There are field recordings, and there are field recordings. There are audio documents of the soundscape, and there are regionally indigenous musics archived thanks to portable gear.
And then there are hybrids. There are compositions that make use of the physical environment to perform something tuneful or rhythmic or otherwise musical in real time. Such is “Construction Container” by Joshua Wentz, in which simple percussion prefaces, then aligns with, and overall frames the sound of a passing train. The very brief liner note associate with the track is simply: “Felt mallet on an overturned metal construction container, as the El passes by.” That’s El for elevated train — Wentz is based in Chicago. The distant train is heard coming into sonic view, as it were, though the looming presence may not be self-evident on first listen. It passes quickly, and once it’s passed by, the percussion slows, a denouement that artfully echoes the vehicles diminishing presence.
Wentz track originally posted at soundcloud.com/joshuawentz. More on Wentz at joshuawentz.com.
The urtext of such experiments in realtime environment jamming is arguably “Ear to the Ground” by the great David Van Tieghem, once upon a time a stalwart of the nascent New York downtown scene, and today a major force in theatrical sound design and composition (upcoming projects include August Wilson and Clifford Odets revivals). Here, for reference, is a video of it: