Skip links

Sounds of the year – our best field recordings of 2018

field recording of the yearThe best field recordings of 2018

Field recordings are the lifeblood of Cities and Memory, and our sound map now covers more than 80 countries with every possible type of sound recording. At this time of year, we look back on the previous 12 months, and ask some of our contributors to tell us about their favourite field recording of 2018.

So, from calls to prayer to deep rainforest explorations, these are the field recordings of the year – happy listening.

Cities and Memory – Moroccan Dawn

This one was worth getting up early for. While staying in Essaouira, Morocco earlier this year, I got up at 4.45am to record the early morning call to prayer resounding across the rooftops.

From the top of the riad in which we were staying, you could hear two calls to prayer simultaneously from different sides – one a much more melodic song, the other more spoken and rhythmic in nature.

The riad was positioned right next to the city wall and the ocean, so you can hear breaking waves in one side of the stereo field and the occasional flypast from an early morning gull in search of fish scraps.

The 3D sweep of the sound field, the beauty of the sung calls and the blend of sacred and nature sounds come together perfectly to make this my favourite recording of 2018.

Toni Dimitrov – Birds at Mount Vodno

The recording is taken at Mount Vodno, a small mountain above the city where I live, Skopje. I hike there nearly every day, just for a walk, to escape from the noise and the intense energy of the city. To be with myself, to think, to listen… The birds are usually there in the summer. Their singing is more intense when it’s hot and when I usually avoid going. This time the recordings were taken before sunset, when they still sing intensely and when it’s still possible to walk.  

Marcel Gnauk – Creature concert at Doi Suthep

I think the recordings from Doi Suthep at night are my favourites from this year. It’s not only because the sounds are great, it’s more about how I got these sounds and how I got lost in the middle of the forest around midnight.

Standing there with no lights and my equipment, I followed a washed-out road downhill and knew this motorbike will never make it uphill again. So I went deeper and deeper into the forest. The road got worse but finally after several hours, I found my way out!

Daan Hendricks – Elephant Drama in Mweya, Uganda, July 2018

While in technical terms I don’t consider this my “best” recording, it is one of my favourites of the last year due to the intense emotions conveyed by this elephant herd.

It was recorded during an overnight session in the Mweya peninsula of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, July 2018. I had tracked this herd during the day in my car as far as I could until they disappeared into the  bush, after which I set up a microphone rig in the general direction of the river where they were presumably heading. I left this mic behind as it recorded throughout the rest of the day, night and the next morning.

There was a real intensity in the air that night, with the frog chorus going at full strength, insects stridulating feverishly, occasional strong wind gusts and regularly barking hippos. I am not sure what caused distress to this elephant herd but they vocalised all night, continuously rumbling and often screaming and trumpeting loudly.

The overall result was a night that conveyed a really wild and primeval soundscape, and for that reason I love this recording quite a bit.

Tenali Hrenak – Space Monsters

While wondering the cobblestone streets in Ollantaytambo, Peru, I passed by a small barn with a young boy and his guinea pigs.

I was on my way to record the afternoon birds on the outskirts of the village that I previously came upon, but I was so intrigued by the otherworldly sounds (hence the title of the recording) that I asked him if I could record.

I enjoyed the mashup of squeaky and rustle sounds, his whispered whooshes, and the distant music from a radio(?). It’s a short recording – interrupted by a visitor – but there’s just enough strangeness and delight to make it my favourite of the year.

Stéphane Marin – Listening t(hr)o(ugh) architecture

This recording was a part of the site specific installation )) archi_teXtures sonores ((, which took place in L’Usine – CNAREP – Tournefeuille – France in September 2018. It reflects my interest in listening to (and through) architectures. Architecture considered here as a membrane:  a listening medium from the inside to the outside and conversely…

I particularly love this recording, firstly full of strength and energy powered by the wind and the traffic in the neighborhood, then back to a more quiet state that makes us discover the inside, the big volume of air, the relative emptiness of the space, and finally its inhabitants.

Recorded with a couple of Sennheiser 8020 (AB)s in a SD mixpre6.

George Vlad – Dusk chorus in the Congo rainforest

This is a recording I made on our last night in the rainforest in November.

It was one of the best-sounding locations that we visited, with plenty of Turacos, Hornbills, Parrots and many other bird species. The best part is the sound of the hornbills flying and gliding in the canopy.

Mark Wilden – Poker Creek, Canada

This is a recording of melting snow by the roadside in Northern Canada.  The location is a few minutes from the border crossing at Little Gold / Poker Creek on the Top of The World Highway, which runs from Dawson City in the Yukon to Tok in Alaska.  It’s a gravel road with breathtaking views, as it runs along a hilltop ridge for most of its 80-mile length.

This is my favourite recording for the unlikeliness of the circumstances, at least to a city-dweller from the UK. The sound is of melting snow two weeks after midsummer’s day, in an area where all other snow has long since melted.  Apart from the trickling sound it is completely peaceful, despite being on the only road connecting communities on either side of an international border between major developed nations. It is remote, despite being the most well-connected spot for many miles around.