Wildlife Sound Recording Course


A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful three-day course in wildlife sound recording organised by Wildeye, with Chris Watson and Jez Riley French. I had been deferring the course for a few years but I am so glad I eventually found the time to do it.

It was interesting and refreshing to look at sound recording from a different perspective to the one I’m used to. It also helped me articulate a few ideas that I’ve had rattling around my head for a while.

One of the first ideas that came up was the concept of durational listening. Most mainstream music has cut down the listening experience to three minute chunks stuffed with ideas and sounds (I must say I’m guilty of loading my music with weird sounds… bambinodelloro.bandcamp.com). With wildlife sound recording you have to change your way of interacting with sounding objects. Unlike recording music in a controlled environment, you are not in control of the sound source(s). Therefore, it’s important to take the time to listen, identify the source of the sound you want to record and then find the most effective way of capturing it. I discovered patience is key and I learnt to relax into listening to how sounds develop over time and let myself be surprised by their movement and melody.

This is exactly why I love listening to Jez Riley French’s recordings. Rather than artificially fabricated soundscapes, , they are true-to-life recordings of found-sounds naturally developing over time. I would recommend tickling your ears with some of this: soundcloud.com/jezrileyfrench.

This weekend also got me thinking about the concept of studio recording. There are many reasons why we choose to record in controlled acoustic environments but I have always thought the process and end result is removed from how performers and audience experience music in real life. Just like in wildlife recording, when we experience live music in our daily life we are not in control of the surrounding environment. Sounds such as cars rushing by, people talking in the street or bird song contribute to making a background sound which gives the listener cues of where and when all the music is happening. To me, these cues are important to document the history of how cultures experience and make music.

I first started thinking about this during my Record-and-Ride project. I always tried to record the musicians in their day-to-day environment, such as bedrooms, living rooms and streets.. The more recordings I made, the fonder I grew of the backgrounds sounds. I loved the way they supported the music and how, when I listen back to them, I can picture the scene so clearly.. I hope that others hear the same sounds and project their versions of the scenes in their mind-screen!

Voilà voilà. Just a few thoughts I thought I’d share! Here is the Wildeye team on the weekend of the 2-4th December 2016. Please share your reactions!