake my stereo microphone for an offensive weapon (I’m 75% joking – the remaining 25% stopped me reinforcing this idea!), but they were of course too smart and too well-trained to make that mistake. Besides, I’m not aware of any firearms with a foam windshield on the barrel. There is such a thing as a gun mike with a ‘pistol grip’, but these names come from what they look like, not their function.
You wouldn’t be able to tell from the podcast that I passed the officers because, although they were vigilant, they made no more noise than anyone else passing me in the commentary-free sequence I’ve called ‘slow podcasting’ (after the ‘slow television’ spawned in Norway). And the whole point of the exercise is to let the atmospheric sound tell the story. From clacky heels to tube station turnstiles, and from pianos in the shopping arcade to snatched conversations, it’s a beautiful merging of sonic scenes, naturally cross-fading from one to the next. And once I get into William Henry Barlow’s magnificent train shed, from where the Eurostar trains depart for the continent, all the sounds are topped off with a cathedral-like acoustic thanks to the very high roof there.
Listen and enjoy – you can subscribe at the website above. And if you’ve enjoyed that podcast, I think you’ll like another example of slow podcasting in the show Sound of the Underground, which takes you on a short tube journey. Less cathedral-like, but still plenty of textures, and a bit of poetry, too, inspired by a classic documentary called Night Mail.