Berlinspiration: Students & Team Share Their Favourite Field Recording Spots

Catalyst Berlin music field recording trip at Teufelsberg Berlin

This super creative music production technique is integral to the work of many of our students and tutors. We ask them to share their favourite field recording spots in Berlin.

Have you ever listened to complete silence? No engines, no birds, no breeze rattling through leaves, no neighbour’s elephant feet, nothing. Not likely. I mean, sit in absolute silence for long enough and you’d probably start to feel insane. Because, unless you’re locked in a soundproof laboratory, sound is everywhere, whether or not your brain is tuning in.

For aural adventurers, life can be like an everlasting game of Pokémon Go, with an infinite wealth of rhythms, textures and melodies to be caught at every turn. Field recordings can be a sonic postcard, capturing the atmosphere of a place or the feeling of a time. They can be as spontaneous as a child’s tapped rhythm on an arcade machine, or the opposite: a location that never fails to deliver amazing acoustics. A single sound speaks a different volume to everyone.

When it comes to music production, field recording is not to be underestimated. Actively encouraged as part of the Catalyst Music curriculum, the technique is integral to the work of many of our students and tutors. So much, in fact, that we just had to probe them for their favourite locations. Where are the best places in Berlin to make field recordings? Here’s what they had to say.

1. Rummelsburger Bucht

Electronic Music Production & Performance student Kevin Davies

Rummelsburger Bucht, Berlin by Dominic Blewett

“I like Rummelsburger See/Rummelsburger Bucht. It’s a semi-abandoned area around a sort of weird island in the Spree. Because it’s a lake, there’s lots of stuff you can do with water. Plus, there’s a lot of old bits of trash as well as some decaying buildings – but it’s really quiet so you don’t get any background noise. If you go a bit further round, too, there’s a massive building site, so if you want those pneumatic drone noises it’s perfect!”

Listen to Kevin’s 2018 track ‘Where’s the Acid?’ here.

2. Teufelsberg

Admissions lead Sylvia Gozdek

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“The field recordings our students have captured around Teufelsberg made the long journey out there worth it! If you’ve ever been to the derelict tower that once was a listening station for the NSA, and you had the nerve to climb the dark and numerous steps, then you might remember the incredible acoustic space that is at the top. It’s almost as if you hear your voice reverb off the walls before you hear yourself speaking. Super special.”

3. Hauptbahnhof central station

Creative Music Production MA student Pablo Disirens, aka Ōtone

Hauptbahnhof Berlin central station by Dominic Blewett

“Berlin’s various environments make it a wonderful city for field recording. Here’s a little list of my favourite recording spots: Any construction site and any ruin (and there’s plenty!); Daniel Libeskind’s spaces at the Jewish Museum; Berghain‘s no man’s land (in winter it’s the perfect spot for wind and ice recordings); Funkhaus Berlin‘s junkyard; Tempelhof and its crows; Teufelsberg’s dome; Hauptbahnof station.”

Click here to read about to Pablo’s 2018 EP.

4. Grunewald forest

Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering student Roz Yuen

Grunewald Forest, Berlin by Dominic Blewett

“A friend and I recorded some impulse responses and ambient sounds in the Grunewald Forest and at the Teufelsberg spy station. These field recordings are my current favourites.”

Read our interview with Roz here.

5. Anywhere!

Electronic Music Production & Performance tutor Stefan Knuathe

Neukoelln street garden by Dominic Blewett

“If you look at my SoundCloud, you will see that I have made a lot of field recordings in the past. In the past years (not so much recently) I made recordings from all the places I visited, mostly for two purposes. Either as some kind of an acoustic photo of that spot, or to feed my personal sound library with sounds that later end up in a sample bank or a granular synthesizer or any other sound design machine. It could be anything: rhythmical, tonal, whatever. Steps on gravel can make a nice percussion loop, a sound of a wasp can end up as a pad layer with a synth – anything goes. In our programme, we motivate our students to go a similar route because you end up with very personal sounds that help you define your own artistic language.”

Read Stefan’s tips for getting inspired when producing music here.

For more Berlinspiration, read our ultimate guide to our students’ top five Berlin areas.

Photos (except Teufelsberg cover image) by Dominic Blewett Photography.