MTM Feature Mobile recording
TechTerms ● FIELD RECORDING Any recording made outside your studio, but typically captured on a portable recording device of some kind. ● SAMPLE ANDBIT RATES The quality at which your audio is captured. For best results, stick with CD-quality 16-bit 44.1 kHz or better. ● FOUND SOUNDS Any audio that you record that has not been specifically played on an instrument for musical purposes.
You will end up doing a lot of waveform editing when working with found sounds, but all DAWs are very capable in this respect.
Mobile recording can apply to anything from capturing a live gig to recording the sound of the sea Mobile recording can apply to Mobile recording can apply to Mobile recording
Oldtechnology Don’t be afraid to mix old and new technology. If you have access to a cassette tape recorder that still works, try using it to do some field recording. The gritty, lo-fi and slightly uneven sound that you can capture can work really well for some applications. Other people use different tricks to capture more unusual sounds at the source, such as placing a bag over the mic during recording, moving the mic around a sound or standing still and letting sounds move around you.
something new and different. When magnetic tape first came into use around 1950, people realised that they could achieve unique results by splicing sections of tape together to create non-linear effects from bits of recorded sound. Tape, in one form or another, endured for a long time as the primary recording medium and was only supplanted years later by digital audio captured to disc or hard drive.
Even then, you were still quite limited in what you could achieve with, say, a digital sampler. Editing was fairly good, but other kinds of manipulation, especially time- and pitch-stretching, still had side effects that were hard to avoid. More recently, digital sound has become as flexible as MIDI thanks to the advent of different kinds of
MTM Pro Technique The art of foley When you are out recording with your gun mic (or even recording sounds in a room with a laptop), what you’re doing is much the same as what is known as foley recording. When movies started to include speech and sounds instead of just a musical score around the end of the 1920s, producers realised that it was very difficult to accurately record the sound from a live set without microphones
Recording sounds to match onscreen actions is known as foley.
coming into shot. Jack Foley, who gave his coming into shot. Jack Foley, who gave his name to the technique, pioneered the idea of recording sounds in isolation from the filming and overlaying them onto the footage afterwards. That way, the viewer would be fooled into thinking that the sounds they heard were being made in the scene, when in reality they had been added later. A great many of the sounds you hear in a film have been recorded separately, from footsteps to a car door closing, telephones, typing on a keyboard and so on. Foley is still practiced in the vast majority of films and many TV productions. The only difference with using found sounds is that here, you make the sounds into some kind of musical composition rather than matching them up to picture.
difference with using found sounds is that here, you make the sounds into some kind of musical
‘elastic’ technologies such as Logic’s Flex Time, Melodyne and other advanced manipulation tools. Virtual instruments like Camel Audio’s Alchemy are able to use samples as templates for generating other sounds using a hybrid of different kinds of synthesis. Artists such as John Cage, Christopher Hobbs, Matthew Herbert and Scanner have all made extensive use of found sounds in their productions and even if it’s a technique still mostly used in more experimental works and art installations, it is gradually becoming more mainstream. It’s worth mentioning the difference between mobile recording and using found sounds to make music. Mobile recording can apply to anything from capturing a live gig to recording the sound of the sea to use in the background of a piece of music or recording a piano at someone’s house. The concept of found-sound recording has its roots in the idea that music does not have to be made up of collections of musical notes, rather that everything around us can be made into music or a piece of audio art.
For all but the most ambient music, this often means using some sounds as rhythmic elements and others as textures or mapping samples across a keyboard to play them as if they were an instrument. So there is some crossover – you have to do mobile recording to use these sounds in your productions, but you don’t necessarily have to be making something really avant garde if you do. Mobile recording really just means recording free from the shackles of one particular studio or space. What you do with the sounds after that is up to you.
Tools of the trade To record on the move you’ll need either a portable recorder or a laptop with an audio interface and a mic (maybe a USB mic). Hand-held recorders are relatively cheap now and offer incredible audio quality. If you’re using a video camera or DSLR to record sounds, you may not be aware that most aren’t
Environmental factors can interfere with field recording, but simple items like a wind shield can save the day.
really geared towards professional-quality audio recording. Their grainy characteristics can have uses in some cases and fitting a dedicated external mic is a step in the right direction, but a dedicated digital recorder will offer far better results. There are quite a few around, including models from
Yamaha, Zoom, Tascam, Edirol and M-Audio, most of which have a stereo
24 | February 2011 magazine Mobile recording Feature MTM
Tom Middleton is no stranger to recording the real world for his production work, having worked with Mark Pritchard as half of Global Communication as well as Aphex Twin and The Bays. MTM found out how he approaches this limitless artform, what he uses and how he gets sounds into his productions. How did you get into using found sounds? With the two key individuals I’ve worked with in this area, Aphex Twin (Richard D James) and Matthew Herbert. Richard showed me how to turn recordings of pummelling wood and metal in his garage into drum kits. Matthew has shown me various things and has, of course, made a career out of found sounds. When did you start recording noises and what with? The Sony WA-55 – without this I would never have got so deep into music and recording. I still have it; my brother modded it by soldering a potentiometer between the battery compartment and the motherboard for DIY varispeed. That was really fun for effects.
What do you currently use for capturing sounds? A Zoom H2 Handy Recorder with Roland CS-10EM in-ear binaural microphone/earphones. I’m actually obsessed with total-immersion 360º, 4D sound recording right now. My
Drumkits made from sound snippets are great to work with and really easy tomake forthcoming project is all about 4D sound, so it’s vital I have the tools to capture in 360. I have an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB for using with my laptop and there’s the recorder app for the iPhone which is interesting as it’s mono. Even cameras can be useful for another recording flavour, particularly in the low-quality modes for grainy textures.
What kind of locations do you find work best? Any unusually large interior spaces have amazing acoustics – cathedrals, hangers, stadiums, concert venues, warehouses, etc. Equally, any odd enclosed spaces: tubes, pipes, caves, wells and chimneys. You can get lots of decent foley and effects from your kitchen for starters. Factories and industrial facilities also have great sounds.
Do you have any advice for getting the best recordings? Using shields and baffles, windscreens and spoffles can be interesting as they enhance or reduce the frequency spectrum; you can use fabric and other materials for this to. You need to make sure it’s not too windy otherwise you’ll need one of those big furry spoffles. Also, I find it’s best to stay still and allow sounds to move around you – particularly with the binaural recording method – so that it translates back to the listener.
How do you incorporate your recordings into music? Audio editing, mangling and morphing is the most fun for me. I particularly like going deep into IDM Glitch/Max/ granular territory and experimenting. That’s hours of fun! Sometimes a natural rhythm and tempo such as breathing, walking or machine cycles can impart a pulse and groove that you can work around. My forthcoming release, called Cicadas, uses a recording of the natural pulsing whistle of an insect as the main theme along with chopped-up and pitched snippets to add extra rhythm. Naturally occurring sounds can really inspire you to make new sampler patches when you find a particular section of a waveform after zooming in.
Drum kits made from sound snippets are great to work with and really easy to make. You can just go into record mode and either press pause or mute the mic to put in silences then recycle the sound file into individual hits, put it into a sampler, truncate, pitch, reverse, process with effects... it’s endless. The Kong module (in Propellerhead’s Reason) is my favourite tool for this right now as it really encourages you to get creative with the sampling, just like it used to be.
My recent remix for Guy J on Bedrock has a whole channel of me making whistling, whooshes and SFX noises with my mouth, which I then treated with effects in Live. My track Larynx was made entirely using sounds I made with my voice in a Yamaha RS7000. There are moments where it sounds like swarming seagulls on acid, but it all started life as a sound I made myself, which I then morphed in the sampler.
Gliding will be out on Urbantorque and Cicadas mid-Feb on LoRise/Defected records. The Lifetracks album is being re-issued on Big Chill Recordings soon after and that includes the track Larynx.
Tom says he is always happy to chat to his fans and you can do this via: www.facebook.com/tommiddleton71 www.myspace.com/tommiddleton magazine February 2011 | 25