COLIN DRURY: Lend me your ear

Martin Hogg
Martin Hogg
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LISTEN up: here’s news of a visitors’ guide to Sheffield unlike any you’ve ever heard of before. Literally.

Forget the Cathedral, the Crucible or the Winter Garden. Martin Hogg’s new book will eschew such landmarks and instead direct readers to the city’s ‘sonic-marks’.

Martin Hogg

Martin Hogg

The tome will be the first – and almost certainly only – guide to the sounds you can only hear right here.

It will point visitors and residents alike to the city’s best audio-curiosities – including the clatter of the River Don Engine at Kelham Island Museum, the Sheaf Street water feature and the ambience from the hills of Pitsmoor.

“Is it a bit niche?” ponders the professional sound recordist, of Rushdale Avenue, Meersbrook. “Possibly. But we live in a visual society and people don’t tend to notice the sounds surrounding them. This is a way of promoting that.”

And a similar book he’s already produced in the Sweedish town of Umea has gone down like a bomb. Or something equally loud.

That compendium – produced while Martin and partner Anne-Cecile lived there for 18 months – is being lined up as a potential flagship guide when the city becomes European Capital of Culture 2014.

Now Martin, who is originally from Carlisle but moved here in 1993, reckons the Sheffield book can be equally effective.

“I listen to plenty of music but it gets boring,” says the 38-year-old. “It’s just combinations of 12 notes.

“But when you listen to the sounds of your environment, it’s like a live composition being conducted right in front of you. Acoustic ecology is my passion. I want to encourage the reader to deep listen, to go and physically experience the sounds that make Sheffield unique.”

The book will include a written guide to seven or eight sonic-marks, including its geo-coordinates and “optimum listening conditions”.

In the Umea guide, several of those optimums are in rain so pack a mac.

And although the text won’t come with any audio accompaniments (“because I want people to hear for themselves”) Martin is currently building a sound-map website of Sheffield.

A similar global site supported by the World Forum Of Acoustic Ecology (it’s an international organisation which “studies the social, cultural and ecological aspects of the sonic environment” apparently) has gathered 10,000 sound posts.

“But Sheffield is unrepresented,” notes the Sheffield Hallam University fine arts graduate, “The site will be a map where you’ll be able to click on an area and listen to what’s been recorded there.”

And Martin, who previously worked in radio broadcasting and music production before moving into freelance recording and soundmapping, will also host sound walks through the summer. They start on July 8. That’s World Listening Day.

“There are lots of guided walks in Sheffield,” he says. “I’m sure a sound one would be of interest. But if not I’d be happy to do it on my own. I could spend all day walking around listening.”

Heard Unheard Sheffield is scheduled for a self-published release in Autumn. Details of walks can be found at www.acousticbaffle.co.uk