Part 1

Name: Lasse-Marc Riek
Nationality: German
Occupation: Field recorder, sound artist
Recommendations: Die große Stille (The great silence) by Philip Gröning - a documentary film about the life of the monks of the Carthusian Order.
Pollen from Hazelnut by Wolfgang Laib - an artistic work about collecting hazelnut pollen as a life task.

If you enjoyed this interview with Lasse-Marc Riek, visit his website or the website of his label Gruenrekorder for more information and updates.

Lasse-Marc Riek · SOUND DIALOGUES Excerpt


When did you start recording in the field - and what or who were your early passions and influences?  What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

As a child I came to conscious hearing by some coincidence or fate. From that moment on, the passion of listening to the world and listening within myself grew steadily.

When I first got access to mobile recording technology around 1996, I started the practice of collecting noise. By consciously listening to the recording situations and the sounds themselves, the first ideas for an image and the respective formats were already coming up. Through my own experience, the task of encouraging holistic listening and eavesdropping on society has grown. Therefore it is not only about the aesthetic moment but also about the activism.

We played "house music" as a family. I think it came from my grandpa, who was a great improviser. Each player got an instrument and started playing. I  think it was the very first introduction to listening to others, to rhythm, timing,  etc.

From the mid 80s to the mid 90s we lived in a house near a forest in the north of Germany. It was part of our normal everyday life to walk and play in the forest. From year to year we found many beautiful places. You had to listen to the surroundings to navigate through them, especially if you didn't follow the paths. During this time I learned as a child to listen to the messages of the forest and what they meant.

Between the ages of 13 and 15, I started going into the forest more and more often, alone and later and later at night, because I liked to listen in the dark. Each sound was so incredibly distinct and different.

You cannot imagine how many sounds there were! They came from insects, bigger animals, birds, wild boar, deer, small snakes and from wind, heat and cold. I think that in these years I learned a lot about hearing in nature and I made the decision to be a part of it all.

Since the age of 17 I have been intensively engaged in the visual arts. It became my way of life and a way for me to understand the world. I also learned several professions before I started my studies in Frankfurt am Main around 1999, when I moved to Frankfurt am Main from the north of Germany. My career developed as a freelance visual artist spanning several disciplines - finally I decided that working with sound was what interested me most.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

In my childhood and youth, the diversity of music has always played an important role. I remember my father and listening to Kraftwerk's "We are the robots" in the darkened living room on the floor. There was always a lot of music playing at home. Psychedelic and rock were staples. In the music of Pink Floyd I heard the frogs/insects between songs at some point … I think that was my introduction to the use of ambient sounds in music. Nature sound then became a kind of music style for me. I also discovered conceptual work with sounds. Musique concrète.

I found working with sounds exciting. I began to compose a kind of soundtrack with sounds. Collages! That was still strongly influenced by psychedelics. I discovered Walter Tilgner's seasonal recordings at the flea  market … then Bernie Krause and Co. Through the Touch label, I finally found a younger field recording scene and listened to Chris Watson's recordings.  Then the field opened up more and more. I started recording from where I lived, continuing beyond the village and town boundaries to the near-natural areas. More and more uncut recordings were made, which for me had a unique selling point. Between the experiences of the different approaches I  found more and more my own interests. A connection to the world through  sound and being.

What were your main challenges when you started out recording in the field and how have they changed over time?

In nature and animalphonography, the elements are e.g. Wind, rain, temperature, humidity and the situation which can hardly be controlled. This has not really changed. With every shot there are new and old challenges ...

What was your first set-up like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

A borrowed mini disk recorder and a small external stereo microphone. This was quite sufficient at the time. Handy and easy to use. To capture different perspectives, you need the respective devices.  This was always dependent on the recording location and the situations to be recorded.

For quite a while I recorded various bat species. The locating signals are in the ultrasonic range, so I needed an appropriate device. In this case an ultrasonic detector. In the inaudible range, for example underwater, I needed a hydrophone. For atmospheres I needed multi-channel possibilities, a parabolic mirror for remote recordings etc. I am currently interested in the signals of plants and insects. For this I rather need sensors and conversion systems.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

The human hears, the machine works.

For me, there are actually always only individual solutions on the spot. For a tunnel system, for example, I had extended the stereo and provided the inputs and outputs of the tunnels with a microphone each. Of course this is not a real stereo anymore, but maybe the one from the tunnel itself.

For a while I buried microphones and also recorders in recording mode, of course with a marker so that I could find them again. Often I put the smaller recorders into objects. These were then transported or stored. I found the perspective exciting ... In trees I hung small, many microphones in the branches or from the branches of a tree. How do you hear the fruits of the tree?

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

I use relatively few complex software environments. The composition and the ideas are often in the situation, in the moment. It then only takes a few steps to bring the whole thing into a time. In the last 100 years we have designed a lot of new devices to understand and listen to the world of sounds and their causes. After practice and experience I have the feeling that we could just as well go back to direct, unamplified hearing above us, the body, the ears. Just then we have the possibility to develop our sense of hearing. Maybe not to develop it further at all, but simply to "just" use it.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing or just talking about ideas?

For me, cooperation with colleagues is playing an increasingly important role. In most cases, it is also long-term projects that deepen such cooperation.

Since 2004 I have been deleting recordings with Christoph Korn for our project Series Invisible. Here, the focus is on dialogical work. We inform each other about the recordings we have just deleted with a message. Like a kind of correspondence. The result is an archive with deletion notes and processes that can be found in different formats. With Thomas Siefert I deal with the essence of "river" at irregular times, in this case the Rhine. And I have been doing this for 13 years now. We meet at a point on the foot and walk and listen to it for a whole time, sometimes for days. We then live together on and in the river, so to speak. During the breaks we deal with the impressions and exchange our very personal impressions.  Thomas then feels and thinks about the stone and the story and I, for example, about the sound. These kinds of cooperation are very important for me.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

For me everyday situations are connected with the respective projects. The concepts and ideas usually arise during hikes and time out. Shooting happens less spontaneously. I often try to integrate the private into actions. Of course, this does not always work. When my children are with me, I usually  work on the routine processes in the studio.

Viewing, listening, editing and sorting. When there is air in the evening again, then it's off to compositional work, whatever that means.

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