There’s the everyday act of listening, and then there’s Jez riley French’s way of listening. The Yorkshire-based multihyphenate (he is a field recordist, composer, photographer, technician, and sound artist) has been practising the art of receiving sound for the past four decades, in the process elevating quiet and overlooked sounds in public spaces to new heights. His works have been exhibited at bastions of art and culture including the Tate Modern, The Whitworth, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, and Oslo’s Spikersuppa Lydgalleri.
But beyond his aural explorations, French is that rare breed of creative who also fashions the tools he works with. In his case, they are contact microphones, hydrophones, and other specialist microphones that allow him to record sounds that travel through materials and are otherwise imperceptible to the naked ear—his designs have since become widespread in the film and music industries. From the tremulations captured within the Tate Modern and the Humber Bridge, to melting glaciers and a dissolving limestone mountain range, there’s an awe-inspiring magnitude to French’s work that forces listeners to reconceptualise their relationship to their surroundings.
Learn how French first fell in love with recording nature, what ‘fifth order listening’ is, and why he routinely chooses to give up control.
Part of Sound Makers, a series shining the spotlight on unique personalities shaping our everyday soundscapes: how they began their journey of creating sounds, what inspires and drives them, and the process behind bringing their magic to life.