David de la Haye

Spotlight Interview

We caught up with field recordist, bassist and sonic explorer David de la Haye to better understand his pioneering journey into creative arts practice and research. David’s current work explores “water conservation efforts through the immersive nature of ambisonic recording and diffusion.” David is a champion of the role of technicians within the Creative Industries and has worked as a professional musician and live sound engineer since 2004. 

You’re working as an artist, technician and researcher at the moment, but how do you identify? 

I think of myself as someone who works with sound in its many guises. I’ve been touring around the world since I graduated with a Masters in Glitch Music and Aesthetics of Failure in Digital Composition back in 2004. I now find myself sitting awkwardly between artistic practice and creative research.   

Was it difficult to break into research as a technician? 

Through my role as part of the technical team in School of Arts and Cultures I started to engage more closely with both student and academic research. But I was hitting a lot of barriers conducting my own as many funding opportunities weren’t available to me, which was really frustrating. I’ve supported a lot of research projects from a technical standpoint, from local live events to national installations. Technicians should have access to development opportunities. I’m now a Vision and Strategy Ambassador for the HASS faculty working to improve research opportunities for arts and creative technicians. A big turning point for me was being the first technician to receive a Pioneer Award from the Institute for Creative Arts Practice and I hope this will encourage other technicians to apply in future. 

It’s brilliant you’ve been able to make that sort of impact and open doors for other creative technicians. What does the life cycle of a research project look like to you? 

That’s a good question! I usually start with a fairly abstract idea, for example, a recent commission for Land Lines Project began by wondering how we can change our perspective to uncover and relate to freshwater sounds; I became obsessed with the topic! There are so many sounds in ponds and rivers that we’re not aware of - you don’t need to go to the other side of the world to hear them. Once you have the abstract idea you have to come up with a ‘voice’ through which to present it. The Land Lines project presented sounds in a pure format, without too much modification, to keep them relatable. The overall goal is to bring those hidden worlds to people so they can be more informed about the ecosystem we kind of share with even the smallest little bugs. I hope the materials encourage and interest people in the preservation of our ecosystems. 

It sounds like such an important project, that wonder and creativity is something I’d love to harness in my own work. What sort of tools do you use to collect sound? 

I’ve experimented with various techniques but have settled on a basic setup that revolves around two hydrophones and an ambisonic mic, which is a type of surround-sound microphone. The hydrophones are specifically for picking up sounds underwater. I prefer to record with two, in stereo - we have two ears after all! Listening back gives a better sound-stage. Like many things, it all came from trial and error. If I’m just heading out though I’ll grab a single hydrophone and mini recorder you can chuck in your pocket. 

I’ve always been incredibly curious and shift between a lot of interests to find connections. But it’s always related to sound or listening or music. My favourite recording was taken at the start of lockdown when myself and my son woke up really early, just before dawn. I took him out and grabbed my little recorder so we could listen to the birds singing. It’s the most innocent sound, somebody in complete awe at the sounds of nature, his first-ever dawn chorus. Ethan recently won ‘Best Listener’ in the global Sound of the Year awards for this piece. Invoking that excitement and awe is the ultimate goal. 

Find out more about David’s pioneer award project funded by the Institute for Creative Arts Practice here

You can find more about David de la Haye’s work on his website here

Get in touch directly at David.De-La.Haye@newcastle.ac.uk.