Mark Peter Wright | Interview for Soundscaping
You’ve written (inside the CD) that this record was made in costal conditions, with blustery sea winds. How did you record the sounds on the record without the wind taking all the acoustic space?
The work was initially ‘conceived’ in a blustery environment along the North East coast of England in 2006. I can vividly remember watching Kittiwakes for some time as their bodies were subtly moved and repositioned in flight by gusts and thermals of air. So this experience was the catalyst, the moment when I started to think about the interaction between wind and objects. The recordings are not exclusive to coastal scenarios and contain both rural and urban elements.
In terms of the actual sounds, I wanted to focus the recordings on the object itself rather than the wind, to isolate and amplify these supposedly mute physical bodies. Without going into technical details the majority of the recordings were made with contact microphones, as is often the case with this type of work.
What do you do between pressing stop and the finished master tape?
These tracks have been fermenting for a long time now, the whole process is totally ongoing and part of a wider body of research so I don’t feel ‘stop’ really applies. This particular work is very archival by nature so what happened prior to the physical publication was more curatorial from my point of view. Which tracks should be on this disc? Should it be themed i.e. urban environments? What additional information or ‘metadata’ should be included? There was also a lot of collaboration between Ákos Garai (label owner) and myself over the design and layout, even aspects such as the time of release being autumn, all these details from my point of view were very important.
Your work ‘A Quiet Reverie’, reviewed on Soundscaping, contains a booklet of quiet a few pages. A lot more than your ordinary CD booklet. Could you explain what role ‘metadata’ has for your releases?
I find this side of the work very interesting. The additional information you add to a piece can make such a difference to how it’s experienced and understood. With this release it was very much about reduction. I wanted to strip away the layers of associative data and context and present these recordings on the threshold of existence, their traces and provenance being more of an enigma. These additional layers or skins of contextual data are becoming more and more fascinating from my point of view so I’m also working towards isolating and presenting these skins without the physical recording. I guess it’s like taking a pea out of its shell, what does the shell tell you in isolation?
Listening to the record without reading about what you’ve recorded, I’ve primarily imagined an industrial landscape, or an underwater recording. Are you surprised?
I like that reaction as I really wanted to play with the idea of ‘ambiguity’ in sound and listening – how it can be elusive, confusing and transformative. This is also why I chose not to display the tracks in numerical order within the CD notes. It’s not a prescriptive work which I realise can be demanding, but that’s the point – to hand aural and imaginary autonomy over to the listener.
The title "Inanimate Life" – what does it mean?
Physical bodies being tickled and teased, pushed and pulled, ripped and torn – sound and listening as both embodied and disembodied experience.
When working with a piece of recording how much pre-designed structure do you impose on the recording, how much is “flair”?
I think more and more I’m trying to disappear, to take myself out of the work. Anybody who deals with environmental sound will I’m sure have had the feeling of being a small drop in the ocean at some point. I really wanted to explore this here – I’m aware that I press record, I choose the subject but after that, there is no manipulation or composing on my part. If you go into an environment thinking you can control it, particularly amongst nature – you’ll be eaten alive! It’s a fine balance but as much as practically possible I wanted to remove my own compositional hand from this process; the structuring comes from the listener.
Do you have a catalogue of recordings waiting to be made into a record?
This work has been going on for some time and continues to develop. So recordings that were not quite right for this volume will almost certainly be used for the next. I am constantly recording as part of my process, and so have naturally built a fairly substantial archive. Even if I’m just dictaphoning some thoughts and ideas, I think it’s important to be versatile with the medium and use it throughout the process.
What ideas inspire your recordings?
Big question. Ideas are slippery beasts. I’m interested in the process between idea and form, the space that exists between the two. It’s difficult to talk about one or a bunch of ideas influencing my output as I view my work as a fluid endeavor that finds incremental resting points through sound, image and text. Listening and the environment are fundamental to my work so I suppose that is my starting point, from there anything can happen.
Which spots inspire you to record?
I don’t really have a criteria for selecting specific locations. I am interested in context and documentation, playing with both, extracting some elemental quality from a place, whether it’s exotic or mundane.
I’m very aware that a place can contain a sense of presence or character, so in some ways I suppose I’m trying to amplify the experiential qualities of space through the act of listening. It’s not a romantic endeavor, of being isolated in nature. It’s about confronting the unknown, unveiling absence in all its traumatic vitality.
Do you somehow have the listener in mind when making your work, and if so, how is this expressed?
