Tag Archives: electrical sound

Coil Pickup Microphones, Listening, Place


Spectrogram of a computer modem


With the aid of a coil pickup microphone it is possible to hear what seems to be an entire orchestra residing inside electrical appliances, each object emitting tones and pulses in contrasting frequencies and time signatures.

At first listen you might only hear dystopian chaos however a careful ear will begin to pick out the layers of sound which constitute the whole.  Identifying the auditory structures of the inanimate objects that surround us is a rewarding process, the concentrated listening that is involved in the process connecting us to place in a unique way.

This particular recording is of a computer modem. Here the coil pickup microphone reveals the complexity of the digital signals that pass through our modern day offices as we sit dreaming of the weekend.

AC: free to download through Galaverna


When we think of the concept of “place” we often do so in a context that focuses on vast exteriors. As field recordists we regularly position ourselves in grand locations with microphones directed towards the sounds of exotic forests, river systems, mountain ranges or the frozen Polar Regions. But what of the place in which we live – our domestic sphere. How do our smaller private worlds connect with these public exteriors?

In my new composition commissioned by Galaverna I have attempted to convey the relationship between home and its outer perimeters. This has been done primarily through recording the sounds of electricity that run between my home and the local farming community. Here electricity is an invisible, and often inaudible, thread that holds us all to a bigger notion of place, a grid that dissects and connects the earth beneath our feet.

“AC” (alternating current) is comprised of multiple layers of electrical recordings. I used a coil pick-up microphone to record the pulses and white noise emanating from domestic appliances around my house. Computers, phones, battery rechargers … each appliance connected to a larger world through wires running to an electrical grid. Each appliance with its own idiocyncratic sound, a sonic fingerprint signifying the state of domestic technology in the early 21st century – a subject worthy to be recorded and heard. That these sounds exist in most modern homes creates a sense of community, albeit an inaudible one.

Mixed into the composition is the sound of insects, their electrical-sounding stridulation providing a parallel between the manufactured and the natural. A recording of a Japanese tour group walking through a local forest at night is also included, the incongruity of the tour guide’s voice amidst the sub-tropical rainforest emphasising our own dislocation from the natural world.

“AC” is free to download through Galaverna.


Below are a few short samples of the electrical recordings which are used in “AC”.

This from an electric blanket:


This from a tablet while in use:


This from a smart phone:


This from a battery recharger:


This from an external hard-drive:


Please visit the Galaverna website to download “AC” and to listen to works by other people working in sound and field recording.



Waves of electro-magnetic energy pulsate around us. Impossible to avoid they radiate from sources within our homes and envelope us as we pass through public space. What does this energy sound like?

Electron uses layers of modified field recordings taken from different electrical sources combined with processed recordings of insects whose stridulating bodies seem electrically charged.