Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Art of Field Recording

Field recording

is the term used for any recording produced outside of a recording studio. Field recordings can be either of two varieties. Field recording of natural sounds, also called Phonography (a term chosen to illustrate its similarities to photography), was originally employed as a documentary adjunct to research work in the field and foley work for film. With the availability of high-quality portable recording equipment, it has subsequently become an evocative art in itself. Both processed and natural phonographic recordings (such as the Environments series) are available. Field recordings can also refer to on-site recordings of musicians, such as those pioneered by John Lomax, Nonesuch Records and Vanguard Records, where the use of a recording studio for these recordings is impractical.


Field recording often involves the capture of ambient noises that are low level and complex, in response the requirement from the field recordist has often pushed the technical limits of recording equipment, that is, demanding low noise and extended frequency response in a portable, battery powered unit. For this reason field recordists have favoured high quality, usually professional, recorders, microphones and microphone pre-amplifiers. The history of the equipment used in this area closely tracks the development of professional portable audio recording technology.

Field recording experienced a rapid increase in popularity during the early 1960s with the introduction of high quality portable recording equipment (such the Uher and Nagra portable reel-to-reel decks). The arrival of the DAT (Digital Audio Tape) in the 1980's introduced a new level of audio recording fidelity with extended frequency response and low self noise. Amongst these technologies, other popular means for field recording have included the analog cassette (CAC), the DCC (Digital Compact Cassette), and the MiniDisc. Today the latest generation of recorders in use are completely digital (hard disk/Flash) based. Techniques have developed to include creative placement of microphones (including contact microphones & hydrophones for example), diffusion of captured sounds and highly individual approaches from recordists.Music

The use of field recordings was in the avant-garde, musique concrete, experimental, and more recently ambient was evident almost from the birth of recording technology. Most note worthy for pioneering the conceptual and theoretical framework with art music that most openly embraced the use of raw sound material and field recordings was Pierre Schaeffer who was developing musique concrete as early as 1940. Field recordings are now common source material for a range of musical results from contemporary musique concrete compositions to film soundtracks, video game soundtracks, and effects.
download an excellent piece of Field Recording Music

examples of french field recordings

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