Field recording documents the world of sound around us: environments, animals and human activity of every kind. Composer Barry Truax defines soundscape composition as a spectrum of work which begins with found sound: “a soundscape whose organisation is so compelling, varied, and interesting that a simple recording of it may be listened to with the same appreciation that one has for conventional music.”
Using field recordings in studio-based composition has a rich history that goes back to the 1930s. It also plays a key role in radio, film, online content and art practice. In this course, we aim to improve both your theoretical knowledge and technical skills through a programme that embraces historical and contemporary sources, practical demonstrations and workshops. To this end, we’ll explore Musique concrète, radiophonics, sound for moving image (including Foley), multichannel sound and sound art installation practices. We’ll also look at studio practices associated with recording objects (including instruments), dialogue and voiceovers. We will explore the benefits of contemporary digital processes while developing our understanding of analogue techniques and approaches.
Develop your sound and recording skills
This course is suitable for anyone who has some experience with field recording and digital audio software. If you have already taken the Introduction to Field Recording short course, you’ll find this to be an ideal way to develop your skills and understanding and shape your personal practice in a supportive environment. During the course, there will be opportunities to present and discuss your own practise and we will look at ways you can advance and develop your work.
Over ten weeks you will acquire a new, critical awareness of listening, recording, and composing soundscapes. There will be a mixture of lectures, demonstrations, group workshop sessions, and discussions. Students may use any digital audio software of their choosing, but demonstration will be done using Avid Pro Tools – some familiarity with this Digital Audio Work Station (DAW) will be an advantage (Avid currently offers a free version of the software called Pro Tools First). You will also be introduced to a raft of alternative software (for free, wherever possible) for sound processing and treatments.
Learn transferable skills
The skills you will acquire are transferrable broadly across sound art practices and fine art. They can be used in radio or film and applied to location recording or post-production. You will also be able to use them in documenting oral histories, building sound libraries, creating soundwalks, and more. The course is highly relevant for visual artists looking to make sound a more important aspect of their work, or musicians who are keen to expand their sonic palette.
To benefit from the course, access to a computer with DAW software is essential. Ideally, you will also have (or be willing to purchase) some portable audio recording equipment – however, a phone will suffice. Access to other sound-making/recording tools will also be an advantage. If you are considering purchasing equipment, the tutor may be able to offer relevant product advice.
Goldsmiths offers a 15% concession rate on short courses to Lewisham Local cardholders.
We are committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. If you require adjustments, please complete the relevant section on the booking form and also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible.
Please note that our short courses sell-out quickly, so early booking is advisable.
If you have any questions about this course please contact shortcourses (@gold.ac.uk).
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Dr Marcus Leadley
This course is taught by Dr. Marcus Leadley, a sound artist, composer, curator and academic whose work explores the relationship between sound and place. He holds an MMus in Studio Based Composition and a PhD in Sonic Arts. The title of his PhD thesis is In Situ Listening: Soundscape, Site and Transphonia. Dr Leadley is an experienced field recordist and his current research interests include phonography, soundscape composition and acoustic ecology.
Each week we will use a range of resources including presentations, videos, and high-quality sound files. Class material will be sent to you after each session for you to review in your own time. Sessions themselves will be conducted using Zoom.
While the base-line technical requirements for this course are a computer and internet connection, you will ideally need either a decent set of monitor speakers or headphones. A dedicated sound recording device will be very useful but isn’t essential.
The course will begin with sessions covering the history and practice of field recording and soundscape studies. This will be followed by technical classes to introduce field recording equipment options in different price brackets and, demonstrations of recording techniques. Mid-way through the course we will undertake a fieldtrip – normally this would be a group expedition but on this occasion I’ll be asking you to record your own world: your daily exercise walk, garden, or other outdoor private space and inside your home. Sound files can then be uploaded to share with the class and discuss in the following session.
In the final three session of the course, you will look at sound editing and soundscape composition, using software called Pro Tools (of which there is a free version available for download called Pro Tools First). Course notes will include a written Pro Tools operation guide (compiled by the course tutor and designed to cover all the basic skills you’ll need), and a video tutorial. The course tutor will also be available to answer questions. You may use a different digital audio workstation (DAW) you are already farmiliar with if you would prefer, but support cannot be offered for more than one software package.
