background image

Field-recording trip with Jeremy Welsh



A few weeks ago me and Jeremy Welsh went for a two day video and sound field recording trip to Nord-Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane. The trip was the kick-start for a new collaborative project – “River Deep Mountain High : The Atmospherics”. In the coming months we are planning more field recording trips like this, collecting ambisonic surround sound field recordings and nigh-resolution (4K) moving image for a a new series of work that might take various forms such as short film, installation, or video screening.

In every way this was an inspiring trip. The weather was absolutely fantastic, and staying over in Dale in Fjaler we had the added bonus of meeting up with Torkild Sandsund in eĀ“the evening again.

I am now listening through the several hours of sound recordings from the trip. In the process of doing so, writings by Michel Chion and Salome Vogelin comes to mind.

In a recent essay in Wire, Salome Vogelin criticises a somewhat naive tendency within some of current field recording practice where the recordings are understood as capturing the essence of what was recorded, and an accompanying naive belief that reproductions of the recordings will be able to mediate this essence to the audience. “This age of innocence, now abandoned or ironised by photography, is hard to shift in the invisible realm of phonography. The difficulty partly arises from the recordists’ trust in their own multisensory memory of the field. They mistake the reduced sonic data for the sensorial complexity of the contingent encounter, and forget the frame of reference left behind that needs reframing if it is to trigger anything.”


I agree that this would be a naive assumption. One of the fascinations I have with surround (ambisonic) field recordings is that the recordings carry the notion of a place, but they do not carry any notion of the place. The mediated sound, removed from the original time and place, and detached from the parallel sensory information provided by vision, smell, heat or cold, and the general bodily experience of the place, becomes abstracted and generic.

This can be seen as the first of a series of abstractions that the recorded sound from the field enables and possibly enforce. According to Michel Chion, repeated playback of recorded sound is a prerequisite for reduced listening: “When we listen acousmatically to recorded sounds it takes repeated hearings of a single sound to allow us gradually to stop attending to its cause and to more accurately perceive its inherent traits” 1, p. 32.

For me it is this potent field of tension between concrete representation and abstracted sound and abstracted and (re)synthesised place that I want to explore further. If I just wanted to transport the audience to the various places that I record, it would make more sense to simply take them for a walk.


1 Michel Chion (1990): Audio-vision. Sound on screen. Columbia University Press


comments powered by Disqus


Creative Commons License Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Norway License. Web site hosted by BEK.