Listening to the Active Sounds of History: field recording and museums
An essay about my practice of field recording inside museums, published by the British Library's Sound and Vision blog, 30 August 2013.
Memory is at the heart of much human activity. Memory drives us to collect, to record, to create documents –"information or evidence that serves as an official record" – that we then spend a lot of time and effort preserving. Some of these documents are strictly personal and kept as family heirlooms. Others end up being judged by someone else as having a broader significance, and end up being preserved in places like museums and libraries in order that they be made accessible to a wider audience. There are countless institutions around the world whose mission statements may not explicitly express it, but which are essentially dedicated to honoring the human desire to remember.
So why do I record sounds? Because I want to remember them.
Essentially, that’s what my practice of field recording is about. Obviously there are more factors than this: because I find certain sounds aesthetically pleasing, or because I think that listening to a specific place might be important, or because I think other people might also find certain types of sounds interesting. But primarily, I record memories.
Photograph above by James Rotz.