Thursday, 16 April 2009

'autumn leaves' release wins award !

The “Autumn Leaves” download release has won the Qwartz Electronic Music prize for best compilation.

The initial selection from the 3500 submitted entries was made by a jury who considered the work on its acoustic merits alone (without the context of record label, artist, etc.). This selection was then put to a public vote and it came first!

Apparently the awards ceremony was a very glamorous affair at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Lasse-Marc Riek from the record label Gruenrekorder, which co-directed the “Autumn Leaves” album, accepted the trophy.

for those of you who haven't yet discovered this great free release take a look here

Autumn Leaves is an audio compilation that emerges out of a collaboration between Gruenrekorder and Angus Carlyle. The inspiration for the compilation derived from the book "Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice" - published by Double Entendre - which Angus Carlyle edited and Gruenrekorder contributed to.The compilation presents an extremely wide-ranging exploration of the theme of sound and environment. You can hear everything from carefully crafted spoken word pieces, through compelling electro-acoustic compositions, to the purest forms of unedited and unsequenced phonography.

To immerse yourself in this compilation is to hear how others have heard the world and is a chance, perhaps, for you to hear your world in different ways.

wildlife sound recording courses with Chris Watson

Piers Warren runs an interesting series of workshops / courses for budding field recordists interested in wildlife recording (& also courses on specific film applications) - led by Piers himself & Chris Watson. Forthcoming courses:

. Wildlife Sound Recording (UK) 30 Nov - 2 Dec 2009 - places available
. Wildlife Sound Recording (UK) 2-4 Dec 2009 - places available

The importance of the sound track and the role of the sound recordist is often over-looked in the production of wildlife films. The successful recording of wildlife sound, and creation of the film's sound track is a crucial and major part of the creative process. With new digital equipment available for recording and editing sound it requires skill and experience to do the job justice.

This two-day course aims to teach you the skills necessary and give you hands-on experience with some of the latest equipment. The course is suitable for aspiring wildlife film-makers, camera operators, camera assistants, producers and sound recordists.
It is taught by Chris Watson, one of the world's top wildlife sound specialists who regularly works for the BBC.

Piers Warren - Wildeye

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Patrick Farmer - 'Apis mellifera, moved to & fro'

simply & nicely packaged (as always with this label) we have three pieces based on bee hive recordings. Patrick sent me versions of these pieces awhile ago but it seems to me that a distinct transformation has taken place. At first I wanted to dig out the earlier versions to see if I could work out what exactly has changed (if anything) but then I though better of it & instead I keep sitting back & simply enjoying these new versions.
I have some ideas as to what is going on here - track one I suspect features the core bee recordings being filtered through cymbals, resulting in a shimmering and highly resonant atmosphere - but I think it's important with Patrick's work (& indeed a great deal of music / sound) to stop trying to work it out on those terms. The sound of the bees themselves are obvious for the first 5 or 6 minutes & in a slight return at the very end but most of this track is given over to various tones generated by the filtering methods employed. There's a rough edit at around 4.31 which is a bit of a shame, simply because the piece itself runs an otherwise fluid and engaging path in it's 17 minutes 36 seconds.
The second piece is a dense swarm of conventional bee sounds - recorded in a manner that serves to highlight the fast and fractured nature of thier behavoir patterns. At just 5.08 this track is, as the titles 'and' suggests a bridge between the longer, more abstract pieces.
Track three rumbles and flitters - the sounds here coming from contact mics attached to the hive. There's a strange parallel here with some of the sounds Patrick produces when performing live - with various objects scratching and scraping across snare drum heads and branches moved by small motors. At 14.06 this track is all too brief. However, as he does often in his live performances Patrick plays the part of the entertainer, leaving the audience wanting more.
Impossible to sum up the sound of this disc in words. Buy it, listen to it and be reminded that we can always say a great deal about music & sound & indeed most things, but we simply scratch the surface in doing so.