The work wouldn’t exist without the listener so yes, listening is fundamental, whether it’s mine or somebody else’s’ experience. I suppose if I’m out recording it’s more directly about my own experience at that point in time. The important thing for me is that listening goes way beyond the medium of sound, it’s a multi sensory experience, so in the case of a CD publication listening includes opening up the CD, touching the packaging, reading the words – there are lots of ways to listen, for me that’s an exciting revelation!
Soundscaping would like to recommend you to listen to Mark Peter Wright’s “Inanimate Life”, out on 3LEAVES.
Mark Peter Wright | INANIMATE LIFE (a catalogue)
I like making field recordings, recording and archiving a moment in time, to travel back to while listening to it on some later day. The field recordings Mark Peter Wright made for his album Inanimate Life are not the same though. They take the listener a little closer to their sources.
Mark Peter Wright made his field recordings along the North East coast of England, inspired by the voice of the coastal winds. Other than what you might expect from field recordings, it is never really clear what I am listening to. While listening to Inanimate Life on my headphones the sounds rumble through my head, evoking images in my mind of what might be the source of those haunting soundscapes.
For every listener the experience will be different, as these images are triggered inside your own frame of reference. If I close my eyes I see fields of heather, trees blowing in the wind, and it feels like I am inside of them, like for a moment I am that branch, bouncing in the wind. The sounds I hear seem strange but organic.
The album comes in a nicely designed hand-numbered package (mine was 26 out of 150), including a business-card-size mini-CD containing a short piece of commentary by the artist. The names of the tracks are intentionally not numbered, inviting the listener to make his own assumptions.
Inanimate Life “features some of natures most complex and vibrant audial worlds; including the creaking roots of wind blasted heather, the playful gusts that animate giant oak trees and the wailing drones that resonate along wired fencing.”
Mark Peter Wright | INANIMATE LIFE (a catalogue)
Inanimate Life is the new release from London based sound artist Mark Peter Wright. The release contains a collection of field recordings made from late 2007 to early 2010 recorded on the North East coast of England…
For a long time I’ve found the art of field recording extremely interesting and it seems that more and more artists are embracing the natural sound of the world and presenting it effectively ‘as is’. Field recording enthusiasts will no doubt be familiar with the work of Chris Watson, whose nature recordings find themselves all over a fair few Touch Records releases. Watson’s recordings are made during his travels of the globe and whilst listening to one of these marvelous releases the listener can be transported from Scotland to Kenya and back again in a total of about 7 minutes.
To this extent it’s true that the art of field recording becomes most exciting when the artist succeeds to transport their listener into an unknown place and present them with sounds they have yet to, or possibly will never hear. It’s about capturing that unheard rare event and presenting it in all of its naked glory. This is true for Inanimate Life where Mark presents a wonderful collection of field recordings that take the listener to the North Eastern coasts of Great Britain where they experience a sound world that perhaps they would not have the thrill of experiencing for themselves.
At very first glance, Inanimate Life does seem to be a documentary of the familiar though. A purposefully non-numerical track listing tells of recordings made of wire fences, water fountains and flag poles. On paper these don’t sound to be all that unique but once you listen to these ten tracks I’m confident that you’ll be pleasantly surprised..
That’s because Inanimate Life is a sonic exploration into the affects that wind has upon physical objects in their natural environment. The idea was born during a time when Wright would take trips to the North East coast of England to simply listen; very closely. What is heard then, in the 52 minutes that makes up Inanimate Life, are 10 of these physical objects that are inextricably manipulated by the wind’s presence. A flag poles’ mast slapping about in the wind, the roots of a heather bush straining under the wind’s forceful push and the rhythmic, almost electronic, sound of a barbed wire fence dancing make this an interesting and surprising listen if you really allow yourself to fall into the rhythmic, but haphazard, qualities that the wind achieves so well.
Included in the catalogue is a smaller rectangular CD that holds a short commentary within which Wright discusses the collection and talks his way through the inspiration and a few of the recordings. This is a fantastic addition that adds to the professional quality of the release. The only downside being that I (and I’m sure I’m not alone) have no player that would take this credit card-sized CD. A download code would rectify this situation and is something that could easily be set up on Bandcamp for those who purchase the album.
Inanimate Life really is a wonderful exploration into natural sound that every field recording enthusiast should own. It succeeds in its aim to present the listener with a unique sonic journey that Mark has carefully and lovingly laid out. Perhaps it’s not an album to hear as simple background sound; the collection needs to be understood and appreciated for its intoxicating rhythms and qualities hidden under the surface. Don a decent set of headphones and don’t hesitate to allow yourself to be transported to the windy moor that Mark urges you to discover.
