Name: Felicity Mangan
Occupation: Sound artist, field recorder, producer
Nationality: Australian
Current release: Felicity Mangan's Bell Metal Reeds is out via One Instrument.

If these thoughts by Felicity Mangan piqued your interest, visit her official website for more information. She is also on Soundcloud, and twitter.

You can also read our previous conversation with Felicity Mangan as part of her duo Native Instrument, where she expands on a wider range of topics.

Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?

I think a lot of the films l was watching as a teenager got me interested in different ways of listening to sounds. For example David Lynch’s Eraser Head and his use of industrial sounds.

What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surroundings have influenced your sonic preferences?

Definitely the diverse sounds of the wildlife that l heard growing up in Australia.

What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?

I really like working with field recordings because they allow me to tell and share stories. I think I started to reject instrumental sounds after discovering field recording in my own work. Field recordings are just so rich with possible sounds. However l sometimes miss being able to play an instrument because there is no latency effect.

Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?  

I collected them while traveling and working on different projects.

For example, l have been working on a project called ‘Digging the Pedopheric Vibes’ that is influenced by my experience on a micro-residency on a pilot farm called Qvidja in Parainen, Finland. There, l learnt about how restoring and taking care of a soil’s ecosystem can in turn help to reduce carbon from the atmosphere and also keep us healthy. The work features soil related field recordings from the farm and also sounds from an archeological excavation workshop that l recorded during a six week artist residency at Titanik Gallery in Turku Finland last summer.  

Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?

I am interested in making music that has a story behind it as well as creating something that is well crafted and intriguing for the listener.

My One Instrument release Bell Metal Reeds is one of the more emotional expressive releases l have done - I enjoyed creating this music that was shaped by the tonal and timbral qualities of the harmonica.

Usually I am utilizing more concrete sounds and field recordings in my music. I will have a tape release coming out on Moscow based label KlammKlang early next year, which l am really happy about, that will feature my ‘Digging the Pedopheric Vibes’ work and other pieces I have created in 2020-2021 - that finds emotional and concrete elements.

From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?

I like to allow myself enough time to develop something, however often I have deadlines and need to really get to this place of balance and fluidity in my work fast and need to be super focused. Which is a fun game but also can be stressful at the same time.

I really like responding to a concept. For example, the concept of One Instrument. I also like being playful.

Which tools have been most important and useful for you when it comes to working with and editing sounds?

Sample machines are great for my way of working. I have an Elektron Digitakt which is great for creating nice sound design effects as well as sampling from found sound and field recordings. I also use computer software like Reaper and Ableton depending on what l am doing.

Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?

Definitely - l find biorhythms that are found in animal sounds and field recordings shape my music a lot. I think this approach influenced the way I treated the harmonica in Bell Metal Reeds. Since I don't know how to play the instrument I would imagine the sound of the harmonic is something like how frogs and insects utilized the substrate of plants and reeds in a wetland to resonate their calls. Possibly a little bit of a reference to my Stereo’frog’ic Longforms Editions release in 2019.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?

I think it is important to leave space for the sounds to resonate and also somewhere for the listener to find themselves. This can be heard in my Fact Live set or my Stereo’frog’ic piece which is very manta-like using minimal and repetitive sequences of frogs, insects and other Australian wildlife sounds. People have said it is very meditative.

Not that l was intending that, it was just the way the piece formed when I was working with the sounds while giving space around them to listen to the timbers and biorhythms.

Humans are often characterised as "visual beings". In your opinion, what role does our sense of hearing play in our understanding of the world? How do sounds affect you, compared to other senses like sight or smell?

l noticed l have become more and more sensitive to sounds. I used to go to a lot of noise concerts and enjoyed the quality or idea of the sound but l think it is really hard for me to process harsh sounds now.

Recently I have started to get more headaches when working with noisey field recordings. Maybe my listening has also changed. I noticed though, especially during the stress of the pandemic and lockdown, that sitting in a park or somewhere where l could hear birds was really calming for my nerves, which is obvious but I really appreciated it during these times.

We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?

I like to combine both in a way. You can hear this in my Creepy Crawly release on Mappa, for example.

Through the process of sampling animal sounds and field recordings then shaping and sequencing the sounds the music would become more popy. It really comes back to having fun with the tools and sound for me.