Session 1: Field Recording – Basics and Extended Techniques
We will review our understanding of digital audio recorders and look at file formats and other settings. Mono and stereo techniques using built-in microphones and external mics will be discussed along with more esoteric options such as binaural in-ear mics, hydrophones (underwater), contact mics (surfaces), coil mics (electromagnetic content) and ultrasound detectors. We will also explore extended techniques using micro-condensers and multi-channel recording. There will be video demonstrations and plenty of time for discussion.
Session 2: Building and using Contact and Coil Microphone & student presentations
Contact mics are useful for capturing noises from inside objects such as machines, water tanks and wire fences. Homemade contact mics can be installed in sound sculptures and used in performance. Coil microphones convert magnetic fields into electrical signals which can be recorded as audio: enabling you to listen to cash machines, LED lights and underground cables. This session will also introduce you to the tools and basic processes of soldering. We’ll build a soup can mic and a basic ‘apprehension engine’. In the second half of the class, participants are invited (but not required) to deliver short presentations about their own work with sound.
Session 3: Recording in the studio & Preparation for Field Trip
We will look at microphones and techniques for recording sound-making objects (including acoustic instruments) and the human voice. We will make our own sound effects using analogue techniques and demonstrate the generation of sound (Foley) content for a short film.
Homework: do some field recording and make/collect some sounds!
Session 4: Field trip de-brief, Group Listening to Recordings
In this fun and interesting session, we get to hear what you chose to record and how. These sessions always reveal some remarkable content.
Session 5: Digital processes #1 (The digital audio workstation – Pro Tools overview)
In this session we will refresh our understanding of the basic elements of working with a digital audio workstation (DAW): session formats, sound file imports, making and editing tracks, track fades and automation. We will review a range of plug-ins and processes that can be used to modify field recordings for sonic and creative effect. Pro Tools will be used for demonstration purposes.
Session 6: Digital Processes #2 (Alternative software)
We will explore the sound-shaping potential of stand-alone software applications such as Spear, AudioSculp and soundhack. Isotope RX will be used to demonstrate ways of ‘cleaning up’ and manipulating audio recordings. We will also look at Max/MSP and a range of Ipad apps.
Session 7: Analogue Processes
Using and manipulating magnetic tape, hardware processors (guitar pedals etc), performance and improvisation as compositional tools. Musique concrète and the sound object. Analogue synthesis.
Session 8: Compositional strategies & Student presentation
A number of sound art and documentary practices will be used to give examples of different compositional strategies and participants are again invited (but not required) to deliver short presentations about their own work with sound and receive group feedback.
Session 9: Sound Installation practices
In this session, we will look at the history and practice of sound art installation and explore the potential of multichannel sound (including 5.1 and 8.1 surround sound) through both listening to examples and demonstrations.
Week 10 - Group Listening and Feedback
In this final session, we will address basic track mastering concepts and approaches to finishing work. The second half of the session will focus on playing and discussing your work – this can be completed pieces or works in progress.
At the end of this course you will have gained:
- An advanced understanding of field recording techniques and equipment
- Transferrable skills that can be used in a number of different contexts, including sound art and fine art, as well as documentary film and radio production
- A good working knowledge of digital audio software and an informed understanding of the various options available
- An understanding of to use a range of microphones in the studio or on location to record instruments and objects
- A well-developed understanding of the current and historical contexts of phonography
- The theoretical, contextual and practical skills to help you develop ideas, make great sounding recordings and progress your practice
About the department
Our Department of Music is a dynamic, creative and exciting place dedicated to both producing and understanding the theories behind music. From symphonies to soundscape, we cover a diverse range of topics, those which challenge the status quo, and those which forge sounds of the future. We've enabled musicians ranging from Errolyn Wallen, to James Blake, to Mercury Prize winning Katy B to realise their full potential. Even Placebo frontman, Brian Molko, has studied here. We host courses from our state-of-the-art Electronic Music Studios, which uses Pro Tools HD.
The Department hosts one course on Phonography at undergraduate level and touches on it briefly in two modules at Masters levels. We also offer the Masters programme, MMus – Sonic Arts. The Unit for Sound Practice Research based at Goldsmiths has as one of its concerns ‘Phonography, soundscape studies and field recording’. Students on this course will utilise Goldsmiths’ multi-channel Electronic Music Studios in realising multi-channel compositions which are unique and unparalleled throughout the majority of London’s educational institutions.