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Carnets Africains
ERIC BROITMANN
(Obs 2014)

Review by Chris Whitehead

Although the sounds are from Africa, the place Eric Broitmann explores in his triptych Carnets Africains is the continent of memory. One capacity of the human brain is to gather impressions and images and infuse them into a shifting cloud that is not a facsimile of the original, but rather a woven fabric of events and movements. This fabric can be torn, folded, unpicked and rewoven again to form a totally different object, and within the scope of this project, Broitmann continually reinvents his substrata.

Themes appear and twine around others before fraying and snapping or disappearing back into the pattern. The surface is wrinkled and in places breached. It ruffles in the wind and the edges barely contain the whole, but like memory, to pin it down would be to take away its character: A brass band, a transition into electronic flux, a motorcycle starts up, snatches of voices from cheap transistor radios…

Cheap transistor radios.

Let’s use the final track entitled Incantations as a case in point: It struggles to start, flickering and stuttering and spangling like sunlight glinting off polished aluminium until finally it is born. A voice repeats something over and over. Indeed an incantation of sorts. In the background people stomp and clatter around and an electronic echo strafes across the mind.

The surface is wrinkled.

A second section of processed bass pulsing and ringing frequencies, something is coming and unidentified manual work is being carried out. Building. Building. The incantation again, and water being poured on the ground. Now nothing but the intonation of a quiet voice.

Spangling like sunlight.

Eight minutes and fifty seconds have passed and over the quiet voice a gleaming drone is appearing. Startlingly a clatter of objects, bang, a whimpering character is close to the ear and worryingly emotional. Slowed and sped up goblin, spirit, impish demons enter. A clicking of pool balls, a string pluck, a choir, an echo chamber and ghostly disruptions of the reality curtain.

Goblin, spirit, impish demons

A beautifully indistinct section of blur exists for a while, behind which people talk as if going about their daily business. A kind of heat hazed view of a market or town square. Singing and heavily electronic clouds erupt occasionally. The sounds with which this track started appear again. Sunlight glinting off polished aluminium. The incantation. The summoning. A voice repeats something over and over.

The surface is wrinkled.

Emerging from a journey without knowing which road you took, what you saw or in which order things occurred is a little disorientating. Many objects and pseudo-objects fill the landscape and not all have paths around them. Some you need to pass through. Others you skirt around and some vanish just as you get purchase on them, they fall from beneath you and leave you stranded.

The continent of memory.

Travelling through air, across water and earth, yet with the linearity of time rippling like the Niger river, swirling and carrying the truth of cause and effect away in the eddies and waves as they strive for the solidity of the far shore, Carnets Africains is complex but not impenetrable, because it continues to surprise and contains clear light. Of course there is no map because memory cannot be navigated using maps. It requires intuition and vision.

Cheap transistor radios.

So on these three tracks modern Africa brushes up against the remains of ancestral systems and nature. As a kind of psychogeographical journey through townships, deserts, on rivers, through streets, into people’s houses and rituals, Carnets Africains bristles with life and draws the listener deep into the concrete reality of a fevered dream.

A continent of memory.

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[Eric Broitmann]

Obs website
Eric Broitmann website

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Paraty
RUI CHAVES
(self release 2013)

Review by Maria Papadomanolaki

Before starting to write this review, I opted from reading the additional information that Rui Chaves has sent me by email. I restrained my listening experience and knowledge to this limited edition book and its contents. The journey begins with a bold statement adorning the front cover: “The recordings are inside”, prompting me to start exploring, reading in search of the sounds inside. Since page one, a recurring suggestion from the part of the artist attempts to subvert my reading and listening position. Can I read and listen? Can I read this book in order to listen? The suggestion builds up and as I turn the pages I risk to turn it into an instruction. I should let my thoughts speak as loud as possible in conversation with the work and with the artist. Therefore, to me, it sounds like that I perform the work, I perform in this conversation as I follow the lines and turn the pages. I interact with the frictions of an object, a metaphor of the artist’s intent. The book becomes the nexus in which my understanding of the work exists in conversation with Chaves’ thinking mind. This is “field-recording” but one that allows to vulnerabilities, imperfections and subjectivities of both the artist and the reader/listener to playfully assume a significant role in the process.