Patrick Farmer

'Apis mellifera, moved to and fro'

cdr, limited to 140 copies.
recordings of honey bees made at an Apiary in Harpenden, UK, in 2007

1. moved to2. and3. fro

*1: honey bee recordings played back through metals, drums, surfaces, bottles, rocks*2: stereo microphone*3: contact microphones attached to the underside of the hives, assemblage

Patrick Farmer is part of the younger generation of musicians blurring the boundaries between the use of "pure" environmental documentation and the direct involvement with natural materials and situations. As a musician he deals with regular or prepared drums, natural objects, phonography, ampilfied drum heads, wood and whisks. He has been curating -together with Sarah Hughes- the Compost & Height music blog and label promoting "work focused upon our responses to the surrounding environment and the development of awareness".

While much of Farmer's recorded work can seem systematic in its presentation, his diversity in approaching sonic material allows him to treat each situation differently, thus staying close to the truer qualities that define each of his subjects. In this recording he presents three views of honey bee hives found at an Apiary in Harpenden, UK. The second track, ”and”, is a straight stereo recording of bee sounds,”fro” consists of sounds picked up by contact microphones attached under the hives, while ”moved to” finds the stereo recordings reprocessed in a way best described by Farmer himself:

A process of indirect diffusion that by means of various materials, bass drums various cymbals rocks and minimal circumstances, attaches to the original Honeybee recording a sense reflected by other objects.

The original inspiration behind this process came from a passage in the book 'Six memos for the new Millenium' by Italo Calvino. Whereupon the author sets out to explain the work of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi:

"For Giacomo Leopardi maintained that the more vague and imprecise language is, the more poetic it becomes. I might mention in passing that as far as I know Italian is the only language in which the word vago (vague) also means 'lovely, attractive'."

As our view of the subject is fragmented, the sounds move freely between what is perceived to be presented as musical and in turn non-musical sound. And while it is never unclear what process is employed each time, our ears are free to approach the recorded material in an open-ended manner.

two Gruenrekorder releases

The latest field recording series release from Gruenrekorder raises questions.

Micheal Peters brings us two lengthy recordings made in Barbados:

track one, clocking in at just over 25 minutes, captures whistling tree frogs in Bathsheba on the east coast of Barbados. Recordings of ‘nature’ very often end up falling into either the scientific camp or the tree-hugger idea of what the natural world is – you know, it’s all very warm and the animals are our friends etc etc. Michael’s recordings escape those traps by their sheer visceral quality. The length of this audible onslaught (25.21) takes the listener into an experience that renders the environment a puzzling and strange place, which is after all the truth of the matter.

The second track features the sounds of giant bamboo trees being moved by the wind. The recording also captures various animal, insect & bird sounds of course but it is by focusing on the sounds of the trees themselves that one can appreciate the track in full. Anyone who has stood amongst a reasonably sized group of trees and listened to the veritable symphony that emerges from their movements will know just how varied the sounds can be. Again the length of the track (also 25.21) is of importance. If the track were 5 or 10 minutes long it would simply be a documentary recording of the environment but here we can listen past the initial interest in the specific sounds and allow the landscape to emerge on its own terms.

As far as recordings of the natural world are concerned the key is not to provide us humans with a safe and sanitized version but to remind us that we are no more than one small part of this planet & for all our supposed knowledge we have no real understanding of the way it works. It is this uneasy realisation that can in the end provide us with the most satisfying and empowering way to listen. The cover & sleeve notes on this release could lead one to believe this is one of those ‘safe’ examples, but the artist has used both the duration and the intensity of the tracks to safely sidestep that trap.

Gruenrekorder is a good label, deserving of support & anyone with an interest in field recording will no doubt find most of their releases well worth purchasing. Buying a cd should never be about only buying work that one is 100% sure of anyway – we only learn about anything through trial & error. Only that way can we begin to enjoy things that are specific to our individuality – only then can we appreciate aspects of work that doesn’t tick all our boxes & that, in this context, is where ‘respect’ for others work originates.