Steve Urquhart, Radio Producer and Sound Artist is one of our Boom scheme members for 2017-18 and as his year comes to an end he reflects on what it's meant to him to have this opportunity and the unusual and exciting avenues that have emerged....

I have a confession.

Despite being a reasonably successful radio producer and sound artist, my knowledge of microphones has been… limited.

Until very recently I owned two microphones, not counting my mobile phone. I used one of these for almost every recording I made, and took the other with me for backup in case the first one stopped working.

(I appreciate this is a bit like a chef owning only one or two pans, or a dressmaker sticking with a single needle.)

This hasn’t ever seemed like a huge problem. I was quite happy trundling along with my two microphones, I knew which way to point them, I didn’t feel particularly constrained, and if the recording wasn’t quite right I would modify or clean up the sound quality later.

But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help thinking that I really should extend my knowledge of microphones beyond the basics.

So, at the beginning of 2017, I applied to OCM’s professional development scheme – BOOM. And I was lucky enough to gain their support.

In my line of work – indeed, in most creative industries – opportunities for professional development with no expectation of specific outcomes are very rare. As a freelancer I tend to jump from one project deadline to the next; there’s neither the time nor money to experiment, to research, to play.

And so… spending a Monday afternoon at a Yorkshire nature reserve, pinning contact mics to a fence… holding a little round thing called an “exciter” against a cardboard box, to turn the box into a makeshift loudspeaker, in a lockup garage in south Cumbria… figuring out how my audio productions might be presented in the form of an “immersive audio deconstruction”… all of this, and much more, has been made possible thanks to my BOOM residency.

As a radio producer, almost everything I make is heard via the little box in the corner of the room, or the car stereo, or through headphones – this has been my whole world of audio design. But for some time now, I’ve wanted to learn how to translate sound stories to more unusual and unchartered environments, and to explore which mics and speakers work best in different situations. I hope to engage new listeners in surprising places with meaningful, captivating sound.

With their solid practical advice and creative support, my three brilliant BOOM mentors – Chris Full, Jez Riley French, and Dan Fox – have opened my eyes and ears. I’m very grateful to them, and to Oxford Contemporary Music, and I look forward to sharing the fruits of my residency.

Twitter @listentosteve

Steve Urquhart, April 2018