An Exploration into
Field Recording Microphones
As part of the location sound module I wanted to explore different microphones and recorders that could further develop my sound art projects. Over the course of the term I tried various external microphones and weighed up which suited my work best. I wanted to be able to use an external microphone separate to the recorder allowing more freedom to direct the mic where I wanted without any handle feedback.
Left to Right: Contact mic, AudioTechnica AT897 Shotgun and DPA 4060 Omnidirectional mic.
such a small microphone could mean easy damageable and windshield protectors can easily fall off
not discrete and would attract attention, also awkward size to carry around as it cannot be fitted in a bag
needs to be taped down to full connect to a surface – if not it will pick up vibrations from hand/whatever is holding it to the surface – tape must be on hand
small size enabling getting closer to sounds coming from tiny gaps
detailed sound and omnidirectional which can bring a more complete 360-degree experience
directional capture and less noise from sides or reverse, light and good for outdoor work
completely different sonic perspective via hearing inside objects
highlights how embedded sound is within our spaces
From these explorations I upgraded from my Tascam DR-05 to Zoom H5 which would allow me to attach external microphones without the bulkiness of a larger recorder and two external mic ports.
After taking recordings around my house of various objects and ambiences, I created a track in Ableton Live 9 using the tracks as my material and combining them with effects. This was recorded in the moment and has not been edited, hence there are some sections I want to edit or cut out mainly where the volume peaks.
During the term I attended an ambisconics multiple speaker demonstration at Huddersfield University. This was organised by the Huddersfield Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN) and consisted of two speakers: Oliver Larkin and Kristina Wolfe.
In the space 24 speakers were placed in a circumference pattern creating a 360-degree soundscape. Larkin and Wolfe showed us the creative possibilities that come with ambisonic set up in Reaper. Wolfe demonstrated using a church bell chime how a sound could be placed anywhere in space rather than sending it to specific speaker.
Another finding was being able to export the format as binaural: 360-degree experience with headphones. I was greatly inspired to create my own tracks in this way after listening to works by Janet Cardiff and Hilegard Westerkamp.
Ambisonics, Reaper (DAW) & Binaural
From Countryside to City
After moving from a quite town and countryside to a built-up city I noticed differences in noise levels. There is fewer green spaces available to escape modern-day reverberations that constantly bombard our hearing throughout the streets.
From here I began developing my auditory spatial awareness whilst being in the city centre, exploring which resonances are being overpowered by modern day noise and encouraged myself to witness any emotional and behavioural responses to these city soundscapes.
What does auditory spatial awareness mean?
Summarised from spaces speak, are you listening? by Barry Blesser and Ruth Salter
By closely attending to auditory spatial awareness we can also become more receptive to the mood and behavioural reactions produced by an aural stimulus. Some of these responses include but not limited to anxiety, tranquillity, bursting into tears, isolation, frustration, fear and boredom.
For example loud crowds can trigger unease and nervousness, and an ethereal choir performance in a Cathedral can cause tears of aesthetic pleasure. Other sensory perceptions (external and internal) like weather, personal outlook and attitudes can also affect our sound awareness.
Auditory spatial awareness is the conscious ability to detect not only changes of sound within a space but the emotional and behavioural experiences that comes with it. It is a subtle guidance that enables us to perceive spaces in the dark and be aware of obstacles on a dimly lit street.
However it is down to the individual how much they use this ability on a day-to-day basis and with cultural influences swaying to visual aids (like electric illumination) many people unintentionally sidestep this practice.
By closely attending to auditory spatial awareness we can also become more receptive to the mood and behavioural reactions produced by an aural stimulus. Some of these responses include but not limited to anxiety, tranquillity, bursting into tears, isolation, frustration, fear and boredom. For example loud crowds can trigger unease and nervousness, and an ethereal choir performance in a Cathedral can cause tears of aesthetic pleasure. Other sensory perceptions (external and internal) like weather, personal outlook and attitudes can also affect our sound awareness.
Hearing sounds of chiming shop bells, bicycle wheels, rustling of plastic bags to deep ocean-like drones heightened my listening to what events were occurring around my individual space. I found it a struggle to distinguish where these middle tones were coming from unless a source dominated the other volumes.
Whilst out in situ I made notes on my individual experience by asking questions like:
Are there any dominating sounds?
Is there a sense of space or does it feel overloaded?
What sensations is the soundscape causing?
Do I feel tired, calm, energised?
Or am I tense, wanting to leave or relaxed and happy to stay for a little while longer?
Then when listening back I edited with EQ* to highlight different acoustics and alert the brain to those resonances.
*(“EQ, short for equalization means boosting or reducing (attenuating) the levels of different frequencies in a signal”(2018, MediaCollege.com))
Hence this exploration has brought about the start of an on-going project, investigating and analysing different sonic areas of the city to understand the impact these have on individual experience.