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Writing the Field Recording

Sound, Word, Environment

Edited by Stephen Benson, Will Montgomery

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Intervenes in contemporary debates about the relationship between literature and field recording

A field recording is any audio recording made outside of the studio. Such recordings have lately become important to contemporary musicians, sound artists and environmentalists. However, less attention has been given to the relation of sound, as manifested in the theory and practice of the field recording, to writing. The 11 essays collected here take the recent explosion of interest in field recording as the point of departure for an investigation of the sounded field in music and its relationship to literature and writing. Including seminal pieces on field thinking by John Berger and Lisa Robertson, Writing the Field Recording analyses contemporary text scores, histories, composer statements, critical literature, poetry and nature writing in the context of sound studies. Drawing on expertise from a range of backgrounds, including composers, musicians, poets and critics, the collection presents an inter-disciplinary exploration of the various registers in which the field recording is written, such as the essayistic, the creatively exploratory, the experimental and the philosophical alongside critical reflections on artistic practice.

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Editors’ introduction
Preface: Field, John Berger

Part I: Opening the Field
1. Fields, theory, field theory: John Berger and Manfred Werder define a Field, Nicholas Melia
2. The Nondescript, Stephen Benson
3. Text-Score-Text, Will Montgomery

Part II: The Poetics of the Field
4. Rubies Reddened by Rubies Reddening, Michael Pisaro
5. Pitch Of Inhabiting: Thoughts on the Practice of Sound, Poetry and Virno’s ‘Accustomed Place’, Carol Watts
6. Druids fielding questions: Eva-Maria Houben, Emily Dickinson and Charles Ives, Dominic Lash
7. Field Recording as Writing: John Berger, Peter Gizzi and Juliana Spahr, Redell Olsen

Part III: The Field in Practice
8. Bittern Space, a siskin, Patrick Farmer
9. Disquiet, Lisa Robertson
10. Hedges, Daniela Cascella
11. Stirrup Notes: Fragments on Listening, Jonathan Skinner.

About the Author

Stephen Benson is Senior Lecturer in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Will Montgomery is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London.


What is the connection between a text, a score, an audio recording, and a plot of earth and sky – a site, location, or field? Writing the Field Recording considers these questions and relationships from myriad angles. These thought-provoking essays situate the burgeoning practice of field recording historically, artistically, philosophically, and scientifically, and, in the process, vastly expand and deepen the notion of site-specificity.

- Christoph Cox, Hampshire College


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