Have you ever listened to complete silence? No engines, no birds, no breeze rattling through leaves, no neighbour’s elephant feet, nothing. Not likely. I mean, sit in absolute silence for long enough and you’d probably start to feel insane. Because, unless you’re locked in a soundproof laboratory, sound is everywhere, whether or not your brain is tuning in.
For aural adventurers, life can be like an everlasting game of Pokémon Go, with an infinite wealth of rhythms, textures and melodies to be caught at every turn. Field recordings can be a sonic postcard, capturing the atmosphere of a place or the feeling of a time. They can be as spontaneous as a child’s tapped rhythm on an arcade machine, or the opposite: a location that never fails to deliver amazing acoustics. A single sound speaks a different volume to everyone.
When it comes to music production, field recording is not to be underestimated. Actively encouraged as part of dBs Berlin‘s curriculum, the technique is integral to the work of many of our students and staff. So much, in fact, that we just had to probe them for their favourite locations. Where are the best places in Berlin to make field recordings? Here’s what they had to say.
Kevin Davies, a.k.a. Fermweh
“I like Rummelsburger See/Rummelsburger Bucht. It’s a semi-abandoned area around a sort of weird island in the Spree. Because it’s a lake, there’s lots of stuff you can do with water. Plus, there’s a lot of old bits of trash as well as some decaying buildings – but it’s really quiet so you don’t get any background noise. If you go a bit further round, too, there’s a massive building site, so if you want those pneumatic drone noises it’s perfect!”
Listen to Kevin’s latest track here.
“The field recordings our students [have] captured around Teufelsberg made the long journey out there worth it! If you’ve ever been to the derelict tower that once was a listening station for the NSA, and you had the nerve to climb the dark and numerous steps, then you might remember the incredible acoustic space that is at the top. It’s almost as if you hear your voice reverb off the walls before you hear yourself speaking. Super special.”
Read more about one of our previous field recording field trips to “The Devil’s Mountain” here.
Pablo Disirens, a.k.a. Ōtone
“Berlin’s various environments make it a wonderful city for field recording. Here’s a little list of my favourite recording spots: Any construction site and any ruin (and there’s plenty!); Daniel Libeskind’s spaces at the Jewish Museum; Berghain‘s no man’s land (in winter it’s the perfect spot for wind and ice recordings); Funkhaus Berlin‘s junkyard; Tempelhof and its crows; Teufelsberg’s dome; Hauptbahnof station.”
Click here to listen to Pablo’s latest EP.
“A friend and I recorded some impulse responses and ambient sounds in the Grunewald Forest and at the Teufelsberg spy station. These field recordings are my current favourites.”
Listen to Roz’s latest EP here.
“If you look at my SoundCloud, you will see that I have made a lot of field recordings in the past. In the past years (not so much recently) I made recordings from all the places I visited, mostly for two purposes. Either as some kind of an acoustic photo of that spot, or to feed my personal sound library with sounds that later end up in a sample bank or a granular synthesizer or any other sound design machine. It could be anything: rhythmical, tonal, whatever. Steps on gravel can make a nice percussion loop, a sound of a wasp can end up as a pad layer with a synth – anything goes. In our programme, we motivate our students to go a similar route because you end up with very personal sounds that help you define your own artistic language.”
Read Stefan’s tips for getting inspired when producing music here.
Photos (except Teufelsberg) by Dominic Blewett Photography.