Crank it up to 11.
August 22, 2008 6:10 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea for an art project involving sound but I'm stumped on the logistics. Help?

In my spare time I'm an amateur photographer. Camera goes with me just about everywhere. However, oftentimes in my travels I find myself in the situation where what I am looking at is visually uninteresting to me, but the ambient sound is just awesome. I would like to capture that sound and "display" it in a similar fashion as my photography. Example - the sounds of hiking through a forest; crunching of leaves, birds chirping. People tend to ignore the ambient noise, but when I concentrate on it, it seems quite appealing and I'd like to share that somehow.

So the questions I have are many. Is there an audience for something like this? If so, how do I package a sound recording? With photography, I can frame it and hang it on the wall, and it's just *there* until someone cares to notice it. How do I do something similar with sound? Is there a venue online analogous to Flickr where I might share this sort of thing?

As you might be able to tell, this whole plan is very nebulous. So, any recommendations you have would be appreciated.
posted by backseatpilot to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can do videos on Flickr now, so you could use one of your photos as the visual element, then use the ambient sound in the background. Just an idea..
posted by o0dano0o at 6:53 AM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

binaural recordings? I'm working on a very similar project. I want to make the recordings at various public places at various times of day in the town where I live. I'm planning on having multiple listening stations where the listener wears headphones and sits in front of a picture of the location from where the recording was made. I'm thinking about playing MP3s on cheap usb stick style media players.

As far as an audience, I'm thinking art installation piece. I'm going to see about doing this at small student caf├ęs or tiny alternative art galleries.

I want to rent a microphone like this and a DAT field recorder in order to accomplish all this.
posted by chillmost at 6:57 AM on August 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, there totally is an audience for this! What you are looking to do is called field recording, and people who do it call themselves phonographers.
posted by limeswirltart at 7:17 AM on August 22, 2008

Best answer: You'll want a little portable field recorder. The old way to do it would be with tape reels and external microphones, but thanks to the lack of moving parts in flash memory, you can get some pretty good all-in-one models.

Since you're already into photography too, you could put the two together in a gallery: have a couple of headphones hanging in front of a nice big print. The headphones are connected to a lhidden MP3 player that plays a loop of an ambient recording appropriate to the photo.
posted by echo target at 7:22 AM on August 22, 2008

Another gallery approach would be to make an audio tour of your photos, like the ones they rent out in museums, but using your field recordings instead of narration.

Depending on the space you have and the kind of sounds you've got, it might be nice to have the soundtrack for each photo playing out lout on a small amplifier. (You could plug cheap computer speakers into the cheap MP3 players.) It might make a really pleasant babble in the space, and a visitor can concentrate on a single soundtrack just by getting up close to the corresponding photo. On the other hand, it might just be cacophony!

You could experiment with making "long photos" - put your camera on a tripod or fixed point and get video as well as audio for a while. I personally find that approach a bit more interesting for online viewing (e.g. flickr or vimeo) than a still photo with audio, but the latter (as o0dano0o suggested) is nice too.
posted by moonmilk at 8:36 AM on August 22, 2008

The Zoom H2 that echo target linked to is fantastic, as is it's big brother, the H4.

The H2 will do surround recording too.

If you want to do binaural recordings without setting up gear and attracting too much attention, you could get a set of croakie mounted microphones like these.

They will plug right into the H2 or H4, or really any recorder that supplies bias voltage.

echo target's idea about having loops playing on headphones in a display of your photography is a fantastic idea. For the playback you could use iPod Shuffles epoxied to the display.
posted by tomierna at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2008

You could post it onto Mefi Music and explain what it's all about, maybe ask Cortex first and see if it's appropriate but I wouldn't mind listening to something like that.
posted by BrnP84 at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2008

One of my favourite topics :)

Over the years I've used everything from a Nagra to a laptop to do ambient recordings, but one of my favourite rigs is little MiniDisc recorders and electret mics.

I've found that they are inexpensive to purchase and simple to use, yet generally give surprisingly good results in most situations. We took one and a couple of cheap electret mics to Europe this spring, and I recorder over an hour of various ambiences to go with our pictures (eg 5 min of the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris)

The MD recorders come up frequently on Ebay; Here's one with a mic which may sell for less than $50

I mounted a pair of omni electret capsules ($2 each) into a $10 pair of walkman headphones; this makes a killer stealth rig, and if you wear them while recording, you're now recording in binaural.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:25 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome, I had no idea this was actually an art movement. So much for believing I can think outside the box.

I think what I will try to do is GMOB and post the sounds alongside photos. Since we're all here, does anyone have experience with the Tascam DR-1? Can I actually get binaural or quasi-binaural audio with its built-in mics? (If I end up doing this I'm tempted by the 1/4" jack so I could also plug a guitar into it)
posted by backseatpilot at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2008

I have a Zoom H4, which I bought because I too liked the idea of recording ambient soundscapes, and it's wonderful. The quality of sound is excellent, and there is no hiss from moving components. I used to do some similar recording with a tape deck and there was always that background noise of the moving parts.
posted by tomble at 12:12 AM on August 23, 2008

« Older ITunes Issue   |   Grant writing 101 Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.