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Welcome to Sounds of Europe, a platform for field recording. The blog of the website will travel to a different European country every month where a local organisation or artist will be responsible for maintaining it. Each country´s particular context and practices with regards to field recording will be explored and presented in a personal way.
Field recording as a way of ‘knowing’
01/17/2012 · julia@q-o2
Last week I was in Manchester in the North of England to see the installation Air Pressure at the Whitworth Art Gallery and attend the associated symposium ‘Risky engagements: encounters between science, art and health’ at the University of Manchester. These events were sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Air Pressure is a collaborative research project between  visual anthropologist Rupert Cox, Professor Kozo Hiramatsu, Japan’s foremost acoustic scientist and  sound artist Angus Carlyle and is funded by the  Wellcome Trust through a scheme that awards grants to arts projects that investigate biomedical science.
The project is all about sound, a collaborative exploration of the acoustic environment in the immediate vicinity of Narita airport in Japan.  The research seeks to investigate the effects of international air travel on  our sense of place and wellbeing through investigating the cultural clash between the lifestyle of traditional farming focused on a family who defiantly continue to farm at the end of Japan’s Narita Airport runway despite pressure from the authorities since the planning and construction of the airport in the 1970s. Air Pressure investigates sound and its effects through different kinds of recordings and monitorings of sound and has disseminated the process and findings through a variety of formats including sound recordings and  “sound films”.
The Whitworth installation is a two screen “sound film” which plays with a variety of relationships between the sonic and the visual elements to create a vicarious, immersive experience of the site.  While the screens often shows vistas of peaceful rural farming life the sounds communicate the incessant high volume noise of the aircraft taking off, landing and, even after flights have stopped,  moving around the airport and offer a very different experience of how how space might  explored through sound.
Angus Carlyle’s blog has documented the research and realisation process and offers an insight into the thinking behind both his process of field recording and the collaboration with Cox. Both Cox and Carlyle have previously worked in Japan, Angus Carlyle’s CD Some Memories of Bamboo is available from Gruenrekorder who will be releasing the  CD for Air Pressure shortly.
Among the symposium presentations  Peter Cusack, John Wynne and Michael Gallagher all talked about their work with field recording as a way of both investigating place and disseminating or creating the experience of place.
Peter’s presentation  ” The Wrong Dredger” developed his ideas of how sound gives information about places and events and how listening provides valuable insights different from but complimentary to the visual and the spoken. Peter can be heard talking about this can be heard on this blog in the ‘Field Fest second night report by RITS-students’. Cusack has called this ‘sonic journalism’ and says that it occurs occurs  “when  field recordings are allowed adequate space and time to be heard in their own right, when the focus is on their original factual and emotional content, and when they are valued for what they are rather than as source material for further work as is often the case in sound art or music”.
Michael Gallagher, a social geographer based at University of Edinburgh talked about how social scientists are increasingly interested in engaging using some of the tools and methods of the arts, including field recording to rework and revitalise “the methodological repertoire of disciplines such as sociology, human geography, anthropology and cultural studies” and to allow for a variety of approaches and representational meanings. Gallagher himself has an active  interest in sound and music, their role in everyday life, and the possibilities of sonic methods for enriching qualitative research.
John Wynne presented a composed work and talked about the ethics, difficulties and sensitivities of his year long residency with photographer Tim Wainwright  in the heart and lung transplant ward at Harefield Hospital.  John has made a number of composed sound works from the material he recorded in the hospital environment and through talking to patients which provide a poetic and moving ‘way of knowing’ which offers some insight of life inside the ward investigated once again and disseminated through sound.