Chaves shares his memories of his visit to Paraty both as texts and as recordings that are bound to coexist, compliment and at times contrast each other. The acoustic scenery (textual or sonic) is however destabilised by Chaves’ recurring suggestions and instructions to the reader/listener. Can I remember while I read and listen? The book’s structure introduces me to different times and locations of Chaves’ stay in Paraty such as the arrival, the Vasco da Gama celebrations, the town center, the mercado, the harbour and in each section words are interwoven with suggestions, instructions and complemented by a series of sounds contained in plain white, hand-numbered CDs. There is no ambition to present this work as a complete recounting of the experience. It is obvious that Chaves is interested in the fragmented nature of moments that finely balance between the fictitious and the lived and that altogether resound his experience of Paraty. It is rather, to me at least, more about providing a journey through an environment that consists of minute sparks of experience. And within it Chaves asks me to take part, to transpose it to my own locality and stand with him amidst busy markets and open windows, blurry dog clutter, donkeys, mechanical boiling fluids and serendipitous explosions.

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But more than anything else, Chaves’ work demonstrates one possible way of listening and engaging with our surroundings and of essentially practicing “field recording”. He wants us to take this journey through Paraty and use it as a map to all possible destinations, a map for unlocking and, why not, recording what matters to us and what marks our memory. In the final section of the book, I find a folded map that rather than dissecting the landscape it opens it up, it blurs, empties and confuses it so that it can take any form and shape I want it to. And so it is Sound 5 containing the recording of the harbour; I am encouraged to imagine and perform the sounds, I can breathe my voice into the text and fill in the gaps of this multifaceted journey of “sonic materialities and place-being interactions”, echoing Chaves’ penultimate thoughts about his last moments in Brazil:

“This is not one moment.

These are several moments. Condensed.

All of these recordings are.”

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[Rui Chaves]

Paraty is available at the Queen’s University Belfast library.

Rui Chaves website 

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Inner Fields
DELPHINE DORA, BRUNO DUPLANT

(Wild Silence 2014)

Review by Flavien Gillié

La figure de l’enfance, de Marguerite Duras à Delphine Dora et Bruno Duplant.

L’enfance traverse l’oeuvre de M.D., du petit frère à Ernesto, en passant par le jeune aviateur anglais, 20 ans, si jeune pour mourir.

Qu’on repense à l’été 80, commande de Serge July d’articles pour le journal Libération, les descriptions que donne M.D. de Trouville en été pluvieux, les colonies de vacances, les enfants sur la plage, en groupe, tous sauf un.

C’est l’image qu’on a dès le début de l’album, fulgurances enfantines, rencontre des enregistrements de terrain et des manipulations de ceux-ci par Bruno D., et des notes délicates du piano de Delphine D. (M.D. jouait du piano, elle aimait la musique).

Duplant, Dora, Duras, tant de similitudes dans les patronymes, comme un glissement permanent de l’un vers l’autre, de l’une vers l’autre, tout dans cet album fait écho et sens dans une continuité de l’oeuvre durassienne, qui passait souvent d’un art à l’autre, un film préfigurant un roman, parfois l’inverse. C’est bien ce que l’on retrouve ici dans la complicité des deux artistes, des espaces de rencontre, d’accueil, une synesthésie qui passe par l’écriture, la composition et l’écoute.

L’enfant de l’été 80 est seul, il ne sait pas qu’il est vu par M.D., à la cinquième piste le titre rajoute à la solitude une opacité brumeuse, cherche à l’éloigner de nous, les pas du départ sont vite lointains, ne restent que les vagues, une harmonique et le piano, piano qui évoque alors le lieu du dedans, l’attente d’un retour improbable.

L’album se finit sur cette enfance, les vagues (Waves), un enfant dit “regardez”, voudrait montrer que quelque chose arrive, sans chercher à savoir quoi, nous rappelle que l’événement, c’est ce qui s’est déjà passé, et cet album en est une trace, une présence très forte.

