How a Sound Man Says Goodbye… In Norwegian

I know that a week or so ago I perhaps stretched the boundaries of plausibility and even the patience of my legions of admirers by suggesting that I might have been on the front page of The Wire, when in fact it was somewhat further inside the issue; but I maintain that this was hardly bending the truth, merely flicking it back a few pages, and that there really was no call for certain individuals to start throwing the F-WORD* about so liberally. Anyway, now the smoke has had several days to clear, I’m hoping it won’t affect the public reception of my latest absolute non-whopper. Last month I not only did (really, genuinely) appear in The Wire, I also briefly and even more genuinely appeared on the Norwegian equivalent of Radio 4! You could NOT make that up!

How is this possible? Well, it began as these things so often do with my hiding in a basement all afternoon. A few weeks ago I was down in my usual place in the bowels of Bush House tinkering with some loops (not, license-fee payers take note, at the expense of something I was actually supposed to be doing); when I was surprised to receive a visit from one Trygve Sørvaag, a freelance journalist and managing director of the London-based Scandinavian Press Agency. He was working on a piece about the World Service leaving Bush House for Norwegian programme ‘Ekko’, a two-hour daily show focusing on science, history and society; and to that end was being given a tour of the building’s hidden corners. Well, although you can probably hear in the following extract that I clearly wasn’t expecting visitors and hadn’t yet got round to memorising (or indeed writing) the press release, spooling up a few sounds for his approval was the work of a moment. Here’s how it went out:

I’m very proud indeed to have been featured in the programme, but entirely selfishly have included here just my own small part in a feature that was actually over twenty minutes long and proved a fascinating listen even if, like me, your language skills aren’t up to the job. Speaking of which, Trygve has kindly provided a translation for his voiceover, which I include below partly for clarification and partly to prove that at no point does he refer to me as ‘this idiot hiding downstairs who claimed he was in The Wire’:

This is the sound of another BBC employee saying goodbye to Bush House […] Studio Manager RW has recorded the natural sounds in the old building. A creaking door handle on 5th floor and the peculiar resonance in the marmot stone at 4am when the building is quiet. […] The recordings are then played back on old tape machines and repeated in various speeds. This is how a “sound man” [meaning sound engineer] says goodbye to Bush House.

Trygve tells me that this piece was commissioned by NRK (The Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation) and that this edition of ‘Ekko’ was broadcast on their channel ‘P2‘ (roughly the equivalent of our own dear Radio 4 – perhaps we could even call it Radio Fjord – actually, no that’s rubbish) on 25th May 2012. If you’d like to hear the whole thing it was made available on iTunes as a free podcast, which should hopefully still be available by clicking here. But for now my huge thanks go out to Trygve for including me in his programme and I urge you to go and visit his website. Partly because the man has a list of credentials as long as your arm with over fifteen years working as a journalist, broadcaster and photographer for Norwegian Radio, Sky News TV and more; and partly because he’s looking for someone to help him re-design it!

Meanwhile, work on my Bush House project is now entering the final phase, which is just as well, as Bush House is entering a final phase of it’s own. In less than a month I’ll be leaving for the last time. Fortunately my beloved basement studio hasn’t fallen silent just yet, although I did come quite close to blowing the speakers late last Friday evening while working on this latest piece. It’s made using an ident from the opening of the BBC Cantonese Service’s weekly programme and all the sounds were created by running the Greenwich Time Signal through my faithful old tapeloop, which has probably just about travelled to the moon and back by now, but, like the studio, is still hanging in there:

I’m hoping to spend this week putting the finishing touches to the album, which is shaping up to be a limited edition gold(!) cassette plus the usual downloads. I’m also working with photographer and Lomography ace Hannah Brown who has taken some amazing photos for the project, including this one below which might well end up being the cover. We’re getting awfully close now. Let’s hope I can finish before the lights go out and won’t be forced to do any more creative subversion of the facts in order to do so.

Sorry about that stupid Fjord pun…



Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.

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