Since I began working in the area of field recording I have been surprised at the level of disdain that modified sounds can raise. There seems to be a strong belief that field recordings should be left unedited; that those who manipulate their recordings are presenting an impure, or at worst dishonest, sonic experience.
While I believe that any modifications such as the layering of sound should be declared by the field recorder, I don’t think it is fair to impose value systems upon the way we create and listen to Sound.
What strikes me as ironic is that even the most “unedited” of field recordings still require a measure of artifice. Before a recording is presented decisions have to be made as to how to emphasise the focal point for the listener. Carefully choosing when to begin and end the clip in order to frame the desired focus, using filters or graphic EQs to accentuate sounds are all common techniques in the construction of a “natural” field recording – each with its own level of manipulation.
As someone who works in “raw” field recordings and soundscapes I would like to think that my engagement with both forms enhances my ability to listen. Consequently this active listening stimulates an appreciation of place. In an age when so many natural sounds particular to specific locales are being smothered by the noise of the industrial world, shouldn’t our role as field recorders partly be to guide others into the same joy of listening without imposing a prescriptive hierarchy?