History of field recording and sound hunting

Amateur Tape Recording, September 1959, back cover. Clarion Transitape advertisement.

Between the 1950s and the 1980s, tape recording clubs bloomed in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, and a few other countries, mainly in Europe. People gathered themselves to record, to exchange sounds, to test equipment, to train themselves in listening and sound recording. The activity of these so-called ‘sound hunters’ were supported by magazines, radio programmes, and contests (local, national, international).

A major interest in my musical work, field recording is also the subject of my PhD dissertation, that I have just finished writing at the University of York, in the History department.

My thesis studies the history of the practice of sound recording as a hobby, in France and Britain. Only a few scholars have hitherto explored this domain, with studies of sound hunting in the Netherlands, Japan, United States. I am adding France and Britain to scholarly knowledge and follows sound recording hobbyists in their clubs, radio programmes, specialised magazines, national and international contests, and via their oral histories. The thesis investigates the sound technologies used by amateurs – most notably the tape recorders; the social ties they developed; how a knowledge about sound recording and listening was formed and passed on; and the aesthetics that these so-called sound hunters developed in their works.

I am currently slowly working on this page and on the following sections, to document sound hunting on the internet. Some sections are already accessible, I plan to have the rest done in the coming months (I am writing this in March 2023). All these information are taken from my doctoral dissertation that will be available online somewhere in April. I will post it here and it will also be on the White Rose eTheses repository (the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities brought the funding for my PhD).

Field recording and sound hunting before tape recorders

Chronology of sound hunting in Europe

Tape recording magazines in France and the UK


In the mean time, you can read more on this in a paper I have written for Unlikely – Journal of Creative Arts. Title is Hunting Sounds: The Development of Sound Recording Hobbyist Culture in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. A pdf is also available here.
Another paper is available in the proceedings of the 4th International Congress on Ambiances. Title is Field Recording, Technology, and Creative Listening. It is in the second volume.