Going beyond field recording

Nikita from soundtrip has a great mini-series of articles on the philosophy of sound recording different cities and locations. He goes beyond field recording, putting together his recording shot with a 10 minute mini-programme in mind. I’ve listed his four articles here as some of the links end up in Russian

  1. soundtrips – reasons, aims, ways
  2. practice of silence
  3. Sounds around
  4. creating a soundtrip

I’ve never done any combined recordings. I’ve attempted to be an observer, nether adding or taking away, with only editing and volume control, the equivalent of foundview in photography. That’s largely because I don’t feel I currently have any talent for that side of things. Nikita’s posts gave me some pointers. Like the point about not using an ipod but listening to the word around you.

I have a short commute so I don’t do that, indeed I don’t have an iPod, or listen to music on the move after getting off a plane and firing up my MD player with some music on. It was horrifying to hear how loud it was set to overcome the sound of the engines.

You have to be more careful as you get older to minimise loud sounds, because the middle ear loses the ability to tighten the eardrum using the tensor muscle and to separate the stirrup from the oval window via the stapedial muscle, so a valuable automatic gain control mechanism becomes less effective at reducing the transmission of loud sounds to the inner ear.

So I’ve managed to avoid the isolation due to music, perhaps more by luck than judgement.

I may get the opportunity to do more recording in a few months, and perhaps I need to move beyond the limitations of my thinking about the recording process.

Another landmark article was Des Coulam’s concept of the sound map when making recordings

  1. soundlandscapes’ street recording tips
  2. soundlandscapes on the concept of the sound map

These are my favourite articles about the art and vision of field recording. I’m generally okay on the technical stuff, but it’s the art of field recording that I haven’t yet got right, and these made me think. It’s easy for some people writing about sounds to go all luvvie and float off into fluffy clouds of art-school speak, it’s good to avoid that and get real ideas from real people out there doing it!


New Year 2012 Felixstowe Ship Horns

Even in Ipswich you get to hear the boat horns sounding on New Year’s day, so this time I went to Shotley Peninsula, between the large container port at Felixstowe and another port at Harwich to record the ship horns sounding the New Year in.

A nice touch was the Shotley residents have a sense of timing. Unlike in Ipswich, where people start releasing fireworks all the time as soon as it gets dark, in Shotley (and Felixstowe and Harwich by the looks of it) they wait for the New Year. In the foreground are the sounds of some Shotley residents celebrating at the pub, but it is the ship foghorns that make this for me.

Note the fireworks are quite loud after the horns 🙂