Part 2

What are the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to?  Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?

I began field recording as I enjoyed exploring and discovering sounds that have irregular rhythms or an unpredictability. This led to an interest in more industrial or machine sounds while making work in urban areas, but the ones I particularly like are those in which the source is not working correctly. The regular rhythm is broken in some way and the machine develops a character.

I am not sure I reject too many sounds, but again it depends on the work. If anything right now I am recordings sounds I would have previously never used – passing traffic, trains and other forms of transport, running water – as these activate the devices I use in different ways.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, from instruments via software tools and recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you personally starting from your first studio/first instruments and equipment?

I began with a minidisc recorder that needed an external preamp, so I was juggling the recorder, preamp and mic while clambering around waterfalls and hot springs. And I knew I needed better equipment as I was doing this – a more directional mic, boom pole, good solid state recorder – if I wanted to continue.

After going down the expensive route of mics and recorders, which of course have their place and use, I found that a handy recorder, some small and handmade mics and a lot of creativity were all I need most of the time. I also found through recording in some places that large rigs and expensive gear attracts unwanted attention.

As I was constantly travelling for around 10 years I didn't have a studio setup as such – I do now and I love it! But this led to working with tactile transducers and small amplifiers as a way to travel and make work, along with the use of found objects and more recently motor devices.

There are environmental and political issues raised through working with discarded products, but I'll be honest, financial and travel limitations were also factors.

Where do you find the sounds you're working with?

I am currently combining and adapting these mechanical devices to become sound sources, amplifying the sounds through contact mics, pickup coils and close mic techniques.

But as I said, the sounds that activate the devices are everyday street sounds gathered wherever I am making the next stage of project.

From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds? Can you take me through your process on the basis of a project or album that's particularly dear to you?

I'll go through some of the process behind Against Nature (Crónica 2016).

In 2013 I'd been in a residency in the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia where I had a lab space for three months to try out any and all ideas I had. I was building my first kinetic works, using old technology, burning mics, making Lucier's 'Sitting in a Room' inside ancient burial urns. A big shift in my practice.

Later the same year I was in Kristiansand, Norway, where I made my first kinetic work with motors, burned out an amplifier, dropped and broke microphones, had software glitching on me. This led to some unexpected sonic results which I of course recorded. Even some field recordings were messed up and had unintentional artefacts.

And I was already questioning the unwritten rule of field recording, that the recorder shouldn't be audible or apparent, which is silly. So I took these mistakes, errors, things not going to plan, and made an album from the results! I am not sure I ever said it, but I felt like it was almost an anti-field recording album!!

The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?

I learned quite some time ago that if you go with an intention of recording a specific sound, 99.9% of the time it will be disappointing.

An example was a chance to visit a glacier in Patagonia, Chile – thanks to Tsonami Festival. I did only have a short time there, but I was not able to record the ice cracking, which was my intention. I did catch some booms of deep cracking but this is not clear from the recordings. On the other hand I did get a nice hydrophone recording from nearby.

But! If I ever got the chance, I would like to record volcanic lava, or just hear it in person.

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

Well ... sound and space are inseparably linked but unless composing a work in situ to be heard in the location, I don't see a strong relationship between them and composition.

However, I have tried to find ways to convey a little of what I was doing live, such as the performances with transducers on objects and surfaces in a space. I recorded a number of shows for different parts of the room and recomposed them to make 'Forced to Repeat Myself' (Misanthropic Agenda 2020).

Also I was making a performance that used microphone techniques and proximity effect to in a way spacialise sound which became Proximity Effects (Amplify 2020), which does consider the relationship between the three.

The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?

I understand why some would want to record a disappearing sonic event, but I do find Schaeffer's categorisation of high and low fidelity questionable, as it seems to come directly from the idea of sound recording – fidelity is a faithfulness, to an original or to something, not a clarity.

I also remember a talk by Peter Cusak where he played two recordings of birdsong close to different power stations, and then said the station sounds in the background were the same! They were clearly quite different, it was just that both were an unwanted element to his recordings.

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?

Do we really listen to pop songs? At least in the same way as we would listen to sound works? Pop (and most) music is about manipulating emotions and about memory triggers. But then again field recordings tend to be memory triggers also.

But listening to the environment is a different experience. It takes patience and practice. And of course many other factors affect you in that situation, such as the weather, the smells, other people, time of day.

Pop music is more about distracting you from your surroundings.

From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?

Sound as the foundational element of existence? I guess you mean human existence? From sensing danger and communication, it must have preceded the visible.

I love to read or know about how sound was used in the past, such as the huge sound reflective cliff of Þingvellir in Iceland and the Grey Cairns of Camster, which although 200 metres apart, a drum beating in one can be heard clearly in the other. Early civilisations were extremely sonically aware.

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