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[Bruno Duplant, drawing by his son Melvil]

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[Delphine Dora]

Translation to English -by Sismophone-

The face of childhood, from Marguerite Duras to Delphine Dora and Bruno Duplant.

M.D.’s opus embraces childhood, from the little brother to Ernesto through the young english aviator, 20 years old, so oyung to die.

Let us  think back to summer ’80, an order of articles from Serge July for Liberation newspaper, the way M.D. describes Trouville during this rainy summer, the summer camps, the kids on the beach, grouped, except one.

This is the picture one has in mind as of the start of the album, childish fulgurations, meeting of field recordings and their manipulation by Bruno D., and the delicate notes of Delphine D.’s piano (M.D. also used to play the piano, she loved music).

Duplant, Dora, Duras, so many similarities in patronymics, as a permanent shift from him to another, from her to another, everything in this album echoes in a meaningful way through the opus of Duras, who often slid from one art to another, a movie prefiguring a novel, sometimes the other way around. It is precisely what one finds here in this complicity of the two artists, spaces for an encounter, a welcoming, a synesthesia manifesting through writing, composing and listening.

The child of summer ’80 is alone, he does not know he is being watched by M.D., at the fifth track, the title adds to lonelyness a misty opacity, seeks to remove him from us, the steps of the departure quickly faint, only waves remain, one harmonic and the piano, piano then evoking the inside locus, the expectation of an unlikely return.

The albums ends with this childhood, the waves (Waves), a kid says “watch”, would like to show something coming, without seeking to know what, recalls us that the event is what has already happened, and this album is a trace of that, a very strong presence.

Bruno Duplant discography
Delphine Dora website
Wild Silence website

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Sirène. ROBERT CURGENVEN
(Recorded Fields Editions 2014)

Review by Daniel Crokaert

After a substantial succession of performances and being on the road a lot, ever training his made-to-measure audio-guerilla set, Robert Curgenven is back with a monstrous striking new opus : “Sirène”. This is the result of a 4 year patient gestation, and concern for approaching a state of sheer engulfing sound energy, as well as offering a reflection of his past as a confirmed organist.

Pushing field recordings in further subversive recesses through a mise en abime, main source material is 16-foot pipe organs played and recorded by him in various churches in Cornwall.

Photos on the sleeve are self-eloquent about the mood of the work.

On the back cover, a William Turner’s rather well-known painting “Snow Storm. Steam Boat Off a Harbour’s Mouth…” which fed the figment according to which the painter tied himself to the mast of a steam ship at night to observe extreme meteorological conditions.

…A tormented sea, a true conspiracy of the elements, a sense of immediate palpable danger…

Front cover depicts a far more personal story, it’s a premonitory find : an old photo of Curgenven’s grandfather surfing circa 1920.

…A dark blanket of chalky grooved waves, fierce foam and endless ripples, a ghost figure in equilibrium, the vertigo of infinity…

…A tremendous snapshot…

Then comes the title “Sirène” : an alarm device or much more likely the mythical creature seducing lost sailors to lure them into the abyss…And YES, “Sirène” is abyssal, displaying an enormous force at work…actually, I’ve been told it came to fruition almost incidentally while remixing some parts of the material for a second LP to be released later this year, and based upon Curgenven’s vision of a desecrated , dislocated Australian land.

On side A, “Ressuscitant de l’étreinte de la Sirène” starts with an insidious plaintive call surfacing from the marine depths, and colliding with the oceanic drizzle…cracked scum…“Cornubia” rubs it in. A relentless sweep upwards where scoria of organ overtones pulled from remote layers surge to encounter the outlines of a new world…

Curgenven propels sounds across long chimneys of distress, into the open space, searching for a physical clash, increasing the feeling of pressure, sucking you into a vortex of vivid sensations…

No futile decoration, no hollow effects, total submersion where one has to worm his way into a falsely dense compact core. A navigation upstream, straight to the source of some essential momentum…

Again, no frontiers or clear limits, but a scheme where the body undergoes, the eardrums vibrate, the mind travels an arid yet pregnant territory…

On side B, there’s the return of a lamentation dotted with minimal textural audio-debris and eroding hiss to pierce the shell of any indifference.
A perfect distillation and primal penetration through a cluster of organ dronal tentacles…

“Sirène” warns as much as it stimulates, a vital clatter not for the faint hearts, and when a short pause of near silence bursts in, the next last notes resound like  an omen for all ravaged lands.

