Course overview

 

Online teaching

We are now offering many of our courses online due to the developing Covid-19 situation. Continue learning with us by taking courses remotely via live distance learning.

 

Field recordings are sound recordings made outside of a studio using portable equipment. These capture the acoustical traces of landscapes, locations and populations; the intertwining of topography, meteorological phenomena, architectural acoustics, fauna, flora and mechanical processes. This course explores the techniques of field recording, providing an overview of the discipline, which has vital importance for film and documentary sound, radio, scientific and ecology enquiry and art practice.

Thanks so much for running the course!  I learned a lot and had a great time.  The field trip and guest lecturer were especially useful and informative and offered a nice break from the usual class routine.  Learning the theory first provided us with a really nice mental grounding in the subject before we tried to make anything.

Participant, 2017

This course was absolutely brilliant. I feel it was treated as seriously as if we were on a full time course - which surprised me (perhaps it shouldn't have - i don't know!). It was immediately a confidence-boost in that respect - and ethically I think it's absolutely spot on when so many people cannot afford to go into higher education.

Participant, 2017

This 10 week course is suitable for complete newcomers to field recording and for those with some experience of basic hand-held recorders who want to improve the quality of their recordings. This will involve workshops, lectures and practical hands-on experience, through recording sessions and field trips. We will also learn about the basics of sound editing, processing and soundscape composition using digital audio software. Your practical knowledge will be framed in relation to lectures focusing on the history, language and methods of soundscape studies, as well as related fields such as acoustic communication and acoustic ecology. It will be of great benefit to you if you are interested in:

• Recording a diverse range of environments (including underwater) and wildlife
• Using sound in relation to your art practice
• Exploring ‘found sound’ in the context of music composition
• Producing radio-style documentaries and podcasts
• Learning about digital recording and using software for editing and production

Since the 1970s much of the discussion concerning environmental sound has been framed in relation to the term ‘soundscape,’ defined by the music educator and writer R. Murray Schafer as, “Technically any portion of the sonic environment regarded as a field of study. The term may refer to actual environments, or to abstract constructions such as musical compositions and tape montages, particularly when considered as an environment.”

We will listen for inspiration in the current and historical contexts of phonography and soundscape studies and review a diverse range of recordings and compositions. You will gain an understanding of ‘site’ encompassing space, place and location as well as exploring other intersections such as time and the socio-political context. We will also provide you with a thorough grounding in the contemporary context in which to develop a phonographic or sound art practice.

The course is both practical and technical. We’ll spend time outside, listening to and considering our surroundings. You will learn how to make high fidelity recordings using a range of equipment and techniques; there will be demonstrations and workshops using:

• portable recorders
• external microphones
• hydrophones, contact and coil microphones
• ultrasound detectors

There will be plenty of hands-on time with this equipment. You will also be introduced to the relevant aspects of the digital audio software Pro Tools – enabling you to learn about audio editing, sound processing and composition techniques (there is a free version called Pro Tools first students can download). This knowledge and skills are transferrable to a number of contexts, including sound art practice and fine art; radio or film and applied to location recording for films or post-production sound; and used in documenting oral histories, building sound libraries, creating soundwalks and more.

Why Study this Course?

  • Gain an understanding of the history and current practices of the soundscape, listening and related fields such as acoustic ecology and acoustic communication
  • Develop an awareness of relevant recording and microphone techniques
  • Understand the benefits and limitations of specific models of portable recorders
  • Learn how to use software to create and arrange soundscape compositions

After you have taken this course you may be interested in taking our follow on course Field Recording: Soundscape Composition 

 

COVID-19 Update

Field Recording and the Soundscape – Special Lockdown Edition (Online)

A message from your course tutor:

Running this course online will pose some unique challenges but also create unique opportunities – not least that the course is now open to people who, under normal circumstances, would not be able to come to Goldsmiths every week on a Monday evening! With the on-site course we have access to the Electronic Music Studios and the Departments field recording equipment. In this online version I will demonstrate the full range of equipment, demonstration recordings and provide more information for people who want to purchase their own equipment. However, I will also focus much more on resources that most people have available: their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. So we will explore ways to make the best use of these tools available.

