Named for Alvin Lucier’s 1969 sound work I am Sitting in a Room, this piece engages with aspects of sound recording practice, cultural preservation and perceptions of nature, as well as notions of ownership and distribution of media in relation to social space.
The work was created from 3 sound recordings made at the Wysing Arts centre, played back in different spaces and re-recorded multiple times, allowing material features of the recording process and the space of audition to seep back into the domain of listening, reversing the conventional relationship between signal and noise, whereby the presence of the medium normally erases itself. All resultant recordings are registered Creative Commons.
The term ‘soundmark’ , derived from the term landmark, is used to define a man-made sound which possesses a unique and easily recognisable quality that relates it to a specific community or locale. The notion of a ‘soundmark’ is popular amongst the Acoustic Ecology community, keen on preserving what they see as unique or culturally and historically important sounds.
A ‘sound trademark’ on the other hand relates to a sound that is generally produced by a commercial product, such as a laptop, mobile phone or even a motorbike. In order to be legally registered as such, a ‘sound trademark’ must be visually represented, either in the form of standard musical notation or as a spectrogram. This fact illuminates the primacy given to the visual over the auditory; it also highlights ambiguities over ownership of audio objects. Can you imagine if the law were to dictate that a commercial object in order to be trademarked must be represented by the sound of that object?
Copyrighting of audio recordings is common place, and of course plagiarism and illegal distribution are part of musical and media culture. Enforcement of copyright often hinges on the recognisability of somebody else’s work, for example a vocal sample or a drum groove. Copyright becomes difficult when dealing with recordings of social and private spaces or the right to record those spaces. This has as much to do with recognisability as it does with notions of public ownership of space, for example establishing the difference between recordings of two splashing waves may prove very difficult.
The relationship between space and recording is complex. When recording anything we not only record the sounds produced in the space, but the sound of the space itself. Sounds are produced by space; sounds are space. Audio production practices bracket out, manipulate, or idealise this space, and in the process they transform the perception of its object. With sound recording, the possibility for hybrid space emerges with the duality of playback and recording, and it is this submerged, suppressed tendency that I am Standing in a Field renders audible.
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