[Last week I wrote about three ideas that stimulate me to go about recording everyday sounds. In this post I go into idea #3 in a bit more detail.]
When I switch on an audio recorder the world changes: it sounds different. Arguably, it isn’t actually any different to the moment before the red light comes on, rather it is my perception that has changed. And yet, that quasi-altered state suggest that my environment is made more malleable, more aware, by the recording device. And so it is that I find what happens when the world is observed aurally an endlessly fascinating mystery. New possibilities of being in the world and what the world means suddenly exist. So much is liminal, and yet nothing is certain, and sounds that just a few moments prior were invisible, inaudible, featureless, gossamer, come to the surface and offer themselves up for further study, and to be 'made sense' of.
Once the recorder is switched on there is a pulse of expectation. What will be captured? Will it be usable? Will it fill my dreams or fuel my sorrows? Will I be impressed, surprised, elated or disappointed? Depending on what is being captured, the pulse of expectation soon gives way to a curiously composite state of relaxation and hyper-alertness. Relaxation because this is where I have chosen to be: I have decidedly put myself in this position, in this place, at this time, to capture this moment, and so I am relaxed and focused on enjoying the moment and making the most of it. And hyper-alertness because this is an inescapable by-product of recording sounds, whether in the world or in the studio. In such settings, the raison d'etre of sound, noise and silence are bestowed with new metaphysical considerations. They are completely different animals in the environment of a sound recording. A silent room can become, just by the seemingly innocuous act of switching on an audio recorder, a space inhabited by wild and incoherent frequencies and hums, creaks, ticks and extraneous ear stimulation. Just as a guitar that was previously eminently playable is stricken by buzz, squeaky wood, tired strings and suspicious rattles when a microphone is on hand to provide extra scrutiny.
Listening back to the sounds one has recorded is pleasurable and meditative, too. When detached and disassembled from the reality of the then-present, sounds have yet another story to tell. I think more so than listening back to sounds recorded by others, but perhaps that is just my little idiosyncrasy. In listening mode, the aural world into which one enters is slightly uncertain, which gives rise to pleasure. The hyper-alertness necessary to capture successful recordings is gone, and therefore relaxation is increased and contemplation comes to the fore. The pleasure comes from sating the expectation, but it is not only that: one is reminded that the world is a live, living organism, and that having successfully captured it, one is also alive.