The Sounds from your Television

IMG_1248 Image: from the film Days of Heaven, 1978. Terrence Malick.

Reducing the speed of digital field recordings is one of life’s simple pleasures. By decreasing the speed of everyday sounds we immerse ourselves in altered landscapes. This process triggers the imagination into flights of fancy – birds and insects become prehistoric creatures, rain drops resemble explosions, and the human voice transforms into monsters hiding in shadows. It is an enjoyable way to destabilise your connection with reality.

The sound files in this post explore the process of transforming sounds beyond recognition. The original recording was taken using contact microphones taped onto the back of a digital television.

Original Speed: With the television volume set on mute the contact mics pick-up static and a pulse that is ordinarily unheard:

birds1
At 0.25: By reducing the speed of the original recording to .25 new sounds begin to appear. The harsh tone of the first recording is replaced by this digital stridulation:

birds2
At 0.05: After reducing the original file to .05 the recording now resembles a sound effect from early science-fiction shows. From the original recording to sounds of stridulation to science-fiction. The transformation seems appropriate considering the content of the original sounding object.

Field recording is often identified with attempts to faithfully capture the sounds of natural habitats. However of equal worth is the manipulation of familiar sounds into the unfamiliar and its disorienting effect upon the listener. It is here that we find the combination of listening, imagination and the construction of new worlds.

2 thoughts on “The Sounds from your Television

  1. “It is an enjoyable way to destabilise your connection with reality.”

    This is how i feel about pretty much the entire field of field recording. Either it highly warps the way you perceive/hear ‘reality’, or it enhances it with additional layers. Like listening to a fountain in Portugal. Or a library in London.

    I find it very interesting, with the technology modifying the way we perceive. When the brain sees/hears a bird or some water, it is as if it is actually happening, even if it is only a recording. Recording as a medium is only 100 some years old, and i don’t think we have the foggiest notion of the ways it’s impacting us. Like with these slowed down recordings, something we physically wouldn’t have been able to experience, not even that long ago, it represents certain meditative qualities or states that were rare and only available to a privileged few. We can program our brains into Samadhi. We can experience things that don’t exist yet.

    I find experiments based around real world phenomena so much more arresting and effecting then things entirely programmed on/in machines, and it makes for some strange but often wonderful experiences. For that reason, (and a number of others), i am glad to find you writing this blog, pointing people in the direction of such things. I look forward to picking through further. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for your comments Forestpunk, they are certainly insightful ones! I agree with you that modifications of real world sounds, when compared with completely synthesised ones, are the ones which retain their intrigue. In other posts I’ve described the field-recording and post-production processes as preternatural, we lose time, or rather time adjusts to the flow of sound. In this sense it is, as you said, a meditative pursuit. Thanks again.

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