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.