JrF: when & why did you become interested in field recording ?
SW: i think i have always been interested in field recording, or at least in tuning in to my immediate sonic environment, but the turning point for me was when invited to join a group of artists on a research trip to iceland. i was asked to produce music to accompany the visual pieces that would be produced by the other three artists.one of the artists was the painter kathryn thomas, who took along a couple of cameras in order to collect source material to refer to on our return. with this in mind i took a minidisc recorder and akg vocal mic, for which i had to buy a separate preamp, in order top collect as much sonic reference material as possible.on being out in the frozen wastes of the icelandic countryside one thing became apparent - i would have to actively seek out sound sources. this became part of the process that i love - heading out on my own, relying on my ears rather than my eyes to find a point of interest, a seldom heard sound, a sound most people miss, or just accept as part of the experience of being in a certain location. i am continually excited by this process of discovery, and i'm pretty sure i always will be!
JrF: how do you use your field recordings in your own artistic output ?
SW: field recordings are the focus of my work. as stated above, i am forever trying to find elusive and seldom heard sounds, bringing them to the focus of the listener.i will bring up what seems to be a controversial topic here - processing sounds. for me, whether i process a sound or not depends entirely on the nature of the sound, and the project the work is involved with. if a sound requires no processing to be evocative, it's left alone, but i have discovered new tones and timbres when pitch shifting, time stretching or eq'ing, which are essential to some of my compositions.this brings me to summarise what it is i do - i compose with field recordings, which in a way is processing the sounds anyway - even capturing them with a certain microphone, using a certain recording device is processing them. i build imagined environments using material from real environments - but reality is subjective... and sounds are no doubt heard differently by each individual.
JrF: do you regard the sounds you capture as a musical element (keeping in mind that the conventional definition of 'music' is rapidly becoming obsolete) or definatly as 'sound' ? is this definition important ? does it matter ?
SW: i definitely regard the raw sound material i record as musical, as compositional building blocks, but i'm not sure i would class myself as a musician. i played guitar and sang in bands for many years, and even then had a problem with the term musician, as i am not musically trained. i feel these terms only need to be employed when trying to explain what it is i do.i have noticed over the years a negative reaction to the term 'sound artist', but if you have to explain what it is you do - why are you recording waves with a microphone that sits under the water, or a rattling train door with a bottle cap (contact mic courtesy of matt davies!) - to 'the general public', for want of a better expression, it perfectly sums up what i'm doing.
JrF: 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) ?
SW: i am probably a lot more aware of the sounds of my everyday surroundings, although the process has been a natural one, and therefore not that noticeable. i tend to listen to more abstract artists and music than i would have done five years ago, especially as i'm always exchanging work with other artists, so have a steady flow of cd's to listen to.maybe the most noticeable effect my work has had on me is how i listen to, or notice, sound when used in or with film. unsuitable, or just plain predictable, sound design can ruin a film for me - it probably always did, but i didn't realise why at the time. i hope i haven't strayed too far from the questions asked in my answers, but i was on a roll!my current release can be found here:
my preference would be the 'winter lights edition' re:mp001b.
may 18th-19th: field recording workshop, malmo, sweden
june 13th-20th: field recording workshop with Chris Watson & Jez riley French, Iceland
22nd june - 2oth august 2013: audible silence: the tate, sleeping and waking' - headphone piece exploring the hidden sounds of the Tate modern building, Tate modern, London
september 6-8th: field recording workshop with jez riley french & chris watson, norfolk, uk - places available
october 4-13th: installation (room tones / littorals), Spazioersetti galleria, Udine, Italy
october 11th: resonant terrain walk, castletown, portland as part of the b-side symposium
december 6-8th: field recording workshop with jez riley french & chris watson, norfolk, uk - places available