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Field recording and the sounding of spaces

Gallagher, M (2015) Field recording and the sounding of spaces. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33. ISSN 0263-7758


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This paper concerns the spatial functions of field recordings, defined as audio recordings of the myriad soundings of the world. I suggest that field recordings are doing geographical work outside the usual academic repertoire of texts, numbers, maps, and images, and develop this idea through four arguments. First, I amplify the diversity of ways in which field recordings are used, distinguishing between four styles with different spatialities. Second, I argue that field recordings are both representational and performative, their playback doubling or hybridising space in the present through sound performed by an ensemble of audio machines. Third, following Elizabeth Grosz, I suggest that this performative reiteration of worldly vibration can be affectively potent. Field recordings thus demonstrate that representation and affect need not be opposed. Finally, I argue that field recordings can be understood as contributing to the production of space. Drawing on Lefebvre, I make a political-economic analysis of field recording, drawing attention to underlying processes of labour. The paper includes audio clips to demonstrate some of these arguments.

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