Category Archives: Field Recording Stories


Field Recording as a collaborative process – Tullis Rennie

Tullis is a sound artist and composer who uses field recordings as a way of understanding and connecting with a place. When working with field recordings, it is important for him to maintain the chronological sequence in the composed narrative.  He is interested in documentary and ethnographic processes and how people inhabiting a space are affected by its recording; how to involve them in something that is a solitary practice. Based on this interest he has engaged in participative projects such as Som da Maré in Rio de Janeiro, with a group of artists and community from a cluster of favelas in Maré, to introduce field recording as a method of understanding daily life. The sound material was collected collaboratively, and shared. They used Audacity to edit and label the files, and decisions were made collectively for an exhibition in the Museu de Mare, located in the favela. Also they co-designed a sound walk that included both static positions and movement, which was led by actors from a local theatre group. Participants used iPods to walk in an affluent area of Rio, overlapping this space with the one recorded in the favela. Technically it was challenging to do this as precisely as desired:


Reflecting on this experience, he thinks that more sophisticated ways of archiving this material will be beneficial, as the material will reside in the local community museum, and can be re-used by them. Accessibility and ownership are important within the collaborative process:


After being in Brazil he created two works: one piece broadcast on Resonance FM Rio: An Outsider, Inside, and a video piece, Carioca Sound Stories:

As a single author, re-visiting the recordings, he was struggling with what the sound could say to others, and how the voices of others will be represented. This process provoked him to look for questions rather than answers. He is re-using his own recorded material that derives from a collaborative experience:


Regarding use and re-use of sound he is interested in different levels of ownership of the material: thinking too much about copyrights and public and private ownership, can generate from his perspective, a creative paralysis. For him it is important to define the role of the field recordist and composer in the first instance, to free the recordings and to achieve all the creative research learning through doing:


Do you identify with Tullis’ practice, research and technical needs working participatory projects with field recordings?

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‘Open minded’ system for searching and retrieving – Tom Rice

Tom is an Anthropologist interested in sound and the perception of sonic spaces. His first major research project was in a hospital, where he looked at the different types of auditory knowledge and acoustic perspective held by patients, nurses and doctors.

Tom also makes radio programmes, most recently Govindpuri Sound for the BBC World Service. This programme was produced in collaboration with urban researcher Dr. Tripta Chandola and was informed by her PhD research. It explored the sonic environment of a settlement known as ‘the slums of Govindpuri’ in Delhi, India. Recalling its production he reflects on the value the sound recordist gives to the material and also the value that others might add:

When he records interviews Tom is aware of the sonic space in which people are responding to his questions. In this respect, the differentiation between field recording and speech is complex, as in his work voices and ambient sounds are closely intertwined. He feels this represents a challenge when it comes to labelling recordings:

Another realisation from the Govindpuri Sound project was that he and Tripta had unintentionally and rather suddenly created a sound archive and he wonders about the future of this recorded material:

When searching for recordings made by others, Tom finds it easiest to search online and finds people usually provide useful tags. Looking for material to include in the Govindpuri Sound programme he found a rich archive of street criers in India collected by the artist Rashmi Kaleka:

He also imagines that a good way to find sounds would be to reach out to, or search within, the community of researchers and artists, tracing specific research interests. e.g. underground transport systems, sounds in hospitals or wildlife recordings. Searching this way creates scope to forge relationships with researchers, to deepen ones knowledge about the recordings and to develop new ideas for how the materials might be re-used.

For Tom, the organisation of recordings in an indexical form demands ‘open mindedness’ and an awareness of the different types of value or meaning a recording might hold. He wonders how computers would cope with or create this kind of open-mindedness. Within the framework, he feels ‘search and retrieval’ criteria for an extensive archive and database are the most important things to explore, followed by facilities to allow relational playback:


Do you identify with Tom’s needs? What are your own experiences, issues and needs when working with speech, field recordings and archives?

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Sound Methods to explore spaces – Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is a musician and Human Geographer. He has been interested in the use of Sound methods as a way of exploring spaces. He thinks that while Social Scientists often use sound recordings for interviews, much more awareness is needed to appreciate how sound can offer rich perceptions of place:

Recently he has been exploring a modernist ruin in Scotland, and was interested in the haunting qualities of the sonic experience in that site. He created an audio drift blending sounds recorded in and around the ruin with interviews about the site. The work was designed to be listened to on portable MP3 players whilst walking around the site. In situ, the drift amplifies the uncanny, ghostly feel of the place. He has written about this project here.

Michael has also been developing methods to analyse field recordings, inspired by the sound transcripts of Australian geographer Michelle Duffy. His approach, developed with fellow geographers Anja Kanngieser and Jonathan Prior, involves using different kinds of listening to explore the full sonic experience: for example, listening for the causes of sounds, their timbral qualities, the associations they invoke, the feelings they evoke, their spatialities and so on, moving between these different listening modes rather than trying to separate them:

Michael has a blog where he documents some of his research with sound and on other themes:

Do you identify with Michael’s practices and issues? What are your own experiences, issues and needs when working with sound methods?

Use the ‘reply’ button on the top to leave a comment. Many thanks!