In advance of each session you will receive a download link for course content; I will be using a range of resources including high quality sound files so we cannot rely solely on streaming on-line content. I would ask you to review this content before the class session and set up in advance: loading browser book marks and having listening examples to hand. Session themselves will be conducted using Zoom.

While the base-line technical requirement for taking this course is a computer and an internet connection you will, ideally, need either a decent set of monitor speakers or headphones.

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 I will demonstrate 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 flat/house. Sound files can then be uploaded for us to share and we will discuss our experiences in the following session. Course fieldtrips usually take place on a Saturday but for this online edition you can chose a convenient time or day.

In the final three session of the course I look at sound editing and soundscape composition. For this I will be using Pro Tools software and there is a free version, Pro Tools First, you can download. Course notes will include a written Pro Tools operation guide (compiled by me and designed to cover all the basic skill you’ll need) and I will be available to answer questions. If you are already familiar with a different digital audio workstation I’m happy if you prefer to use this – but under the circumstance I can’t offer support for more than one software package.

I hope you find all of this interesting, exiting and thought provoking and that it makes you want to join me on this journey of exploration.

All the best,
Dr. Marcus Leadley

Fees

£295

Booking information

Disability Support

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 shortcourses@gold.ac.uk so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible. 

Please note our short courses sell-out quickly, so early booking is advisable.

Sign up to be notified when new dates become available.

Enquiries

If you have any questions about this course please contact shortcourses (@gold.ac.uk) .

For information on our upcoming short courses please sign up to our mailing list.

Location

Online

Tutor information


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.

 

Course structure

COVID-19 Update

Field Recording and the Soundscape – Special Lockdown Edition (Online)

A message from your course tutor:

Running this course online will pose some unique challenges but also create unique opportunities – not least that the course is now open to people who, under normal circumstances, would not be able to come to Goldsmiths every week on a Monday evening! With the on-site course we have access to the Electronic Music Studios and the Departments field recording equipment. In this online version I will demonstrate the full range of equipment, demonstration recordings and provide more information for people who want to purchase their own equipment. However, I will also focus much more on resources that most people have available: their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. So we will explore ways to make the best use of these tools available.

In advance of each session you will receive a download link for course content; I will be using a range of resources including high quality sound files so we cannot rely solely on streaming on-line content. I would ask you to review this content before the class session and set up in advance: loading browser book marks and having listening examples to hand. Session themselves will be conducted using Zoom.

While the base-line technical requirement for taking this course is a computer and an internet connection you will, ideally, need either a decent set of monitor speakers or headphones.

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 I will demonstrate 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 flat/house. Sound files can then be uploaded for us to share and we will discuss our experiences in the following session. Course fieldtrips usually take place on a Saturday but for this online edition you can chose a convenient time or day.

In the final three session of the course I look at sound editing and soundscape composition. For this I will be using Pro Tools software and there is a free version, Pro Tools First, you can download. Course notes will include a written Pro Tools operation guide (compiled by me and designed to cover all the basic skill you’ll need) and I will be available to answer questions. If you are already familiar with a different digital audio workstation I’m happy if you prefer to use this – but under the circumstance I can’t offer support for more than one software package.

I hope you find all of this interesting, exiting and thought provoking and that it makes you want to join me on this journey of exploration.

All the best,
Dr. Marcus Leadley

 

Week 1 - Lecture – Listening, Context and History of the Soundscape.

We will start by defining the lexicon of soundscape studies terms and methods and exploring the difference between hearing and listening. We will look at the history of field recording, focussing on its early role in anthropological and ethnographic study before looking more broadly at its use in documenting conflict, building nature sound archives, radio, film, music and art practice. We will listen to a wide range of recordings and compositions including those of Walter Ruttman, Ludwig Koch, Humphrey Jennings, Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Bernie Krause and Chris Watson.

Week 2 - Lecture / Soundwalk – Listening, Context and History of the Soundscape continued + Soundwalk.

