A Good Day At The Office

The only conceivable personal advantage to being an HPL in HE is 22 weeks (unpaid) holiday each year. There can be no doubt that, as a devoted Dad, a qualifying PADI scuba diver, lover of outdoorsy shenanigans, photographer, videographer and all-round spare-time-filler, 5 months off each year is pretty easy on the soul. Terrible on the bank account, but there you are. They say the Devil makes work for idle hands, and it’s a shoe-in that I rarely – if ever – find myself bored, at a loose end, rudderless or disengaged.

There’s still plenty to do towards the next academic session during the long, grey summers away from DMU. The HE umbilicus is never completely severed: there’s Demon FM to guide and steer – and summer is our most challenging period – plus, getting the ideas and concepts which continually present themselves condensed into a Module Handbook. There are exciting changes afoot with the Radio Production BSc this year, which may rightly give us the gloating power – on a national scale – that all our Radio students are on-air, using technology and creating content, from t=0. That’s something to be very proud of.

Today has felt a little like the Krypton Factor, and forgive me if you’re too young to remember that hallowed gameshow. DMU’s Car Park staff vigorously informed me that my parking permit was almost defunct – and that there would be no ‘grace period’ this year, because Maurice ‘wasn’t having it’. If you’ve met Maurice, you’ll know that it’s his way, or the highway, and damn right, too – far too many liberties being taken by those pesky driving staff. So, first it’s a run to Estates, confirmation of the new permit, dash to the Faculty Office in Gateway House, collect new permit from the redoubtable Helen Chan, return jubilant to the car park entry gate, waving my blue permit aloft like I’ve won the bleeding lottery.

And so to business for the day, which mainly consisted of lunch with Rob Watson, getting all our ducks in a line, ready for the new academic year. I mentioned our ‘every-year-on-air’ strategy; loosely, the plan is for each of First and Second years to have one hour on-air per week, using all the technologies of recording, editing, processing and playout; and then in Final year, we shall be continuing the ever-improving ‘independent production’ strand to the course, when students will produce content, for clients or to cover events, live music recordings and so on, all feeding into DemonFM. If you could see me now, you would see that I was all a-burst with excitement about this. This course almost completely mirrors the real world of radio production. I wish it had been around when I was at university.

Module Handbooks planned and prepped, I headed to CTS to see Dave Tunnicliffe, who was permitted to install the whole of the Adobe CS5.5 Suites – both Creative and Production – on my laptop. I can’t say there wasn’t some small joy in knowing that I now had three of my all-time favourite applications – Audition, Photoshop and Premiere – at my disposal. Geek alert.

The payoff for such generosity was to take part as a test-subject in a piece of research being undertaken by the Department’s Lorenzo Picinali. Not with Big L himself, but with his research colleague Davide Mauro. Davide had me listen to pairs of sounds, and say whether they were identical or different. Then, wearing noise-cancelling headphones – I placed my index and middle fingers onto the cone of an upturned speaker, and the same test was run, only this time I could only feel the vibration, not the sound itself. Again, I had to say whether the sound-pairs were the same, or different. Just the idea that sound isn’t simply what our ears hear, but also what our body feels – even what our eyes see at the simultaneous moment – strikes me as fascinating. I look forward to hearing the results of this research, though this is very much ‘early days’ in the progress of the project.

So, as I say – a good day at the office.

About Simon Walsh