In the Field will explore the practice, art and craft of field recording through a series of panel presentations, listenings and screenings. Starting from the early days of field recording, the symposium aims to relate the multitude of contemporary field recording practices to their historical precedents and to investigate issues in contemporary practices.
I am especially excited about the lineup of speakers; several folks speaking at the event have been important, inspirational figures for me. Peter Cusack’s Your Favourite London Sounds project, for example, remains one of my all-time favourite art projects. For this work, Cusack invited people to contact him, reporting their favourite London sounds. He then went and recorded the sounds that people listed, and released an album with lovely photos of ordinary London, and the names of all the sounds that people had submitted for inclusion. In 2001 this was an enormously important and influential work. It set a precedent for linking sounds specifically with subjectivity; social contexts; and our relationship to familiar places and everyday routines. You can read a great review of it here; I especially agree with the reporter’s assertion that “it will bring a smile of recognition to many harassed city-dwellers”…
Chris Watson is also speaking at In the Field. He is an amazing sound recordist. I attended a workshop by him in 2010 and learnt more in that single day than I had during any other workshop I’ve attended on the subject. Practical, thoughtful, generous with his knowledge and ingenious with his techniques, his insistence on being able to closely document the living world in sound has changed forever the way that wildlife documentaries sound. We have all heard animals and weather from places we might never be able to personally visit because of Watson’s pioneering recording approach and patience. If you want to hear superb examples of his work, I suggest The Life of Birds by David Attenborough, on which Watson was a principal recordist, and for which he won a BAFTA for “Best Factual Recording” in 1998.
I’ve not personally met Zoë Irvine, but her collaborator, Mark Vernon, contributed to The Domestic Soundscape Cut & Splice Podcast series that I produced in 2009, and I have known about Zoë’s work for a few years and am excited to meet her! Hairwaves by herself and Vernon is a superb album, featuring field recordings and snippets of chatter collected in hairdressing salons in Scotland. It is a truly lovely listen, evoking the hot, sudsy, comforting and confessional nature of the hair salon. I also love Zoë’s work with found tape, which seems to me in some ways to be a sort of sonic relation to Rachael Matthews’ Analogue Amnesty project.
I had the pleasure of meeting Cathy Lane when she examined my PhD. Her works exploring the sounds of food and the sounds of wool are of course very inspiring to me, and her essay in Autumn Leaves contains a most evocative lists of sounds and lost sounds. It’s like a poem for the ears containing all the sounds of traditional wool-crofting you could hope to hear or imagine. I think Cathy Lane’s work with sound has been – like Cusack’s – enormously important in promoting a shift towards linking sounds with the social, the historic, the cultural, the environmental, and ultimately the subjectivities and memories of human beings. Cathy Lane is also one of the key figures currently mapping the relationships between Feminism and Soundart; a relationship which I think is of central importance.
I am only just beginning to discover the work of Angus Carlyle, but his essay in Autumn Leaves is gorgeously, sonically descriptive. I also love this project, which engages with the concept of understanding territory, and for which Carlyle is the sound recordist. The essay on woodsmoke is a gem.
Ici-Même blew my mind at Tuned City Tallinn 2011 with their blind soundwalk; the conditions of the walk were that you would give your hand to a member of Ici-Même, close your eyes, and allow them to lead you through the city, offering a specifically sound-only insight into Tallinn. The person leading changed throughout the experience, so I never really knew who was leading me at any time, and at various points, headphones featuring pre-recorded sounds were put over my ears to disorientating effect. I had a very beautiful and difficult-to-explain experience, submitting to the sensuality of the sounds of Tallinn and entrusting my safety entirely to the Ici-Même team. They led the walk with real care and practice, directing me at different points by simply pointing my hand down or to the left or to the right. When I think back to the blind walk I experience a dense impression of the soundscape of Tallinn which I’m not sure could have been formed through any means other than that mythical soundwalk experience. I am excited to hear what these guys have to say about their working practice and their radical approach to engaging audiences with the sounds of places.
Helen Frosi is a tireless worker in the Soundart sector; the busy programme at SoundFjord is carefully curated and promoted by Helen, and she is extremely supportive to, and knowledgeable about, the artists whose work is shown there. I’m not clear on whether Helen will be talking about the work of SoundFjord or her own practice, but either way it will be very interesting to hear her contribution to this event.
Lastly, as a massive fan and user of The British Library Sound Archive, I am really excited to meet Cheryl Tipp, whose blogposts and tweets provide regular sonic interest. Participating in the UK SoundMap project by The British Library was a highlight of 2010 for me, and I have written before about my great admiration for Cheryl’s colleague, the wonderfully talented Ian Rawes who runs the London Sound Survey.
All in, it promises to be a very interesting event with a stellar lineup, in which I am delighted to be included.
I will be speaking about my use of field recordings in three recent projects – Sonic Wallpapers; Bathing & Dressing Parts 1 & 2; and Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION. Respectively dealing with the contexts of DIY and home decorating, the care of small infants, and the provenance of hand-knitting yarn, these projects exemplify my specific interest in domestic practices and materials, and my ongoing fascination with the home as a site of meaning. My presentation will explore how sound was used to engage audiences in the broader cultural contexts surrounding each work, and how a focus on sounds shaped the creative process in each instance.
Very excitingly, the event also marks the launch of In the Field, a book edited by Angys Carlyle and Cathy Lane and featuring conversations with Manuela Barile, Angus Carlyle, Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, Viv Corringham, Peter Cusack, Steven Feld, myself, Jez Riley French, Antye Greie, Christina Kubisch, Cathy Lane, Francisco López, Annea Lockwood, Andrea Polli, Ian Rawes, Lasse-Marc Riek, Hiroki Sasajima, Davide Tidoni, Hildegard Westerkamp and Jana Winderen.
This is a collection of interviews with contemporary sound artists who use field recording in their work. These conversations explore the fundamental issues that underlie the development of field recording as the core of their practice. Recurring themes include early motivations, aesthetic preferences, the audible presence of the recordist and the nature of the field.
In The Field is published by Uniform Books www.uniformbooks.co.uk
This event has been organised with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.
Tickets including entry to Friday evening book launch:
2 days £25 / £15 | 1 day £15 /£10
I really hope to see you there!