“Sirène” is all about the unseen, the flow below…it sculpts a mass generating its own spectral harmonics,

acting as a powerful relay – an intensity one cannot escape…a lifeline…

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[Robert Curgenven]

- Translation to French-

Après une non negligeable série de concerts et de tournées, affinant sans cesse son set de guérilla-audio, Robert Curgenven est de retour avec un monstrueux et marquant nouvel opus : “Sirène”. Résultat d’une patiente gestation de 4 ans, et d’un souci d’approcher un état de pure engloutissante énergie sonore, tout en constituant un clin d’oeil à son passé d’organiste confirmé.

Poussant les field recordings dans de plus lointains et subversifs retranchements à travers une mise en abîme, le matériau de base se fonde sur des orgues à tuyaux de 16 pieds joués et enregistrés par lui dans diverses églises à Cornwall.

Les photos illustrant la pochette parlent d’elles mêmes en ce qui concerne l’atmosphère de l’oeuvre. Sur la pochette arrière, la reproduction d’une peinture assez connue de William Turner “Snow Storm, Steam Boat Off a Harbour’s Mouth…” qui entretient le récit sans doute imaginaire selon lequel il s’attacha la nuit au mât d’un bateau à vapeur afin d’observer des conditions météorologiques extrêmes.

…Une mer tourmentée, une vraie conspiration des éléments, un sens du danger palpable immédiat…

La pochette avant représente une histoire beaucoup plus personnelle, et c’est aussi une trouvaille prémonitoire :

une ancienne photo du grand-père de Curgenven surfant autour des années 20.

…Une sombre couverture de vagues crayeuses à sillons, d’écume sauvage et de rides perpétuelles, une figure fantôme en équilibre, le vertige de l’infini…

…Un formidable instantané…

Ensuite arrive le titre “Sirène” : un dispositif d’alarme ou plus vraisemblablement la créature mythique charmant quelques marins perdus pour les entraîner dans l’abysse…

Et oui, “Sirène” est abyssal, faisant étalage d’une force énorme à l’oeuvre…en fait, il m’a été confié que “Sirène” a vu le jour quasi incidemment en remixant certaines composantes destinées à un second LP devant être publié plus tard cette année, et reposant sur la vision de Curgenven d’une terre australienne profanée, disloquée.

Sur la face A “ressuscitant de l’étreinte de la Sirène” démarre avec un appel plaintif insidieux remontant des profondeurs marines, et se télescopant avec le crachin océanique…écume fendue… “Cornubia” remue. Un impitoyable balayage vers le haut où des scories de traits d’orgue extirpés des couches distantes surgissent pour rencontrer les contours d’un nouveau monde…
Curgenven propulse les sons le long de longues cheminées de détresse, au sein de l’espace ouvert, cherchant la confrontation physique, augmentant le sentiment de pression, nous entraînant dans un vortex de vives sensations…
Pas de décoration futile, d’effets creux, de l’immersion complète où l’on doit se frayer un chemin dans un noyau faussement dense et compact.
Une navigation en amont en ligne droite vers la source d’un élan primaire…A nouveau, pas de frontières ou de claires limites, mais un schéma où le corps subit, les tympans vibrent, l’esprit voyage dans un territoire aride mais très fertile…

Sur la face B, il y a le retour d’une lamentation tachetée de minimes et texturés débris audio, et d’un sifflement érodant destinés à percer la carapace de toute indifférence.
Une parfaite distillation et pénétration primordiale au travers d’un amas de tentacules d’orgue “dronesques”…

“Sirène” avertit autant qu’il stimule, un éclaboussement vital pas pour les timorés, et quand une courte pause de quasi silence s’immisce, les notes qui suivent résonnent comme une malédiction pour toutes les contrées impunément ravagées

“Sirène” nous parle du non vu, du flux sous la surface…Il sculpte une masse générant ses propres harmoniques spectrales, agissant comme un puissant relais. Une intensité à laquelle on ne peut échapper…une bouée de survie…

Robert Curgenven website
Recorded Fields Editions

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Soundproof: a one-hour radio-show featuring field recordings and compositional works by field recordists.

