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What does improvising over field recordings sound like?

beachWell, this is an interesting one. Last week I collaborated with the excellent Oxford Improvisers, who performed live improvisations over some of the Cities and Memory field recordings – effectively operating a live, responsive real-time reimagining of the recordings based on what they heard. It was a fascinating collaboration, really interesting to see how musicians interacted not so much with each other or to an external musical source, but to a found sound, to a place and a time.

Here’s the first of the recordings, sent in by Rand Lo of fireworks on Ocean Beach, San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. There are two memory versions, so you can hear two different ways in which the improvisers responded to the sounds.

The musicians:

  • Veronica Cordova, voice and objects
  • Dan Goren, trumpet and flugelhorn
  • John Grieve, tenor and baritone saxes
  • Finn Hackett, electronics
  • Martin Hackett, melodica and chord harmonica
  • Paul Medley, Bb and bass clarinets
  • Robert Ridley Shackleton, miscellaneous electronics.


City version:


Memory version 1:


Memory version 2: