Exhausted Field Recording Number One

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The above link will play a sound file of one minute forty seven seconds recorded at 12.35pm on the 13th October 2010. (Apologies if the ID3 tags don’t show in wordpress)

I begin my practice for the next three years but I also hit a barrier of fatigue, pain and stomach problems. Slouching from room to room, I mooch, despondant that I cannot offer anything meaningful to the debate about making art with M.E. when I feel this ill. But then I take a moment to consider, no, is this not the best state to carry out experiential research? Otherwise how is it going to be of use to patients / ill artists that are bed-bound? – How can I make something that is both easy to produce, but has some conceptual backbone?

Then it hits me. I think of the world’s most prolific field recordist / sound recordist / avant-garde musician. Half David Attenborough, half John Cage. I’m talking of course about Chris Watson.

His website will tell you everything you need to know, so I’ll just say a few words about today’s soundfile.

One of the ways that I’ve been thinking that sick artists can still make work and still “author” work, is by appropriation. Naming where an object of art lives, took place, or “occurs as art” is an act of creation without touching I think. By placing “start” and “stop” margins on objects or sounds, a work is authored. By directing attention between those parameters, the experience can become more focussed and subsequently expanded, so the mundane may become less so. Patterns and theories spring up, by the simple act of editing and naming. One famous visual art example of this process I can think of, straight off, is the concept of the “readymade” – by Marchel Duchamp. On the sound tip, the closest example to “authoring” audible phenomena is by carrying out “field recordings”, like the example at the start of this post or by getting closer to Chris Watson’s work!

Readymades. There is little physical effort in the production of Duchamp’s readymades and for that reason alone, they are within the grasp of the sick artist. Especially in working with sound. A lot of my work 2002-2007 was in the ‘production’ of appropriating meaning to things in the street – partly because of the lack of physical energy I had, but also because I think, and have the opinion of, that being an artist for me, is to point to or edit the natural / urban world, rather than build projects from scratch. I think by removing phemonema from daily contexts and revealing them in isolation – helps us gain more pleasure and milage from listening or looking at the daily torrents of audio visual information around us. The experience in repeatedly playing back field recorded files or slowing them down, reveals the compositional data in the everyday. This might be analagous to what video artist Bill Viola describes (video – and maybe sound) as a “temporal magnifying glass.”

So a final word on today’s soundfile and the themes it could lead onto – I live a few miles south of Prestwick Airport. There are quite a few smaller planes that fly from there with propellors, which provide a brilliant droney echo by the time the sound hits me here in Ayr. In the summer I made a really nice field recording of such a drone which I’ll post soon. But today, I could hear a related mechanical sound. One of my neighbours was having carpets industrially cleaned a few doors down the road. But at the same time, birds were chirping loudly in the trees outside my office window. It occurred to me this was almost like a live concert going on, so I grabbed my beloved Sony PCM – M10 recorder and sat it on the windowsill for a few minutes.

Once we have a recording, we can digitally enhance various frequencies, repeat phrases and use it as a pallette of enquiry in a number of strokes. I chose not to digitally edit this piece aside from deciding how loud it should be, where it starts and stops and what bit-rate the mp3 file would be. I think what I’d like to do with this file is get some ornithological assistance in identifying the birds, then I will have gathered some empirical facts as well as made a nice wee soundfile to share! If you would like the direct link to the file, to save, go here.


5 comments on “Exhausted Field Recording Number One

  1. Emily says:

    Hi Chris,

    Like the recording a lot and am interested in this whole process. As another musician with M.E., let me know if I can be involved in any way.


  2. lindsay says:

    cant help but respodn to a bird request, i think its house sparrows, possibly a black bird distress call and some lovely crows in the background.

    we have an in house dispute about a wren.. (I say no wren)!

      • lindsay says:

        Its a bit of a tangent but we have been discussing how our practice changes as a parents, the way you work or how you create work ,even the timescales to make a piece of work, and the value you place on what you have made. where do you put your energy or divide your loyalty. I have found my practice has become more diverse. and maybe more flexible.. perhaps less uptight? I cant alway go out and photograph or film so i make drawings or play with the light coming in the window. But similarly i don’t mentally or physically have the time to kind of live in my work in the way I used to, so i end up with lovely but crazy chats about theory and process whilst kids are occupied for 10mins before toilets and tears over take.

        I think i have a good essay somewhere landscape and the everyday, making use of the world that we work and live within rather than more traditional (photographic) approach perhaps of traveling and discovering new and wondrous worlds, sometimes moss and fungus of domestic landscapes will do just as well.


      • Chris Dooks says:

        can you send me that essay lindsay? cx

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