made in the field, as opposed to in a studio. Different requirements, different
techniques, often different gear. Even for people experienced in making recordings
in studios, it's not always clear how to begin.
tried to collate here the resources I find myself recommending repeatedly.
first places I direct people interested in the sort of field recording I do are
mailing list and the phonography.org
in this sense (the word has been re-appropriated)
I define as documentary sound recording with an ear towards the aesthetic possibilities
of environmental sound as opposed, say, to its scientific significance.
(That's one definition; others in the phonography community may differ somewhat.)
record label and/OAR through its
own releases and its Diffusion
shop offers a deep catalog of phonography and field-recording-based sound art,
if you'd like to hear what self-described phonographers are up to.
The phonography community has a strong do-it-yourself spirit, and is an excellent source of advice and innovative ideas for making interesting (and excellent) recordings inexpensively. For example, Michael Oster (who I'm not sure considers himself a phonographer, actually) has some great ideas on building windscreens on a budget... he seems a true kindred spirit!
does Jim Cummings' EarthEar.Com,
which is required surfing for anyone interested in field recording. It embraces
not just phonography and more traditional field recording, but also offers a library
of seminal soundscape compositions and work mixing conventional music with recordings.
Jim offers the most comprehensive collection of field recording releases I know
also furthers the cause of acoustic
ecology and acoustic ecological activism through Earth Ear's sister site,
If you haven't
heard of acoustic ecology, it's the interdisciplinary study of the environment
(and its inhabitants) through analysis of natural soundscape.
An example of applied acoustic ecology might be Bernie
Krause's idea of analyzing ecological change through its expression in biophany,
the ' biotic symphony in an ecosystem.'
best resource for learning about or contributing to the discipline that I'm familiar
with is its international institution, the
World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. The Forum's journal, Soundscape,
is reason enough to join a chapter on its own; in addition to professional opportunities,
it offers an always-fascinating mix of science, art, and polemic. As it's only
published a few times a year you will probably want to subscribe to the monthly
online Newsletter as
of acoustic ecology is generally attributed to living legend R.
Murray Schafer, who launched the World
Soundscape Project at Simon
Fraser University in Canada. His book The
Soundscape is really required reading (whether or not you agree with all of
it) for anyone who begins to consider sound in their environment seriously. Just
one contribution of his that's changed my relationship to the audible world is
his coinage 'soundmark.'
champions of acoustic ecology include composers Hildegard
Westerkamp and Barry Truax.
Westerkamp is famous not only for her work as a composer, but also as a writer;
see for example her famous essay linking acoustic ecology's relevance
to field recording (and soundscape compositional) practice not an uncontroversial
position; composer and theoretician Michael
Rüsenberg of RealAmbient.de
has amiably argued
the other side.
A few years ago my friend, sound designer location sound recordist Jeremiah Moore, and I agreed to be the first co-chairs of a Bay Area chapter of the World Forum, named Bay Area Sound Ecology. Locals may wish to join the (low-traffic) mailing list to keep abreast of 'BASEbot' listening salons, which are also archived for 'podcast' on the BASE website.
the years I've come to feel that the best general advice on making field recordings
can be had from the nature recording community, which while focused on bird
and other animal recordings (naturally!) has long been the home of recordists
facing many of the same challenges travelers do: the need for low-budget, low-weight,
battery-efficient high-quality recordings rigs.
amazing place to lurk for wisdom on such topics is the Nature
Recordists email list. In
my experience most people in this community are happy to share their secrets
successes and failures.
Many of the participants on the list collect photos and
sound samples from their field recording on personal websites; some, such as group moderator and astonshingly accomplished recordist Martyn Stewart also offer equipment reviews and advice.
Danielson from the University of Wisconsin is a tireless source of field
ideas for getting high quality recordings with inexpensive gear, and a champion
analysis of what does and doesn't work.
Dr. Raimond Specht (of Avisoft Bioacoustics) is an unmatched contributor of technical information; witness this rigorous comparison of various contemporary recorders and this analysis of the effects of lossy compression... but don't neglect his many fine recordings!
Olson has contributed some great
designs for near-binaural field recording, and has a nice marriage of experienced
ears and a willingness to experiment beyond received wisdom.
John Hartog is a true innovator, rigoruously testing novel field techniques; his site offers some of the inspiring results he has gotten with often quite affordable equipment.
Knapp (who has an infectious love of frogs);
you can learn much about portable field gear from his pages here.
Rich Peet is
another community mainstay, regularly reporting on his innovative recording strategies such
as very widely spaced arrays, linear arrays of many cheap microphone elements
summed together, and a surround-sound cube
happily link to more photos of these but Rich's site doesn't seem to have an HTML page
the list goes on and on.
all recordists offering inspiration and advice are as active in public forums.
out the gear reviews and recording
advice of Rudy Trubitt,
and consider buying one of Bernie
(I particularly recommend his Wild
Soundscapes for budding recordists). Gordon
Hempton is behind the inspirational One
Square Inch of Silence project, dedicated to preserving natural quiet within
our National Parks (here
is a collection of recordings in support of the project). David
Dunn has pioneered amazing field recording techniques (such as recording insects
inside trees by fixing contact microphones to hollow nails!), and when you can
find it has excellent DIY advice for doing the same. Steven
Feld's interest extends beyond nature to the human soundscape and anthropology.
no discussion of nature recording would be complete without a mention of of its
better-known institutions. The venerable Cornell
Lab or Ornithology offers excellent field
technique advice and host a fantastic library
of recordings (but was on the wrong side of the minidisc 'question' for years
in my opinion).
Oakland-based Nature Sounds
Society is another source of general information. Its newsletter is well worth
the cost of membership regardless of where you live; locally, it sponsors regular
field recording workshops and trips.
UK-based Wildlife Sound
Recording Society is a similar organization, with membership from around the
world; the society website offers good
gear advice for nature recordists (especially beginners and those on a budget).
not-necessarily-obvious place to look for advice is in the independent radio producer
community, particularly in professional forums like Transom.org.
While the needs of independent radio producers are slightly different than field
recordists, Transom's forums, reviews, interviews, and overviews are a gold mine.
(They're also a great place to find beginner's advice on sound editing and how
to conduct an interview or compose a narrative.)
For samples of that community's work be sure to stop by the Public
Radio Exchange (PRX) and the Third
Coast International Audio Festival site, which evolves year-around, not just
around the annual festival in Chicago itself.
perspective can be had by snooping into what professional location sound and foley
recordists are talking about; the high-traffic Usenet group rec.arts.movies.production.sound
and the Sound
Design mailing list are fine starting points. RAMPS and the latter are well-populated
by film (and TV) industry veterans.
location-sound focused but if anything more deeply esoteric are general professional
recording forums like GearSlutz
and perhaps the forums at ProSoundWeb.
For reviews less targeted at users with a narrow specialty, check out the ever-growing lovely collection at the O'Reilly Audio Community forums.
one would be hard pressed to find a more collegial community than the 'taper'
community of concert recordists. (Or one with a greater passion for what they
do, or one with a more thriving market in second hand recording gear!)
Start with the high-traffic TapersSection
and DAT-Heads. The
former is a hotbed of often contradictory but often strongly motivated opinions
on the latest gear, and on not-necessarily-inexpensive ways to get the best possible
recording outside of a studio.
taper resources used to include the Taper's Forum at Oade
Brothers' website, but that appears to be down; there is also a not-heavily-trafficked
forum at Sonic Sense.