Thursday, 13 December 2012

every year, the 'in place' blog features lists of folk's '5 favourite sounds' heard in the last 12 months. These can be sounds heard whilst out recording, at home, on releases etc etc.

so, do email your list (to and it will posted on the blog. Here's a link to last years list:

here's my 5 sounds of 2012 to get things started:

1) as ever, the sound of my daughters voice has been a constant joy, for example, hearing her singing 'half gifts' whist doing her homework in the living room whilst I cook the tea in the kitchen.

2) fence at tighnabruaich - the 'sound' itself was ok - it was the listening to it that was special, as it was with my daughter whilst we were on holiday

3) periwinkles eating sea vegetation in a rock pool, bundeena, australia

4) dawn chorus at Ängskärsgården, sweden

5) dawn chorus from the mountain park tennis court, japan


from Tony Whitehead (recordist & curator of Very Quiet Recordings label):

1) The sound of a million starlings leaving their roost at RSPB's Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset

2) Bittern booming at first light at Shapwick Heath, also in Somerset

3) Tadpoles grazing at Stover Park in Devon, heard via hydrophone

4) Black-tailed godwits chattering to one another on the Exe Estuary

5) The alternative, and rather melancholy piping song of wood warblers in Yarner Wood on Dartmoor (as opposed to their normal trilling song). 

That's quite a birdy list isn't it!


from David Valez, part of the Field Reporter website team:

1- Dust cropper plane flying in circles over Palomino, Guajira while birds were singing (featured on my release 'El pájaro que escucha')
2- Nine wine glasses shaking, sliding, falling and breaking by sound vibration on a table with a subwoofer inside as part of my Sculptural project 'Derive and catastrophe I'
3- Small creek at Chicaque National Park
4- Welding the aluminum structure of my project 'Derive and catastrophe II'
5- The loud sea waves of Palomino, Guajira (featured on my release 'El pájaro que escucha')


from Coryn Smethurst

Lift at an artists studio rattling and whining, rattling light fitting directly under air conditioning - bad design to create great sound

Tornado jet at airshow - the earth moved, car alarms went off - my fingers were in my ears - very rare when I'm recording

metal gangway to boat (didn't have any recording gear...)

skip collection outside work (too much background traffic to get the sound like a whale gone bad)

not very nature based this year - haven't had time to get out into the countryside too much this year - more's the pity.


from Yiorgis Sakellariou (mecha/orga):

- Croaking frogs in a lake in Klaipeda, Lithuania

- The soundscape of Maastunnel in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- A very loud ventilation sound, somewhere in Riga, Latvia
- The soundscsape of Penteli mountain in Athens, Greece
- Crickets at night in Ambeliona village, Peloponesse, Greece


from Peter Toll, field recordist, musician and composer:

Geese flying overhead above my house in the morning (always brings a warm smile on my face!)

A song thrush singing on the Norfolk Broads

My 4 year old son laughing!

Rain and wind outside when I have returned with fire wood to warm the house!

Ice melting and cracking through JrF hydrophones, from the movement of birds and temperature rising on Felbrigg lake yesterday (recording coming soon!).


from Jaydea Lopez, field recordist, artist:

1. Rain on a tin roof - washing away the heat of the day, the sound is connected to a sense of relief. Whether it be soft or torrentially deafening sound this is always welcome.
2. Thunder - before the rain might come an hour of rumbling through the mountain valleys. Dramatic and a promise of what's to come.
3. Eastern Dwarf Tree Frogs - with such a tiny body the sound of a colony of these frogs communicating with each other is a joy to listen to in the depth of night.
4. Cicadas - their pulsating rhythms and textures can be hypnotic while walking through the Australian eucalyptus forests. For me they are the sound of summer.
5. Cane Toads - an introduced species that has created environmental havoc in Australia; nonetheless its gentle purr is a pleasant accompaniment to sleep during summer nights.


from Pablo Sanz, field recordist, artist:

- Muezzin calls to prayer in Jerusalem.

