Using a Microphone – Hildegard Westerkamp

“The microphone alters listening. The mere comparison between how our ears listen and how the microphone picks up sounds in the environment, brings alerted awareness to the soundscape. Not only the recordist’s listening is intensified, often also that of people witnessing the microphone’s presence. It creates an occasion and new significance of a place. Sometimes the microphone can also mean new access to the environment. It frequently legitimizes ones presence in certain places and even empowers one to enter places that one would normally not be allowed to enter. It also often heightens the recordist’s own curiosity and encourages to venture into unknown territory. Of course, it can also block access when it is seen as a security threat or an invasion of privacy.

By making certain choices of microphone placement, selection of sounds/soundscapes, choices of juxtapositions and combinations of sounds, the composers present a very specific perspective of the city. These choices are always influenced by the cultural, social and political background and experiences of the recordist/composer, by age and gender, musical taste, past experiences with various soundscapes, as well as the present life situation.”

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