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Jez Riley French's 4 Questions on Field Recordings: Eric Cordier

img  Tobias Fischer

When & why did you become interested in field recording?
I discovered field recording listen to Luc Ferrari at University in 1985. With my first band UNACD 87-91, I made a CD long lut… where the instruments were recorded out of the studio, in churches to get natural reverberations and outside to get be mixed with life in various devices; the recording of church bells in close-up with motorcycle and dog in the distance. Others were with singing birds around and one is a journey begining outside with the sound of feet entering a church and stopping the journey when the microphone touched the instrument. So it was not pure field recording but a mix done during the recording.

I first made pure field recordings in 1992, when I got support from the contemporary studio La Grande Fabrique in Dieppe. Dieppe (well know to British people I suppose) is a small town at the shoreline, a port for ferries. The geography; sea, wind, harbour activities and the fact that the studio had a portable DAT and 2 electret microphones was the begining of numerous recordings. The idea was not of making field recordings but for including them in my musical composition in the “musique concrete” style. Since the end of the eighties in creating tape-music, my idea was to not put too much treatment in my music, to record instruments played in strange ways or with accidents etc and mix, cut and paste with the tools of the time: a revox tape machine. Also in another time field recordings were used in the same way for making the music. Around 1994 a piece, “thalweg1”, was composed with Jean-Luc Guionnet that purely used field recordings that were not processed and just edited (except at the end of the piece that used a pitch shifting technique).
I have continued in that way using instruments or field recording without treatment as is possible to keep the strength of the sound. So much tape music work in France is boring because it is smoothed by the use of treatments…

Not just in France! So, you’ve kind of answered this already but how do you use your field recordings in your own artistic output?
I do two different things with field recordings:
When I mix them, process them, I call that “tape music” or “electroacoustic” and not ‘field recordings’. It is the main part of my work (with numerous unreleased pieces).
When they are pure field recordings I call them ‘field recordings’ and so far I have release only one CD of that kind, Osorezan, because it takes a long time to record some good ones and to think/find good recording devices/places and I want to do a selection to give the best to the listeners (and not just the last recording that I have done).

Do you regard 'natural' sounds as a musical element (bearing in mind that the conventional definition of 'music' is rapidly becoming obsolete) or as sound? And how is this definition important to you? Why does it matter?
For me 'natural' sounds are generally not music. To become music they have to be, 1) captured by someone or 2) composed (when doing tape music for example), but when I gathered the tracks for doing Osorezan I chose some of my recordings that sounded like music. I’m deeply interested in music and I hope my field recordings are music.
When I say they have to be captured, I mean that recording is not a neutral act and if it is too neutral it is boring. When the recording device/ the placement of microphones is good, it is sculpting the sound and mixing them in a way that picks them up a little closer to music.
Two examples: On Osorezan, the first three tracks are not just bubbles and wistling, they have been recorded whilst moving around the location. That brings changes and makes them repetitive, coming and going between several sound sources that makes them music. In the last track, “Par temps sec”, microphones are not in the middle of nowhere to record a vacuum, they are somewhere were there are few events but at a kind of crossroad of geography and time. Somewhere where something could happen and at a time when it could happen. So there were few sounds but it happened.

Has the act of making field recording had an effect (positive or negative) on the way you listen to your everyday surroundings and how has it affected the way you listen to other music and sound (if at all)?
Rather no and perhaps it is better like this because, for example, I live very close to a big railway station in Paris, so close that each train makes the building move, so I live in a very noisy urban environment and it is better to forget it (and as there is noise my neighbours don’t ask me to stop making music all the day long). But when I’m with a recorder, I become a hunter…

Interview conducted by Jez Riley French in March 2008 for the in place blog, republished with kind permission of the author. Jez Riley French is a UK based artist whose work focuses on the exploration of detail via intuitive composition, extended field recording techniques and photography. Visit his website here.

Homepage: Herbal International Recordings

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