- Waves in the salt shoreline at the Dead Sea.

- Snowfall at my balcony in Den Haag.

- A variety of impressions heard in a tunnel for bikes and pedestrians 
in Den Haag during
the development of the project 'Transient Lapse'. The blending of our 
with the existing sounds and the acoustics of the space at different 
hours of day and night.

- Listening through the Novy Most bridge in Bratislava.


thank you for the inspiration and shared listenings

Monday, 10 December 2012

this is going to be good ! 

very few places on this, so get your name down fast if you're interested

field recording week in Iceland with Chris Watson & Jez riley French

A unique opportunity to spend several days recording the sounds of spring in Iceland with Chris Watson, a leading figure in the world of wildlife sound recording, and field recordist and composer Jez riley French. Our base will beLysuholl in the west of Iceland on the south coast of theSnæfellsnes peninsula. As well as recording the wildlife we will also be visiting glaciers, caves, waterfalls, volcano craters, lava beaches, geysirs (Icelandic spelling!) etc.

We will have two large houses at our disposal for the duration, with a chef and two minibuses to allow us the greatest flexibility for recording trips. The range of spectuacular habitats will enable us to experiment with surround sound techniques, ambisonic microphones & software, hydrophones, contact mics, geophones, ultrasonic detectors, parabolic systems and a range of stereo and mono recordings. We will also have a surround sound system at our base for reviewing recordings and group discussions. It is expected that you will have some recording experience and your own equipment to bring (although we will have some extra gear with us that everyone is welcome to try).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

article on Chris Watson in the December 2012 issue of Music Tech magazine, in which he mentions & shows uses for JrF contact mics & hydrophones (thanks Chris !)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

the framework:seasonal series of fund-raising audio releases continues with a very special issue #3 – the great chris watson, who, we’re sure, needs no introduction amongst framework listeners, has donated a single-take, 2.5 hour field recording from the rainforests of borneo, recorded and published at its full length at higher-than-cd audio quality. this stunning recording has never before been released, and has been donated by the artist in support of framework radio. it is available only through framework, in exchange for your donation of €20 of more on the framework website.
each dvdr is slow burnt onto the highest quality taiyo yuden archival discs, and is hand-stamped with the custom-made image of a borneo-native mushroom, in keeping with the previous issues of the seasonal series. each is housed in an offset and folio printed sleeve from a local printing press, on paper from a local papermill, both here in the southeast estonian town of räpina. the insert as well is printed on additive-free paper from the räpina mill. these audio dvdr’s will play in any standard dvd player, or on any computer.
the details:
Sunrise in the Sukau rainforest
Recorded during October 2011 by the river Kinabatangen, Sabah, Borneo from 0430h
Sennheiser MKH 8040/30 middle and side array to a Nagra ARES Pll recorder at 48Khz 16 Bits .wav
The Sukau rainforest is a relatively narrow strip of primary forest either side of the banks of the river Kinabatangen in Sabah, Borneo. Access to the forest floor is very difficult as there are no trails, however at the back of the lodge where I was staying there was a narrow old and decaying boardwalk that led, snake like, through the dense undergrowth and out into what felt like another world. Each morning for over a week I left my lodge around 0400h and set off carefully along a zig zag pattern of soft and splintered planks into the velvet darkness. Either side of the red glow from my head torch fireflies and other unknown bioluminescent insects blinked and flashed their alien languages whilst dead ahead the small piercing red reflecting eyes of hunting bats streaked, missile like, directly towards me. On several mornings my GPS guided me to a favourite looping curve at the furthermost point of the 2Km trail where I could stop and fix my mikes in a tree whilst trying to bat off the myriad host of mosquitos that quickly find anything warm blooded that is stationary. I rigged and set away the recording before quietly moving off, my ears straining to hear the distant songs of gibbons, the shrieks of macaques and the low whistle of a pitta. Sunrise, such as it is 30m below the canopy, is also accompanied by the slow drip of  condensation percolating down through the grey green gloom from a canopy 30m above as the forest is slowly revealed. – Chris Watson

