The square is relatively empty considering the time, and the fountain is off. It is quite a still evening. Scooters and sparse shouts echo off the almost unbroken line of building facades, and it is possible to hear the approximate dimensions of the space. While none of the of the surfaces around the square are in any way absorbent, the comparative size of the two main axes (especially facing the Basilica) coupled with the completely open area above means that the reverberations do not become too oppressive, but are ever-present.
As an experiment I recorded the space and then listened to the recording after noting my initial impressions. What it is most obvious is the lack of selective focus that our ears and brains have naturally (it is surmised that losing this ability is a primary reason for being 'hard of hearing' in older people, rather than an actual loss in the ability to hear sound in general). Without the recording I would have described the space as being relatively quiet, however as you can hear there is pretty much constant 'noise'. What is also noticeable in the recording is the way all these sounds are effective in describing the space - the impulses arriving at the microphones are noticeably altered by the surfaces and geometry of and in the square
Warm tones. A fairly still night, it is the holiday of the Immaculate Conception so a hubbub of voices from a crowd gathered outside the Basilica de la Mercè. There a a few people near me where the fountain is at the south-west end of the square, their speech is more distinct and loud - individual voices can be made out. It is an interesting counterpoint to the muted roar of indistinguishable chatter of which no cadence of timbre can be made out, only that of its entirety - a real 'rhubarb rhubarb effect. The fountain is on, adding the characteristic tinkle and splash to the predominantly human ambiance present in the square.
The soft warm sound of flowing, bubbling water from the fountain pervades the mid-range frequencies. Underneath is the ever-present yet always changing low road of traffic bleeding in from the Passage de Colon. A taxi driving up the one-lane road down the north-west side of the square dominates the spectrum, surprisingly loud against the background. Its doors slam as people disembark to my left, punctuating the ambiance even more than its progress did.
Even just a few steps away from the fountain towards the Basilica the tonal qualities of the fountain change. A previously masked droning sound comes to the fore - it too - like the traffic and the fountain is constantly in flux, always changing, always the same. Not a particularly large amount of variation, but present nonetheless. I decide it is a vacuum cleaner, though due to the constant nature of the sound and the qualities of the space working out exactly where it is coming from is almost impossible.
Rain! Often I get asked what I'm studying/doing, and 'sound artist' is really hard to explain. Sometimes a follow-up question will be about what my favoured sound is. I don't have a specialty, but I think I could say with some degree of certainty that I find recording water to be quite rewarding. Tonight the rain completely covers all the usual ambient sounds of the square, and in it's place is a multitude of new constant textures. Under my umbrella the fabric gives the droplets a bassy quality, whereas the surrounding stone ground is more of a sizzle. The defining features of the space cease to exist apart from the immediate building materials interacting with the downpour.
The perfect weather for field recording tonight. The air is still and it is cold, sounds travel much further and echo more, the time means most of the traffic noise and human activity isn't present. Possibly the best time to gauge the qualities of a public space. It is possible to hear the hard surfaces all around - distant sounds from garbage removal trucks and the occaisional car from the Passage de Colon make their way into the square, echo off the building facades and dissipate into the night. I think about making an IR recording, in Barcelona if might be possible to get away with a loud twelve second swept sinewave at 3 in the morning? Could definitely get away with popping a balloon with a multichannel mic in the square...