Field Recordings

02021-04-01 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

In response to comments from Will and Cesco to the post Jump Rhythm I have a few thoughts to share.

I love field recordings as a way to create a mood. The fog horn at the beginning of “Bombay” from The Hours Between Night + Day might have been the first time I used a field recording I made. Many more examples can be found on the albums Opium and The Scent of Light.

Making music with samples created from field recordings is a very interesting field, to be sure, but I am not very interested in that. It seems like the work of a keyboard player and I really don’t like keyboards much. I don’t like the feel of the plastic keys, I don’t like twiddling knobs… keyboards are everything a guitar is not. The guitar is a pencil on paper. The keyboard is a stylus on a screen.

How funny, because I do like working on cover images with my iPad. Contradictory? Certainly, but if I have learned anything it is to trust my intuition and to ignore the illogic of those feelings. Perhaps my intuition says that keyboards are a giant sinkhole I could fall into. Too many possibilities. There are only so many hours in a day.

So what am I recording these new field sounds for? I want to investigate ASMR sounds because I find it fascinating how they make us feel. As I have mentioned before I believe the non-rhythm of these activities is what makes us relax. During the course of a day we hear so much rhythm, from car engines, refrigerators, fans, heating, cooling, music in stores, etc., that watching someone peel an orange feels calming.

I am also in the process of learning more about Ableton/Live so I have been using some of the field recordings to practice. I don’t think it is something I will dive deeper into. What I am really interested in is how I can apply these manipulations to my guitar playing. (((like digital manipulations of pencil drawings??))) There is something in that combination of guitar + digital, or wood and hands plus software.

Ableton just released a pack called Inspired by Nature. Check out the video of the bouncing ball software. I find that fascinating. Yesterday I recorded myself playing two octaves of a scale and am turning each note into a sample that can be triggered by midi. Using the software I should be able to create some generative guitar “backgrounds” that I can play melodies over. The music generated by the bouncing balls will most likely be impossible to play on a guitar, but should sound natural enough so that most people might not realize that it’s not playable. This is what I find interesting, the overlapping of natural performance and a manipulation that is not too obvious but leads to music that is different.


  1. JaneParhamKatz

    From my world: The most fun recording I made was of myself sleeping. You hear my nice, even breathing, then shifting of the sheets, a little snort, and back to soothing breathing. I was trying to find out whether I snored. No snoring back then!

  2. Dave Kirschner

    Do you still have the midi guitar that could trigger the sounds?

    • ottmar

      No, I sold that about ten years ago. I felt I would have to dive much deeper into synthesizers than I wanted to.


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