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Case Studies


Nicholas O'Brien

Nicholas O'Brien

On the 7th April 2012, I, Nicholas O'Brien, set out for a 5 month cycling and recording adventure around Europe. I gave the project the fairly explicit title “Record and Ride” and rode an old bicycle named after the physicist C. Doppler. The idea was to travel and record artists along the way whilst sharing the recordings on the following website: record-and-ride.com. There was to be no set route, instead each artist was to forward me onto the next. I was hoping to physically travel through a hidden network of artists.

I had two recording setups. The first was an RME Fireface 800, a laptop, 4 microphones, cables and transportable lighting-stands converted into mic-stands. This all perfectly fitted inside my waterproof bike panniers alongside clothes and musical instruments! The second setup was a simple portable HD recorder.

Equipped with all of this, I set out from Oxford. First stop was London and after a week there, I realised that travelling far and moving regularly wouldn't work by relying solely on the artists. Sticking to the original concept would result in me going round in circles in the same city. Given that I only had 5 months, I decided to change the rules a little. I made the decision to head towards Poland and, to engage the online community I was slowly creating through my website by asking them to connect me to artists. As a result followers and contacts flowed in and I was able to travel relatively smoothly from artist to artist!

The FF800 proved to be an excellent companion. When the environment aloud it I could set up a perfectly functional portable studio allowing me to record just about anything in places as varied as living rooms, huge stairwells or the streets of old Italian towns! The FF800's flexibility and ease-of-use allowed both me and the artist to focus on the beauty and uniqueness of the performance.

Over the next few months, the FF800 accompanied me as I cycled through northern France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy (Bari), Greece, Israel and the United Kingdom. I cycled most of the way till knee problems in Poland meant I had to momentarily resort to trains. Once in Slovenia I resumed cycling towards Greece where I sent Doppler to Edinburgh whilst I flew to Israel. I then joined him two weeks later for the Edinburgh Fringe and completed the circle by riding back down to Oxford.

The Record and Ride trip ended on the 8th September 2012 with 53 artists recorded, 182 tracks and over 4000 km cycled. I recorded in many acoustically interesting spaces such as an old abandon spying station with a surreal reverb or tunnels leading to the Warsaw sewers; each recording has its story. Far from the impeccable studio environment my recordings are tainted by the sounds of cars, people and the acoustics of the environment. They are recordings of unique performances I feel privileged to have experienced and want to share. All the recordings are available online for free download.

The Fireface 800 survived the entire trip and, after travelling through over 10 different countries, it is still by my side in my studio or wherever else I go for work. Whilst I'm sure the Fireface will accompany me on future trips, I can only encourage anyone to get on a bike and follow the music.