We will continue our exploration of soundscape studies so as to bring our understanding up to the present day. We will focus on a range of ground-breaking research initiatives, such as the World Soundscape Project, and artistic projects that have come to underpin the field as we know it today. We will then consider soundwalking as a practice for site investigation and conclude the session by taking our senses and the new knowledge we have acquired during these initial sessions on an exploratory tour of Goldsmiths’ campus.

Week 3 - Lecture / Workshop – Portable Digital Recorders, Microphones and Techniques.

In the first of our practical sessions we will look at a range of recording equipment (both what is at Goldsmiths for you to use and more generally), explore options, consider advantages and disadvantages in relation to price and practicality. We will learn the basic digital audio theory we will need to make proactive recording decisions and a range of techniques for using microphones and dealing with environmental factors such as wind. We will consider mono, stereo and binaural recording and listen to a range of recordings made with different equipment so as to gain an appreciation of different techniques, types of equipment and sound quality. You will have hands-on time with the equipment to record and explore around the campus.

Week 4 - Lecture / Workshop – Recording ‘hidden’ Sounds: Contact Mics, Coil Mics, Hydrophones and Ultrasound Detectors.

This week we look at some of the more esoteric tools of the field recordists trade: those used for detecting sound hidden beneath surfaces and inside objects (contact microphones, underwater (hydrophones), electromagnetic signals (coil microphones) and ultrasound sources (bat detectors). We will listen to recordings and practically engage with all the tools and techniques.

Week 5 - Field Trip – on Saturday from 12-4pm.

In place of our normal classroom session we will visit Greenwich and explore its many different sonic environments. You will be provided with field recording equipment (you can also bring your own if you wish) and the session will be facilitated/led by Dr. Marcus Leadley.

Week 6 – Lecture/Lab – Field Trip De-Brief + Group Listening to our Recordings. 

A fun and useful session where we discuss our different experiences of the field trip and listen to recordings – prior to uploading them to the studio’s computers to use in compositional exercises in the coming weeks.

Week 7 - Lecture – Soundscape and the Socio-Political: Exploration of Arts Practices and Agendas

Prior to starting our own compositions this session we will look at ways different practitioners have used field recording to explore issues and agendas involving cultural, ecological, political and social themes. We will listen to work by Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp, Luc Ferrari, David Dunn, Steven Feld, John Levack Drever, Annea Lockwood, Dallas Simpson, Jana Winderen, Francisco López, Emmanuel Spinelli and Marcus Leadley.

Week 8 - Lecture/Lab – Introduction to Software and Soundscape Composition Basics: Importing Files and Editing Sound. Composing with Sound in the Studio.

We will briefly look at the history of the digital audio workstation (DAW) and consider the various software packages that are available. You will then start to explore sound from a compositional prospective through working in small groups in the studio environment. Pro Tools will be used in the class and studios sessions for editing and it is available for you to use on the computers in the Electronic Music Studios where these classes are taught. You can also use your own laptops/software if you wish if you are familiar with these packages.

Week 9 - Lecture /Lab – Equalization, Effects and Processing Sound + Composing with Sound in the Studio.

We will look at how tone control can be used for managing sounds in relation to other sounds and for creating specific characters. We will explore compression, reverb and normalising and look at how software plug-ins can be used to change recordings in both subtle and radical ways. The session will also introduce the concept of track and plug-in automation: a valuable tool for creating variation and movement in your work.

Week 10 - lab – Composing with Sound in the Studio + Presenting Work and Feedback

In the final session of the course you will have time to complete your group compositions and we will look at best practice for creating finished work. The second half of the session will focus of playing and discussion your work to this point.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course you will have gained:

• Theoretical, practical and conceptual knowledge in phonography and soundscape composition
• Transferrable skills that can be used in a number of different contexts, including sound art and fine art, as well as documentary
• An understanding of ‘site’ encompassing space, place and location

• An awareness of audio and microphone techniques

• An understanding of the current and historical contexts of phonography

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.

 

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