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

new release from spectrical, made entirely from recordings made with JrF contact mics i'm told:

Sunday, 18 November 2012

listening to the Tate....

early this year I was commission by the Tate to create a piece for headphones, due to be installed for one month in early 2013. The piece will feature surface vibrations of the Tate Modern building itself & this week I began making recordings on site.

during the day I collected recordings of the currently empty (of art work) turbine hall space & railings - the latter picking up not only visitors to the gallery but aspects of construction work around the building.

after closing I had permission to remain in the building overnight & record the empty spaces of each gallery, the turbine hall, newly opened tanks & further surface vibrations.  The experience of being in these spaces, alone, listening closely was quite something - giving me time to connect with the audible signatures. It does take time - to move from a pre-arranged  recording opportunity to finding the sounds, the experience of listening that goes beyond that, becomes connected to personal motivations.

By 11am the following morning my ears were full, for now. I’m not at all interested, in my own ‘work’, in the mere collection of sounds. What matters to me is the personal & the private connection to listening & to capturing moments, therefore to record is not always a matter of opportunity but of a meeting between that opportunity, ones feelings and the intuitive.

leaving the tate on this visit allowed me the ‘space’ to come away feeling satisfied, excited to listen back to the recordings I did make & still connected to the listening experience rather  than the recording one.

this is how I can work.

Later that day I gave a talk to the Association of Motion Picture Sound - a chance to meet some new folks & one or two who’d been on some of the field recording courses I tutor on & then, the next morning I met with Angus Carlyle, who was interviewing me for a book due to be published in 2013. We had a good chat about my work, for the book, & then sat outside the british library talking about our children and our personal connections to sound. On the train home I felt, as I often do, sensations of joy that I am able to spend some of my time listening, recording moments & talking with people who share a fascination with the audible. 

the inspiration is made up of life

Thursday, 25 October 2012

article on field recording in the Latvian magazine VETO - that's me on the right (photo by Carina Martins)

below is the original interview from which part of this article was taken:

1. What do you understand by 'field recording' (FR) and what kind of
FR you are working with? What is the purpose of making such recordings
personally for you and how do you use them? How did you get into this
stuff and why do you find it fascinating (if you find it at all)?

JrF: wow, thats a big question to start with ! I think the understanding of ‘field recording’ is fluid. What the ‘field’ is & how much intervention into the process are things in constant flux. For me it is simply the act of recording outside of a studio / controlled environment - which is I guess the ‘standard’ definition.  I tend to work a lot with contact microphones, hydrophones, coils & other types of unconventional recording devices, though I do use ambient microphones too. I’m interested in close & durational listening, recording only when it feels right. 

I began at the age of 12 when my mum bought me a portable cassette recorder & since then i’ve never really tired of listening. It’s partly because the sounds around us are, to different degrees, outside of our control & therefore every moment is part of a constantly evolving ‘music’ or sound world.

2. What should be the relationship between the subject (recorder) and
the object which is recorded? Should interaction between both be
limited as much as possible, or it's not really your concern? Do you
mind having a 'staged recording' - in which a sound is produced
intentionally by using certain objects - or you prefer the natural
course of action without recorder's intervention?

JrF: I think these questions are very individual & its for each person to choose. Personally my own approach is varied - in a natural setting I will be as subtle as possible & enjoy the act of listening without intervening - being as inconspicuous as possible. At other times, especially in urban locations, I am ok with being present in the recording itself (for example, the sounds of myself walking or moving objects). What matters most is that the recordings that ‘work’ are the ones that capture moments, moments of being in a place at a certain time. To clarify; a ‘moment’ is a word with qualities other than just a technical description of a time frame.

