I enjoy making and listening to field recordings of various environments and have some thoughts on why the act of doing so apeals to me, and perhaps others who engage in the same way.
Field Recording is an inherantly meditative practise in so far as it places the recordist in the a state of concentrated awareness as the events that are being captured unfold. Certain parameters are set by the recordist - choosing the desired aspect of an environment or object to reproduce by specifying certain equipment and its configuration, and dictating the period of time within which the recording takes place. Outside of these parameters, what occurs is in a sense, random, at least on the precise level of acoustic detail. This kind of controlled randomness renders the overall practise a stochastic process.
Some environments yield a larger degree of unanticipated results than others, but all sonic features possess and generate unique qualities as they become apparent and interact with each other. These are elements that can be engaged with and appreciated for what they are and the act of creating and indeed listening back to recordings promotes this type of engagement and appreciation.
Sometimes specific environments or objects can hold overtly interesting characteristics as they are unusual and simply impressive to our ears. However, I feel that sometimes more common everyday sounds can be overlooked and that they are capable of inspiring reflective thought or hold the attention of a listener if they are received in an open and interested condition. It can be helpful to listen to sounds out of context and cultivate a non-judgmentally aware state of mind, which in my experience brings a wealth of benefits for general mental well-being.
Below is a range of recordings I have made.
Here is a recording of a storm that broke in the early hours of a particularly hot July morning in Brighton, England.
I was ready with my equipment as I knew the storm was due and managed to capture a clean recording containing cracking thunder claps and low, brooding rumbles, all of which is accompanied by a consistent downpour of fluctuating intensity.
I’m lucky enough to live very close to the beach in Brighton, it's usually pretty quiet down there early in the morning and it’s not uncommon to have the beach to yourself.
The sea takes many different forms ranging from rough and choppy to still and calm. This recording errs more on the calm side and I was able to hold the mic fairly close over the surface of the water and capture the steady movement of the waves as they flowed back and forth over the shoreline. The sound of the pebbles as they are excited by the water is also present and the natural filter that the water provides by covering the stones provides a pleasing audible effect.
The detail in this soundscape of a busy street in Marrakech, Morocco goes some way to express the fast-paced nature of the city.
There is a lot of variation in the sound due to the different modes of transport including cars, buses, whirring mopeds and horses pulling carts. Recorded from the entrance to a coffee shop that leads onto a busy road it is a snap shot of a typical day in this bustling environment.
I initially made these recordings for my sister who had recently adopted a dog from a rescue home.
The dog had obviously suffered some sort of trauma in it’s early life and we soon discovered that she had a fear of trains, among other things. We had the idea to playback to her the sounds of the things she was afraid of, starting at a low volume and in an environment that she found comfortable, namely at home, hoping that she would begin to get used to them and gradually associate the the feeling of low anxiety from being at home with the sounds of the things that made her uncomfortable.
In doing this I realised the interesting nature of the sounds produced by the trains and their environments, which contain a range of sonic features that endow them with a lot of character. I find the smooth movement within these trains recordings made at Hove station quite soothing to listen to. It’s also a good way to give yourself itchy feet and contemplate a new journey.
A little downstream from the foot a cascade, where the water continued it’s journey towards the next drop over another set of rocks, forming a subsequent cascade, there was a great position to make a recording of a tributary to the Ourika River, which flows through the Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco.
The gushing power of the waterfall is evident in the recording as it sits behind the movement of the water as it undulates over the small but naturally complex rock formations.
This dawn chorus was recorded in some woodland on a campsite at Hurstpierpoint, England.
Due to the large deficit in my knowledge of ornithology I would not be able to identify any particular birds in this recording other than a cuckoo, but I found it enjoyable to capture and listen back to none the less. There is a small bird really displaying his prowess to the left of the stereo image and as a result he somewhat steals the show, the fact that he was fairly close to my recorder helped to enhance his presence somewhat.
This is a seascape made on the beach at Saltdean, England.
The stereo mic was positioned in the centre of the beach between two groynes capturing a balanced stereo image of the sea in a fairly rough and choppy state. The waves came further up the beach at times which displays the sound of the water dragging the pebbles back towards the front of the shoreline as it succeeding waves continue to tumble at different angles, tripping over themselves and each other.