University of Surrey 

For Alumni and Supporters

Anna Bartle

Anna Bartle (nee Czajkowski) knew only the Tonmeister course was what she wanted to do at University and it has led to a most interesting career – as a forensic audio engineer with the Metropolitan Police. Anna graduated with a BMus in 1999.

Why did you decide on the Tonmeister course?

I have always loved music. When I was four I had a tape recorder and would walk round recording all sorts of things. I went on to make my own radio shows when I was a bit older. I first heard about the Tonmeister course from my piano teacher when I was 14. I knew I wanted to do sound recording and, once I heard about Surrey, it motivated me to work hard at my GCSEs and choose the right subjects for A level. From 14 it was all about doing the Tonmeister course at Surrey.

What sparked your interest in forensic engineering?

In my final year I had to do a technical project and I remembered a paper I was shown while doing by Professional Training Year. I worked at German radio station WDR and my supervisor had me a paper on the authentication of forensic recordings. I thought it was really interesting and decided to base my project in that area.

What Tonmeister skills have helped in your career?

The technical side was really important but the theory was very useful too – it was because of the Tonmeister course that I got my first job. I applied for a position at the then Forensic Science Service and was delighted to get it. I was told later that I was the only applicant who had the audio engineering background they were looking for – the Tonmeister course was the perfect training for the job. I was really thrown in at the deep end; I thought I was joining the audio department – in fact I was setting it up! I was joined by a couple of Tonmeister graduates in due course until the Service was closed. That’s when I joined the Met.

I’ve since done a Masters in phonetics to complement what I learnt on Tonmeister, which really helps with voice comparison work.

What does your work involve?

Essentially any recording that is part of a police investigation. In practice, that means things like reducing noise levels so certain bits can be heard more clearly, checking the authenticity of a piece of audio to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and voice comparison to see if two voices are from the same person for example. We also increasingly use audio from videos taken on mobiles. Ironically, my job involves often filtering out music to hear the audio more clearly which is strange as so many Tonmeisters work in the music industry.

What has been your career highlight?

Everyone also thinks it will be a case I have worked on, but for me the technical side is what excites me. It’s great when you uncover something really cool, such as time and data on a recording. New techniques always interest me.  I’m also proud of setting up the audio department at the Forensic Science Service – that was a big achievement.

Sum up the role of the forensic audio engineer

It’s about using new developments and techniques in an exciting way and applying them to problems in the real world to solve crimes.

 

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