Sound work

Joe Stevens & Luís Antero - Seaside Sounds album coverI started making sound works for my abstract animations. Though these animations were made as moving paintings, I found that if I added sounds they were not better so much, just different and I found that once I’d added these soundtracks I saw them in a different light.

Over the years I have become very much involved with the world of acoustic ecology and field recording. This led me last year to document my local sound environment, which saw me release a monthly soundscape album. These albums are available hear online at; 51degreesnorth.bandcamp.com

soundcloud.com/fifty1joe

As a sound artist my interest is in field recordings, which is recording the sounds I find in the world, instead of recording musicians or other arranged sounds in a studio. The sounds that I like are accidents, which are not made specifically to be recorded.

I think a lot of sounds you hear in the world are very beautiful or at least very interesting; but we usually don’t notice them because we are too busy doing things.

For me soundscape compositions and sound installations.

  • Making field recordings presupposes that you take your time to stay in one place longer than you would have first found necessary.
  • Listening to field record­ings means to trace a place and a time to discover something that sometimes originates in your own imagination.
  • Field recordings unfold the beauty of what appears to be something commonplace.
  • Field recordings induce you to reflect on the world and ques­tion its state.
  • There are no limitations to field record­ings. The selection of recorded objects describes a process of art.
  • Field recordings recollect and reflect memories of all that has been.
  • Field recordings capture the world: Environment (different sound occur­rences from spatial distance) and inner world (animals, human beings, machines at close range).

I have added field recordings into my repertoire of community engaged work I undertake. As these types of recordings can be made with relatively cheap equipment. And the places, where noises are recorded, are not excluding socially disadvantaged groups. Far from it: Any worker, anybody on a bus or walking down the street can document noises in a much better way than managers, who lead a life in between the office and the company car.

Not only the conditions of making field recordings but also their content make way for a larger political equality than music and language. After all, noises are often recorded at public places. They therefore have a political dimension and are part of the public space. Yet they are also closely linked to the public, when the recorded events are private.

I call this the democratic quality of field recordings. It is enhanced by the fact that, through field recordings, the listeners can experience the sound of places that they might never be able to visit. That is not only a quality of a field recording but also of photography – both record media can easily comple­ment one another. Their authenticity is not as important as their prospect of recording moments, atmospheres, noises and images and making them accessible, so that people can visualise a place they did not know. The new experiences and discoveries inspire people and make them “see” their world in a different way.

A field recording brings down social and cultural differences and inequalities, which characterise the structures of music and language.