By definition, most field recordings are reflections of civilization, inhabited by the presence of whoever is doing the recording. Whether you’ve dropped a hydrophone into the bay or held a portable device up to catch the birdsong, you are there, physically connected to the recording tools. And the world that you are recording notes your presence. Animals avoid you. The wind curves around you. The device’s direction is determined by you.
But there are alternate approaches, such as Robert Rizzi’s. Rizzi, who is based in Kolding, Denmark, left his gear out in the wild, and then returned the next day to hear what his device heard when he wasn’t around. As he recounts:
Last week I dropped a rig again in the Solkær meadows/wetland near my home. I have a friend who owns a large chunk of land there and he took me on an inspection/expedition of the area. I went back later the same evening and set up next to the little waterhole in the picture. I left the rig there until the next morning…
Even with his active absence, however, civilization managed to intervene. As he explains, the nearly 20 minutes heard here required post-production to remove the presence of planes, to adjust sound levels, and to filter out unwanted audio:
This track is excerpts from the evening, night and dawn – it was pretty quiet so I have been fidling a bit with eq, compression and RX7 to enhance the result…(I’ll go back this week with my “big” rig to get a better recording hopefully without muchwork in post)
Right at the beginning you hear a deer? really close to the mics eating, and finally running away, there’s swans flying by, heron or cranes vocalizing, frogs blackbirds etc… quite a few planes, and even a helicopter, over the 9 hours of recoding – I edited those out
Nonetheless, the sounds are special. The animals heard chomping in the foreground early on do disappear, and when they do the meadow opens up, and the ear hears further than it did previously, deep into the night.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/rizzi. More from Rizzi at twitter.com/RobertColeRizzi.
2 thoughts on “Overnight Field Recording”
Very interesting. Chris Watson’s shared many thoughts concerning this to-edit, to-not-edit conundrum. He’s explained that early on in his practice the presence of man made sounds was infuriating, but over time he came to accept these as part of capturing a given location, and opted not to edit or ‘clean up’ the recording. In lieu of post production editing (save for a little EQ) he’s emphasised that listening before hitting record has been the most crucial aspect of field recording. Then whatever he ‘gets’ is what the thing ‘is’. I guess you could apply a photographic analogy here – i.e. lens, aperture, etc – and relate it back to microphone types, positioning. I’ve been discussing this with my partner this morning (who’s own MA research covered documentary photography) and the dreaded dual conundrums of authenticity and perception of reality came up. No simple answers there! There’s a lot more to this and I’m paraphrasing Watson’s approach a little, but it had a significant impact on my approach to field recording, especially with regard to my Fleurieu sound map work.
Thanks, Tristan, for bringing up Watson’s philosophy. I’m definitely intrigued by varying perspectives.