Sunday, August 31, 2008

8. Organized Disorganzed Noise

Just found a very cool site here (it's also in the links to the side), which got me whooped up on field recordings again. Field recordings are tricky things, and fall into that hideous little experimental cul-de-sac wherein, as in yer garden-variety avant garde, it's usually a hell of a lot more to do it than to listen to it. (Reminiscent of when I tried to get one of my bands a gig at the Velvet Lounge in DC: "You people only come out for your own bands." Now, five years later, the amplified-hairnet underground is rampant, and the VL is booking any schmuck with a no-input minxing board; nevertheless, the guy was right.)

I'll just let the site speak for itself:

Folk Songs for the Five Points is a celebration of cultural diversity and change, using “folk songs” as a metaphor to explore immigration and the formation of identity in New York’s Lower East Side.

The project isn’t about absolute answers or clear definitions. We are celebrating the unexpected richness that confronts you at every turn – from the many languages of Canal St to the endless complexity contained in words like “immigrant” and “folk song”.

The interface raises some interesting points about intent. Obviously, there is no such thing as a completely unmediated field recording. The very act of choosing the spot and action (or process) to record constitutes a narrowing of options. Eventually, field recording will reach its apotheosis when Chris Watson (or some post-industrial maniac like Mark Pauline or Genesis P-Orridge) gets a Marantz installed in his sinuses and leaves the tape rolling 24/7. But do people who enjoy field recordings buy them for what is recorded rather than who is recording it? I don't know, I'm ust riffing. I suspect the latter, and I also suspect that a philosophical point can be made but I just woke up.

I think this site makes a great point regarding field recording: intent and organization are super-natural, and necessary. I think kids could have a lot of fun with it, mixing and matching the sounds; you can pan them, eq them, make your own b-boy bouillabaise from the exceptionally rich sonic palette of the Five Corners, organize the disorganized noise.

I think my favorite field recording probably wouldn't be considered such by purists, but I imagine field recording purists are people who have five-digit sound systems and no subscription to cable television. Sublime Frequencies have a slew of releases where people just went out into the country, deep in SE Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, pointed their mics and hit record. They also have a series of recordings of radio broadcasts from these countries, edited and chopped (or not), which I think are as much field recordings as made by any pud with a raincoat and a bag of Fisherman's Friends out on the shore in Maine during a nor'easter. It's a sort of punk take on field recording, all in shit-fi, that I like, cause I love to hear evidence of the medium (tape distortion, bad edits, etc.) but that's a whole other pile of aesthetic philosophy and I'm gonna go smoke now.

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