Jay-Dea Lopez recently curated a show about field recording and “sound art” for Soundproof on Australia’s ABC Radio National. For one-hour Miyuki Jokiranta and Jay-Dea discussed the physicality of sound and soundscapes.

Click on the links to listen to the discussion and enter the sound world of Hildegard Westerkamp, Andrea Polli, Richard Garet, Chris Watson, Heiki Vester, Jacob Kirkegaard.

Jay-Dea’s selection of pieces showcases the diversity of interests and styles that is explored by contemporary field recordists and artists working with sound.

You will hear sounds from deserts to Antarctic research stations to huskies and helicopters to Mexican train lines to Norwegian killer whales to the vibrations of German bridges.

This show is now available to download directly from the ABC.

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A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago
JOHN KANNENBERG
(3Leaves 2014)

 Review by Cheryl Tipp

Recording the “active sounds of history”. This lies at the heart of John Kannenberg’s ongoing interest in the sonic environments of cultural heritage institutions. As contemporary visitors interact with historical objects, how do these fleeting relationships manifest themselves in the soundscape? How do they lend themselves to the overall “sound” of a museum?

Following on from his 2011 release ‘A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo’, Kannenberg puts these questions under the microscope as he turns his attentions to the Art Institute of Chicago; one of the largest and oldest art collections in the United States, representing over 5,000 years of Human artistic expression and holding 300,000 works. As we move through the sound map, a 1 hour collage of recordings made in various galleries throughout the building, we get a real sense of the scale of this historic institution. Though not able to visualise or hear the historical artefacts themselves, the recordings succeed because they allow us to imagine. To envisage the space and the design based on our own experiences of similar museums around the world. The accompanying insert gives location pointers, much like a traditional museum map – Ando Gallery of Japanese art: Gallery 109, American Gothic: Gallery 263, African Art: Gallery 137 – helping to feed our imaginations even further. A series of floor plans reinforce the sheer magnitude of the building.

Kannenberg also focuses on the sounds of the building itself; clunking elevator doors, squeaking floorboards, a buzzing fluorescent sign, a humming exhaust fan. Akin to a rumbling stomach or a clicking joint, these little sounds remind us to think of the structure, stoically guarding various cultural treasures for future generations to experience, question and enjoy.

“I found myself drawn to situations in which I played an audible part”

For me, this sentence represents the greatest success of the sound map. The fact that we can hear Kannenberg, walking through the galleries and interacting with the staff, gives the whole piece a welcoming, familiar feel. Almost as if we are walking at his side, taking in the paintings, sculptures and photographs, pausing every now and then to listen to a gallery talk, observe a drawing class or have a spot of lunch.

‘A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago’ is a well-curated sonic journey that instantly engages the listener. Detailed and varied, the composition has reminded me not only of my own love of museums, but also of the huge potential they offer the visitor. Through his work, Kannenberg is beginning to explore a fascinating aspect of the museum experience, bringing sound to the forefront and encouraging others to tune into the sonic delights that these mighty institutions have to offer.

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[John Kannenberg]

John Kannenberg website
3Leaves website

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Tessa Elieff

by Jay Dea Lopez

Tessa Elieff works as a sound archivist and curator at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.When she is not archiving other people’s recordings Tessa works on her own sound practice. In the past year she has completed residencies in England and Italy, most notably working with Chris Watson to record the sounds of England’s northeast coastline.

This is Part Two of an interview with sound archivist and field recordist Tessa Elieff. In the previous post Tessa outlined some issues relating to the preservation of sound files. Her advice was pertinent to anyone working in this domain. In this final instalment Tessa talks about her own work, the thought processes involved behind her recordings, and the worthiness of art residencies.

