Preternatural: that which appears outside or beyond the natural; exceeding what is regular.
Industrialisation often seems in opposition to the act of deep listening, nonetheless the production of affordable microphones and audio software has granted us an appreciation of the [sonic] world that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. With these tools we are able to surpass the limitations of the human ear and move towards preternatural possibilities.
A microphone focusses upon the stridulation of a cricket in the city of Perth.
In both urban and rural areas our listening experience may be compromised by an over-abundance of sound events. Breaking through the sonic mass in order to hear more subtle sounds is quite challenging. With the aid of field recording equipment this problem can be overcome, enhancing our listening experience and sense of location. Carefully placed microphones amplify peripheral sounds into a central position within the soundscape; what was previously unnoticed now commands an audience.
The movement of time aligns itself with the pace of geese as they wade through a flooded field.
The process of field recording can also alter our sense of time. As our engagement with the sonic environment increases the clock adjusts its flow to the movement of sound. In the book Sinister Resonance, Toop describes this repositioning of time and space stating I have to allow every part of myself to slow down, to forget what happened earlier and what might happen later … it’s like descending in a slow lift, moving down through the basement of hearing, where the tiniest sounds seem amplified. Once down at this level, sounds that are normally considered quiet are a shock to the system. … microsonic listening can ground us in the sense of being in the moment, open us to a form of concentrated attention.
Experimental Soundscapes: the manipulation of the previous field recordings creates an artificial world which triggers the imagination.
Audio-software further enhances the listening experience. Filters and equalisers intensify desired sounds; recordings may be slowed down to hear details otherwise missed by the ear; field recordings can be recontextualised by combining them with recordings from different locations. This manipulation creates new worlds that delve into the unrealised potential of the original sound.
By recording what lies before us we awaken our senses, becoming active participants in exploring beyond the visual. Our notion of time and place is challenged, creating a more sympathetic response to our surroundings. In these respects field recording privileges us with a uniquely preternatural experience.