3. Normally all recordings require some editing and post-production
but how important it is for you to keep the sound as authentic and
close to the source as possible?

JrF: I have to disagree with this statement. It is only because we are so used to hearing processed sound in every day life that such techniques are often used. I don’t do any processing except to decide on the duration of a recording & perhaps sometimes (but not always) to remove a problem if one occurs during the recording (such as a mic pop or crackle due to humidity). I’m fascinated by the sounds as they are. I also don’t use limiters or any form of compression / normalisation. It’s the first thing to really begin a deeper relationship with listening - to remove all of those filters. Our ears are intelligent things, they can tell if a sound has been processed or if a recording of a natural environment has been made with limiters on for example. 

4. Once a sound is recorded and edited, how important would be keeping
the link between the final sound and its original source? Do you think
it has a kind of symbolic representation of the physical world (sound
as an idicative sign pointing to its source) or it shouldn't really
matter, as it's a pure abstraction (according to Schaeffer, in
'reduced listening' the listener percieves the sound as a separate
object without trying to identify it with any other thing)?

JrF: hmmm, this is a slightly tricky question for me to answer as I don’t always feel comfortable with the emphasis on theory in these areas. We all have our own ways of working & have formed different routes though our activities but I am sometimes aware that always making these things public is not ideal. What I will say is that enjoying the act of listening, of recording & then of re-listening to the results is essential. Beyond that the questions of the link between the source & the recording are secondary. My own work does comment significantly on the actuality of the place or object recorded & more so on the emotive experiences involved.

5. Do you find natural/environmental sounds musical, and can they be
used for musical purposes? Do you make any musical compositions with
using such sounds?

JrF: it’s an often discussed question: is it sound or is it music ? for me the simple answer is that ‘sound’ is a science but we listen & hear with our emotions, our senses too & so the term ‘music’ is relevant. I listen musically, but of course it is not composed in the way we understand that term. As to my feelings about making ‘music’ with environmental sounds then I think the quality of the creative vision involved is crucial of course. In my own work I often compose using field recordings but this has developed to be the simple & clear placing of single recordings within durational spaces & specific listening environments.

6. Does a field recording somehow represent the geographical place
where it's been obtained? To this regard, can such field-recorded
sounds give music an unique local character or some other unique
qualities? Don't you think, for example, the sound of rain, a
distantly barking dog or a street with heavy traffic sound all the
same no matter where recorded, or you disagree?

JrF: Field recordings are absolutely a representation of the place & every location & sound is different. Whether the listener is able to perceive those differences is more to do with how close the listening is & how able we are to overcome the limitations placed on the act of listening by the way our society has chosen to treat sound.

  1. How important role the spatial acoustics play in your recordings?

JrF: this too is a complex question in some ways. I record a lot in empty buildings & so the spatial acoustics are often the key feature, however, it is not always the focus to capture this in the most exact way (for example with 4, 6 or 8 microphones). It’s more important to me to capture something of my experience of being in these places. I am happy if I listen back later & find that I have captured something that speaks of the place & then, if the recording can communicate to other listeners it is a recording that I might share.

8. Why should one make an effort in recording his own sounds, if
nowadays there are so many sample banks available, including those
very professionally recorded and edited?

JrF: oh, this is an easy one to answer: because its a sheer joy ! re-engaging with listening, opening up ones ears adds so much to everyday life. On a more practical level, if your focus is a creative one, then to actually be involved in the entire process is, as far as i’m concerned, essential & will affect the outcome. Sample banks have their place in certain parts of the mainstream culture industry (film, tv, games etc) but there too there are changes, with more & more emphasis on original content. Audiences demand authenticity more & more - at least that is hopefully what is happening. In a music setting, sample banks are sometimes a sign of unclear musical vision & an unwillingness to be authentic, in my opinion, however lets say that there could well be a very small number of musicians who can use that particular medium to an interesting effect. I think, as with all aspects of technology, the problem is that tools like this can make the user believe in a skills set they actually don’t have. Perhaps for some people that doesn’t matter but i’ve always been more interested in musicians & artists who take time & don’t just buy skills in a package. Its more personal with time.

