Listening After Nature: Field Recording, Ecology, Critical Practice

Listening After Nature: Field Recording, Ecology, Critical Practice



Mark Peter Wright

Published by Bloomsbury Academic

Listening After Nature examines the constructions and erasures that haunt field recording practice and discourse. Analyzing archival and contemporary soundworks through a combination of post-colonial, ecological and sound studies scholarship, Mark Peter Wright recodes the Field; troubles conceptions of Nature; expands site-specificity; and unearths hidden technocultures. What exists beyond the signal? How is agency performed and negotiated between humans and nonhumans? What exactly is a field recording and what are its pedagogical potentials?

These questions are operated by a methodology of listening that incorporates the spaces of audition, as well as Wright's own practice-based reflections. In doing so, Listening After Nature posits a range of novel interventions. One example is the “Noisy-Nonself,” a conceptual figuration with which to comprehend the presence of reticent recordists. “Contact Zones and Elsewhere Fields” offers another unique contribution by reimaging the relationship between the field and studio. In the final chapter, Wright explores the microphone by tracing its critical and creative connections to natural resource extraction and contemporary practice.

Listening After Nature auditions water and waste, infrastructures and animals, technologies and recordists, data and stars. It grapples with the thresholds of sensory perception and anchors itself to the question: what am I not hearing? In doing so, it challenges Western universalisms that code the field whilst offering vibrant practice-based possibilities.


“I have been waiting for this book. Listening After Nature is a much-needed corrective to the practice and theory of field recording. Mark Peter Wright offers a critical reflexive account that troubles many of the field's assumptions, such as the sonic absence of the recorder, the search for sounds of nature without human presence and the transparency of the microphone. Emphasising the impossibility of sustaining such an approach in a time "after nature", the book holds open the question of "what is field recording", asking what is not heard as much as what is and providing playful and serious possibilities for "listening-with" practices adequate to a time of climate change and mass extinction.” Marina Peterson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, USA and author of Atmospheric Noise: The Indefinite Urbanism of Los Angeles (2021).


“Through the low frequencies of history, geography and experimental sonic practice, Listening After Nature lures us to a critical audition. In the sonic contact zones of shrimps and stars, foley and documentary, signal and voice, this book shows us how listening is a position of power, and equally, of immense responsibility. It is crucial reading for students and scholars of sound arts, environmental humanities and media philosophy.” Sasha Englemann, Lecturer in GeoHumaities, Royal Holloway University of London, UK and author of Sensing Art in the Atmosphere: Elemental Lures and Aerosolar Practices (2021).


“Imagine a dinner party with a majority of so-called field recordists. All of them talking about signal-to-noise ratios, recording techniques, latest microphones or the great time they spent going on expeditions to Asia, Africa, South America or somewhere else where ice caps are melting. To record, mind you, not to fill their cocktails, although the idea of ´extraction´ might apply to both. Mark Peter Wright's scholarship is a sort of a much-needed killjoy in what has been a celebratory run for a practice born out of unduly historical and disciplinary privilege(s) that naturalized unproductive oppositions between man, nature, science and ideology. The author reminds us of the ethical responsibilities when/in/while recording the field as the dawn chorus does not always start in the west, distant or as an other.” Rui Chaves, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil, and co-editor of Making it Heard: A History of Brazilian Sound Art (2019).


Field of Dreams review in The Quietus, September 2022

Review in the Wire Magazine, October 2022

Review in the Journal of Sonic Studies, December 2022

Recent Reviews

"A comprehensive and thought provoking book. It brings together popular, new and possibly radical ideas for readers to consider. Wright is another brilliant example of a practicing artist whose passionate interest and work thoroughly informs a clever, heartfelt book."

Review in the Wire Magazine, October 2022

Book Launch

Read about the online launch event on July 16th 2022 - an evening of readings, responses and discussion exploring the themes and core questions of the book.


Published: 02 Jun 2022
Format Hardback
Edition 1st
224 Pages
ISBN 9781501354519
Bloomsbury Publishing

Available to buy from Bloomsbury

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