Rod Cooper | ACCEPTING THE MACHINES
The name Rod Cooper, from Australia, sounds like a new one to me. He writes as a press text on the label's website: "The landscape is not a new theme in the arts and music is no exception. No matter what themes an artist uses to draw attention to their work and ideas to the audience, the dominant message is still about the artist." I gather from this that he is someone to work with field recordings and that, perhaps, his music should tell something about himself. There are sounds here recorded in an empty factory shell, his back yard, workshop and studios, his beach house (a well to-do person, I thought) and his approach to sounds is like that of a sculptor, using styrofoam which acts like a resonator. The music he generates from his objects and situations (which are all described with great detail on the cover of the release, and a a business card CD-R provides you with some images) is actually nice, since it hardly sounds like the usual field recording artist. There are lots of looped phrases, industrial and mechanical sounds. Hardly the sort of 'careful' playing of a bunch of rain sounds, or watching the sea wash ashore. Cooper does something else, which leaves more for the listener to imagine. The rumbling of objects, falling to the surface of an empty building, with a strange background noise of other activities happening somewhere in the back of a large empty hall. Cooper seems to be combining the sound of sculptors he made and plays manually with the sound and resonances of large buildings and outdoor spaces (chirping insect backgrounds). Quite an excellent release this one. Lots of imaginative music, making something very much of his own, but also standing in a long term tradition of visual artists making music. Cooper does a refined job and sounds a like a name to watch out for in the future.
Lasse-Marc Riek | HABITATS
Der 1975 in Bad Segeberg geborene Phonograph, Bioakustiker und Materialbildner, in BA bekannt als Gruenrekorder, nimmt einen hier mit in die Wälder und an die Seen Finnlands. In Lappajärvi, Alajärvi, Soini, Österö und Björköby belauschte er die Vogelwelt in ihrem natürlichen Habitat, insektendurchbrummt, windumspielt. Auch wenn, oder gerade weil, er die Klanglandschaften im Heimstudio noch sanft nachbearbeitet, mit sirrendem Gedröhn etwa oder ausgedehnter Stille, ist Landschaft nie etwas, dem man von Außen gegenübersteht, kein Gegenstand. Aber auch keine entmenschte Idylle, Rieks Gastgeber gibt Anweisungen, wie man sich in der Blockhütte zurecht findet, Holz wird beigeschafft, Eimer mit Wasser gefüllt, das Feuer knistert. Man ist mittendrin und Riek gibt dem ringsum hörbar Lebendigen genaue Namen: Bachstelze, Goldammer, Rotkehlchen, Laubsänger, Singdrossel, Schwebfliege, Kiefer, Silbermöve, Samt- und Stockente... Dazu lappt und rumort die Brandung, knarrt und gluckert der Landungssteg, lacht die Möve, singt der Schwan, finkt ein Buch. Mich erinnert das an die Dan-Gibson-Reihe Solitudes - Environmental Sound Experiences: Listen to the Loons... Seascapes... Night on Wilderness Lake. Warum aber nicht selber Spazierenhören? An unguten Tagen macht mich der Soylent Green-Beigeschmack derart bloß noch erinnerter Natur nur morbide. Also, Computer aus, raus aus dem Kokon. Jeden Tag stirbt ein Klang und wir werden auch nicht jünger.
Lasse-Marc Riek | HABITATS
“Habitats” was recorded by Lasse-Marc Riek while in Finland in spring of 2007. The beginning of “Habitats” is narrated by Lasse-Marc. He explains that the record deals with habitats, areas and living spaces. The piece, he continues, researchers the interplay between natural elements on the one hand and passages he had arranged at a later stage. It deals with the directional hearing, a vast array of bird voices and the silence between these sounds.
The recording is divided into short segments of around five minutes, giving the listener enough time to let the ambience sink in and take hold. The formative early sounds in “Habitats” centre around water, a theme that will be the dominant backdrop in the final half of the record.
Already during the first few minutes we are intorduced to the Larus canus, better known as the common gull. The sounds of the different types of birds reflect the different spaces that Lasse-Marc Riek have explored through his recordings. The variation in the types of birds we hear are not only to seek out the ornithologst in the listener, but it more or less defines the atmosphere of that given part of the recording. Being the most clear sound in the recording, the different bird sounds thus rightly so seek out the centre of attention, and when abscent, as in the third part of the record, this absence is quite noticeable; even more so thanks to the annoying sounds of insects that own those few minutes of the “Habitat”.
“Habitat” is not so much a guided path of field recordings, but a path through the sonorities of birds. The intro and outro of the record could have been cut shorter or dropped all together, but all in all the sounds of the Finnish forests during spring time is a most refreshing theme that Lasse-Marc Riek does well in capturing. Even the annoying sound of the hover flies.