THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

10 June 2013

Sound, Listening and the Art of Field Recording

There has been a flurry of new books in recent months that deal with the interlocking subjects of sound, listening and field recording. The first to emerge was In the Field: the art of field recording (Uniform Books), edited by CRiSAP Directors Cathy Lane and Angus Carlyle and launched during the In the Field symposium held at the British Library in February.

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This anthology brings together an impressive collection of interviews with practising field recordists with diverse interests, methodologies and experiences. From Annea Lockwood's fascination with rivers to Ian Rawes' work in documenting the sounds of London, these conversations give insight into the working lives of some of the most respected figures in the field recording community. Other interviewees include Gruenrekorder co-founder Lasse-Marc Riek, Japanese sound artist Hiroki Sasajima,Vancouver Soundscape Project member Hildegard Westerkamp, British field recordist Jez riley French, anthroplogist and ethnomusicologist Steven Feld and Berlin-based recordist Peter Cusack.

Next came David Hendy's Noise: a Human History of Sound & Listening (Profile Books), written to accompany the 30 part BBC Radio 4 series of the same name. From prehistoric times to the present day, Noise explores the role of sound and listening in the history of Human culture over the past 100,000 years.

Noise a human history

Noise begins with the acoustic characteristics of caves used by our prehistoric ancestors and concludes with modern day methods used to retreat from the noise and bustle of contemporary life.  Music, speech, echoes, chanting, drumbeats, bells, gunfire, laughter, birdsong, machinery, water and much more are covered in the book and were the foundations of the series that was developed in collaboration with the British Library's Sound Archive.

Finally, Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age (Polity Books) by Dr Kate Lacey from the University of Sussex was published in May and explores the practices, politics and ethics of public listening. Michele Hilmes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote of Listening Publics:

'At once subtle and stunning, Kate Lacey's exploration of the history and concept of listening as a distinct cultural practice adds immeasurably to both the field of sound studies and our understanding of the role played by mediated communication in modern history. This careful delineation of aural practices shows how central the act of listening has been in the formation of social structures and ways of understanding the world around us.'

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Upcoming releases to look out for include The Memory of Sound: preserving our sonic past by Professor Seán Street and the anthology On Listening which explores the many ways in which skilled listening can mediate new relationships with our physical environment and those that we share it with.

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