9. How important and enjoyable the process of searching sound sources
and recording is for you? Is it always an exciting adventure or more
like a profesisonal routine?

Jrf: always enjoyable, always an adventure. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. Of course, if one is working on a specific commission for example, then one has to be professional in how you approach the work BUT if you’re not enjoying it then whats the point ? Personally, I find this is one problem with some ‘sound art’ that involves field recording - there are interesting sounds but no sense of a personal enjoyment or empathy with the act of listening. 

10. Do you have any favorite recordings that you are proud of? Could
you tell about any extraordinary recording missions in which you have
taken part? Any interesting or funny cases in general?

JrF: so many ! The ones that mean the most are the ones with very specific memories - such as one of the fence wire recordings I made whilst on holiday with my daughter. 

To answer your question about extraordinary experience I would say that they are usually the ones in the most ‘normal’ of places. I think to always expect sensational or spectacular environments is to, partly, miss the point of listening. I have had extraordinary experiences sitting in buildings listening for several hours for example, or times when I have found a natural environment that seems to have a very particular ebb & flow of sounds.

11. What are the biggest challenges in getting recorded material in a
decent quality?

JrF: well, if you mean in terms of technical quality, then its down to all kinds of things: quality of the pre-amps, the choice microphone & position etc etc. However, what matters most is the content & that comes down, quite simply, to have good ears that are open & a sensibility that is engaged and fascinated.

12. Historically FR has always been highly dependent on the state of
technology, but still how crucial the high-quality equipment is?
Should field recordings be left exclusively to professionals, or it
should be still worth trying to record something on your own even if
you are an amateur with a rather low budget available? Is FR a purely
technical discipline or still there is room for creativity,
experimantation and imagination?

JrF: god help us if the only thing that matters is the equipment. I would say that the sign of a good field recordist is that they never think of themselves as an ‘expert’ or a professional. As I said earlier, every sound & every location is new & in permanent flux - anyone who believes they know everything that environments do or can offer has simply stopped listening. 

Budget is also not the important thing. Its better to start with cheaper equipment anyway - you tend to learn more & ones creative approach develops more when you’re working within & around limitations. I would say that successful field recording is perhaps 20% skill with the equipment (whatever you have) & 80% inspiration, creativity, luck & listening.

13. JRF: As far as I know, you are also working as a photographer. Do
both - FR and photography - have anything in common?

JrF: for me, personally, they are linked simply because both represent something of my exploration of where I am at a particular time. There is an old saying about radio: ‘radio is better than TV because the pictures are better’ & I think the same is true of photography over the moving image. You see more with a photograph & the imagination can be triggered to a much greater extent. With the moving image, one is given the ‘story’ & so you don’t have to use your imagination as much. Field recording too has these kinds of elements - they can represent a specific place very clearly, but somehow there is always space for one to enter the scene & to explore beyond the obvious elements.

14. Is there anything you wished to record but haven't got chance to
record? Or something that is physically just too difficult to achieve
with current technologies?

JrF: ah, I think if I were to sit down & make a list of all the sounds i’d like to record then:
  1. it would take a long time
  2. it would mean i’d be tempted to go out to try to find them & let me tell you, it always the recording trips you carefully planned that rarely offer up the best results
  3. i’d feel a bit like a ‘collector’ 
  4. i’d be stepping outside of the moment

As for technological developments, well I think the simple answer is that we already have the most advanced devices for listening & they are often the ones most overlooked in the pursuit of the technological advances - our ears. I’m happy to explore whats possible with those & use whatever additional listening devices come along as & when - BUT, the most rewarding consequence of field recording is the ability it has to improve the way one listens just with the ears.

thanks for asking me to take part in this interview.