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Jez Riley French's 4 Questions on Field Recordings: Patrick Farmer

img  Tobias Fischer

When & why did you become interested in field recording?
I remember when my friend Ben gave me his Dictaphone, I can't say that I carried it with me wherever I went, but I remember having a lot of fun with it. There was no discernible purpose, although I evidently see the link now, I used to throw cymbals up in the air and record them hitting the ground, tape people talking on the train, walk around town late at night during severe weather and record shop signs falling from their housing. I never used these recordings for anything in particular, I just used to enjoy listening back to them, I remember laughing a lot. When the Dictaphone broke, I think it was the last straw when I buried it in a pile of rocks and tried to create a mock avalanche, I bought a couple of Boundary microphones. I used to place them in the glove compartment of my friends van, alongside glass bottles, old cans, etc. And then record everything shaking and falling as we drove, on that same trip we camped out by the sea trying to record seaweed and the movement of the sand through the dunes.

How do you use your field recordings in your own artistic output?

To the best of my knowledge I've never used any of my field recordings live, it's a process that I don't understand as part of my own work, I can't see where they fit in terms of a live output. To capitalise on that, I'm not even sure what that last sentence really means. I've been to a lot of shows where the playback of recordings alongside more traditional instrumentation has ruined the overall event for me, and certainly vice versa. I've recorded a lot of things, however, that have most certainly affected the way I play on a drum. The first time I recorded a fence it presented me with such a multiplicity of ideas, and has continued to do so. Searching for objects to use alongside my drum has given me a lot of ideas for recordings also.

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? Is this definition important to you? Soes it matter?
The Physicist David Bohm once said that the universe is a whole, but our approach and view points are so utterly fragmented, we are in turn presented with a fragmented and literal view of the universe. I understand and am fully enveloped within categorisation, but there is something in such an anthropic dissemination of music and sound that I can't quite adopt.

Well, I suppose there are two basic ways that people come to these definitions: either through the technical meaning of each word or for personal reasons that are often related more to how we feel about them - personally for me it's the later, but oddly I don't think of it as a definition. Anyway on to question 4: 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)?
At this point I seem to prefer sitting with my door open and listening to what is right there at that time over turning my stereo on. The sound of traffic used to irritate me, but more often that not it's going to be present wherever you happen to be, why should I spend my time angrily searching for a misplaced utopia? One thing I do know is that I'm happy to be forced to realise all this through listening.

Interview conducted by Jez Riley French in April 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: Patrick Farmer