What I learned from practicing Field Recording

Field Recording is much more than assembling an audio kit and record. It´s much more than technique and technology.

Only over the past few months I realised how important it has been on a personal level to practice Field Recording.

By understanding what events or things I was prone to record, I also gained perspective on what it is important to me.

When I moved to Stockholm, I did some recordings on the street of daily activity, traffic, institutional facilities. I was reflecting on how different this city sounds as in comparison to my home town in Portugal and how sound might reflect impressions on a level that can not be so immediate with image. I write about it here. A few months after I was not picking the gear as much to go out and record more of the city. Then I purchased a pair of contact mics. Thrilled with them, I started to record through surfaces of my apartment the street being drilled outside of the window. I went to the basement section of the building and placed the mics on the noisy fluorescent lights, and on the outside part of the elevator door while I was sending it to the top floor and down again. I went out with them to the train station and place them on a metal structure that resonated on the train passage.

Around these experiences that I did not even consider very serious I started to understand that resonances and structural noise is one field that interests me in particular.

Having the opportunity to do a little travelling, I was again very curious to listen to a city I did not know. Would people be chattering happily, walking relaxed or in a fast pace, waiting militarily for the green light to cross the street or rush on an opportunity? Would there be music coming out of windows and would there be wind chimes? Would I feel enclosure within small alleys but seeking to locate the folk band playing across the corner that I hear from the neighbouring street? Would there be people enjoying this music? What would I learn from this culture by the sound I listen?

And once I am on the countryside, my senses get lit up for changes on the outside atmosphere. This winter: temperatures of about 15 C above average with no hint of snow. While a rare full moon paints the landscape blue, a strong wind is dancing around. Very easily one can detect it coming from one side far away, build up incredibly and circle the trees around us to leave to another direction. What an incredible experience!

In both these situations I am looking to capture spontaneity, one of a culture character and another that is more of a rarity of the natural world and a possible sign of change for the fauna and flora.

These particular fields are amongst my main general interests. By wanting to capture their sound over others I realised that the practice of field recording anticipated my own awareness of subjects that matter to me. While this might seem obvious for some field recordist or any other creative professional, it helped me to put more thought into my work and figure out what is special and particular on a given soundscape. It also reflects to a certain extent who am I and why everyone´s work is different.

What about you?;  have you started to record straight away your main interests or did Field Recording practice help you  to discover and understand them? Feel free to share your thoughts on the comments section.

Happy field recording!

2 responses to “What I learned from practicing Field Recording

  1. Some of my thoughts and reasons for field recording are explained in my documentary: https://vimeo.com/thefieldrecordist/autobiography . Given time, you become more attuned to your surroundings, whether it be in
    rural or urban environments – the experience becomes quite enjoyable.

    Unfortunately the current trend amongst recordists of post processing disappoints me, as they filter and drain away the character of recordings to produce sterile copies!

    Happy sound hunting!

    • Thank you for your comment and for sharing your wonderful and insightful documentary. I enjoyed watching and listening to it very much!
      I share that we become more attuned to our surroundings and we learn to extract more information from it over time. It´s an interesting process.
      You pose an important question regarding the post processing of recording that end up on archives without proper information regarding its transformation. Although there are a few groups out there that gather only unprocessed sounds, do you think there should be any sort of organisation to differ the recordings? And how would one establish the limits of post processing?

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