Part II

J.L: You recently worked with Chris Watson in a field-recording project along England’s northeast coastline. What was the purpose of the project and what did you learn from working with Watson?

T.E: The purpose was to focus on my skills as a field recordist and develop them over an intensive with (Master) Watson. We discussed the plans for over a year before I finally travelled to England and we met in person. I first met Chris in 2009 during one of his visits to Australia. I had been practising field recording seriously for about two years at that stage and was really looking for a teacher to help me reach a work calibre that honoured the art and the craftsmanship. Chris was encouraging and seemed to understand my fanaticism. It then took me 7 years to reach such a level in my work that I felt I could contact him again and ask if he remembered me. Luckily, he did and so the discussion began. Over a period of more than 12 months, we chatted about ideas – my interests – what we could record and why.

It soon became apparent that the intensive would include more than just the practical of field recording – it would/did include the ethos and thought processes behind the act itself. Reflecting and acknowledging the choices you make in regards to ponderings such as selecting recording sites – when to visit them and why – what you hope to capture – what this means to you – how it connects to the listener. The intensive was almost equal part, field recording and history lesson. Each place we visited to record had a story to it which Chris would tell before we reached the location. I arrived thoroughly prepped, mentally, spiritually and technically – to complete the task.

Then of course – there is the unspoken role of the field recordist to consider. The best field recordists (in my opinion) are the ones that disappear. They need to be invisible at the time of recording yet still be master of their practice.  Chris Watson certainly got me on the path to considering not just the practical but also the spiritual role of the craft and how to reflect this in your work. THAT is the difference between holding a microphone and hitting record just to record (which has its time and place) and selectively sculpting your work before you even hit that button.

J.L: You have been involved in several residencies abroad. What is the value in participating in residencies? What have been some of your personal recording highlights while abroad?

T.E: I’d say the most obvious value would be to participate in the international community that supports my practice and to ensure that Australia has a presence here. Being physically so far removed from Europe and the UK can leave you feeling isolated as an artist and I think it’s imperative that Australia keeps the path of opportunity open between us and the ‘other sides’.

In regards to the individual, I’d say that residencies are essential in ensuring that your work keeps up with the international stage, both in quality and in validity. Nothing snaps your creative weaknesses into focus sharper, than presenting in a different country, to a local, unknown audience that is educated in your areas of practice. Sometimes the warm words of praise from your associates back home hinder you rather than push you forward.

In general, I would say that residencies are a baptism of fire all artists must experience if they want to work with the creative community outside of their backyard. Some of the hardest aspects are the logistics and learning how to juggle these demands whilst remaining calm, creative, productive and congenial.  If you can achieve that there’s a good chance a wealth of opportunities will open up to you. Then, it’s a matter of navigating them and finding the ones that you believe are best suited to your work (and can afford…).

My recording highlights would have to include creeping around in the dark – through the night at le Abbaye Noirlac in central France. As much as I told myself that there was nothing to be afraid of, I couldn’t quite feel comfortable. It was a perfect headspace for recording the clunks of turning keys and shifting locks as well as groaning doors and creaking steps. At around 7pm, everyone would have left, the lights would be turned off, I was given the keys and left ‘till the morning. The natural reverberation of the space was poetic – really breathtaking and the sounds came to life when left in solitude (cue, my recording time).

One of the most recent experiences would be a field recording I gathered in a wheat field at sunset/early dusk, in Southern Italy – at the base of the mountains to be found near Castel del Monte. The day had been spent winding through the narrow roads, in-between mountains in rural Italy our task – to visit the gentle farmers and cultivators of the land that lived in the areas. My focus was on their harvests – the ritual of the process – their family history related to the practice and how this translates to their life today. The local shepherd owned the last farm we visited. We were met by Claudio, his 23-year-old son (the size of a mountain himself). He welcomed us with a shy nod and very few words.  The first field we visited was easily accessible. As long as you kept an eye on the 40-odd wild boar that were nearby there were no real problems. As remote as the land is – I am still plagued by overhead traffic – the ominous drones of unseen crafts are too large in the sonic scape for my liking.

