Outside-In: Chris Legg

by 5:4

The latest recording in the Outside-In project comes from long-term 5:4 friend and patron Chris Legg. His field recording was made in woodland not far from Halifax in Yorkshire, in the north of England. Chris says of the recording:

It was recorded during lockdown (but the sounds are not lockdown-specific!), using an Android phone running the Advanced Audio Recorder app, in Beestones Wood, a ten-minute walk from my house. The nearby cliffs (the eponymous stones?) provide a pleasing resonance. Birdsong and other woodland sounds mingle with the drone and white noise of the paper recycling plant in the valley bottom.

One of the sound combinations i always find fascinating in field recordings is the juxtaposition of organic and man-made sounds, particularly sounds of industry in the midst of those of the natural world (or, depending on your outlook, vice versa). Chris’s recording is a nice example of this; the factory noise contributes a distant noise/hum that could initially be easily mistaken for the sound of an overhead plane. Onto this nebulous but omnipresent backdrop are the closer-proximity sounds of the woodland: the soft texture of leaves rustling and a plethora of loud, liquid birdsongs alongside other calls and chatter, as well as a variety of softer insect sounds. It’s no doubt an inadvertent aspect of the recording, but to my ear it works as something of a diptych: an overtly active first half that becomes more sonically passive in the second half, making not only for an effective contrast but an authentic capture of the reality of the environment. There’s also the very clear sense that we’re glimpsing but a small window of time from a very much larger soundworld.

This is the only recording in Outside-In to have been recorded on amateur equipment, specifically a mobile phone. While its frequency range is correspondingly limited, it’s nonetheless quite an impressive demonstration of what’s possible with only the on-board tech that we carry around in our mobile devices.

All of the recordings featured in Outside-In are available to download or stream; there’s no charge for downloading, but you’re free to make a payment if you wish, and all proceeds made will be shared among the contributors.

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for this project, please see the Call for Recordings information below.

Call for Recordings

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for Outside-In, the guidelines are very simple:

  • approximately 5-15 minutes’ duration – long enough to allow some decent immersion;
  • no obvious editing – recordings can be discreetly edited but should generally sound like a single recording, with no sudden cuts;
  • no indoor or underwater recordings – all in the open air;
  • no speech or overt human noises, apart from perhaps in the distance or as a part of the ambiance/surroundings;
  • the recording doesn’t need to be made using high-end equipment, but should be good enough to be enjoyed transparently, without attention drawn to its shortcomings.

Please note: the idea is that the recordings were made before the lockdown, but if you would like to make one that reflects the current, quieter state of the world – without breaking any local rules on going outside in the process! – then that’s absolutely fine.

To send your recording, please use the 5:4 Contact form and in the “Your Message” section please include the following:

  • a download link to your recording (via WeTransfer, or equivalent), which should preferably be in compressed lossless format (e.g. FLAC – no lossy recordings!);
  • information about the place, time and situation in which the recording took place – as much or as little detail as you would like to share;
  • a Google Maps link to the exact/approximate location where the recording was made.

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Tom Armstrong

I had exactly the natural/man-made experience you describe on bank holiday Monday walking on the Isle of Grain in North Kent. It’s a secluded and, at times desolate place on the south bank of the Thames estuary and teems with wildlife – wading birds, butterflies, larks. The latter were particularly melodious yesterday but in the background was a constant menacing, low pitched thrumming. I suspect this was the engines of the huge container ships docked at the Thames Gateway Superport on the opposite bank. This would be a great place for field recording, so great I’m sure someone has already made one.

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