A few quiet words in Italian to Claudio and we got in the car to follow him. We stopped by the front gate, near a solitary stone building. Claudio disappeared inside and reappeared with four wheels of cheese – each, big enough to be too large for him to grasp in his giant hand. They were made by his family and often traded for use of land to graze their sheep on. He handed them over with a smile, we jumped back into the car and continued.

After almost an hour, we emerged from the tight folds of the land, spilled into a valley nestled at the skirts of the enormous mountains whose gaze we’d been working under. Apart from a rough wooden shack, there was no one and nothing that hinted at civilisation to be seen or heard. At my request, my companions loaded into the car and ceased talking. I was granted a window to record through. The sun was falling; it was cold, light shifted from yellow to a surreal lilac that permeated from the earth and sky. I walked into the field, touched the boom pole to the ground and lowered myself, disappearing into the stalks that were tall enough to brush my forehead.

It took a little time for the habitat to settle after our disruption but slowly it came to life. There were two birds, one on either side of the valley – calling to each other in rhythm. They didn’t sound at the same time – they didn’t interrupt each other’s message. One called, there was a pause, a careful listening, and then the other responded. The spacing allowed each note to truly ring within this private chamber. Natural reverb and a slight delay echoed from one end to the other.

The recording itself is as modest as the environment it came from. It’s a natural beauty that best sinks in over time spent in its presence. It took nearly the entire trip spent in Italy, to reach this place and find this sound and once that I’d caught it, I could leave.

J.L: How have these experiences broadened your understanding of field recording and the sonic arts? Have you noticed a greater appreciation towards field recording in certain countries?

These experiences have definitely made me aware of the many ways that field recordings can be (and are being) used and subsequently, how I myself want to use them in my own work.

I will be honest here. There have been positive and negative experiences in this regard and during my travels I have found myself feeling begrudgingly protective of the art form. I think field recording as part of a creative practice, is growing in popularity. With the increasing international concerns regarding our natural environments, wildlife and rural communities, field recording is really coming into its own and being exercised in new and traditional ways and this is exciting – don’t misunderstand me. It is somewhat of a relief to be able to share this way of working with others and the knowledge exchange and community support is absolutely priceless in this regard. It is a solitary practice and connecting with other lone-rangers can help keep your feet on the ground!

What I feel conflicted about is the instances when the work appears disingenuous. Sometimes I worry that it is becoming too faddish and that the quality of work associated with the practice is not being honoured as it should;  that people are viewing it in a very shallow way, not caring about the many layers to the work methods, merely hitting the record button so that they can coin the title, ‘Field Recordist’, in an application. So I guess what I’m saying is in my opinion, yes – the sonic arts related to field recording is exploding BUT, I think we still have a way to go in appreciating/understanding the value of sound as a medium and treating it with the same regard as others.

Having said all that – I have come across some startling instances of artists and curators developing projects that honour sound in the most sensitive and astute ways. One of my favourites would be the work of the travelling artist group, ‘ZUR’ (http://www.groupe-zur.com) particularly, their work, ‘point de suspension’. This included giant and small icicles hung from great heights, slowly melting over time – the water dripping onto plates, tins etc. below. The rooms these were in were flooded with natural light and live acoustics. As the day progressed, they morphed and changed, as did the sounds. It was very simple but had an instant impact on the listener – it captivated your attention visually, sonically and mentally. This was in France and I must say that the appreciation of the sonic arts that I experienced whilst in the country was impressive. In regards to field recording specifically, I would say that it was a common term in England and in that sense, yes – they do hold the practice in considerable regard. Proof of this can be seen in their communities such as the Wildlife Sound Recording Society, the British Library Sound Archive’s wildlife recordings collection and individuals such as Chris Watson.

* Upper photo Tessa Elieff, photo by Daniela d’Arielli

Tessa Elieff website 1

Tessa Elieff website 2

National Film and Sound Archive website

 

 

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