Published: 26th January 2021
Take a leaf out of the book of this 27-year-old field recordist and pay attention to the sounds around you
Suraj Samal is all about sound, whether it's recording, editing or mixing it. We lend him our ears so that he can tell us about his journey of how he found his calling as a field recordist
Before we could launch into the long list of questions we had for field recordist, sound designer and editor Suraj Samal, he asked if we could do a simple exercise. "Just tell me what you hear apart from my voice," the 27-year-old asked. Blaring traffic were the first words out of our mouth. "Okay, close your eyes and tell me what you hear now." He asked us to observe the frequency of the vehicles, if they were receding or approaching, if the horns were of a car, a bike or another automobile entirely. And indeed, even in the din of urban noises, the youngster proved that there is much to be interpreted from the sounds around us. Also, how often we chose to ignore it.
He is an active contributor to The Touch of Sound. For more of his contributions, check out thetouchofsound.com/contributors/suraj-samal
Suraj was born in a family of musicians but it was sound that interested him. And the youngster knew that this is the field he needs to pursue when in 2009, he saw Resul Pookutty receiving an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing. That's what led him to pursue Filmmaking with a specialisation in Sound Engineering from Biju Pattanaik Film and Television Institute, Cuttack. And look at the accolades he is amassing now. Not only has he worked for an indie film — Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea — that won the state award, but last year, he was recognised by The Touch of Sound — a portal that encourages people to record authentic sounds from around the world — for capturing the authentic sound of the mating call of Indian bullfrog. So we burrow into the mind of this field recordist to understand the art of listening.
While recording | (Pic: Suraj Samal)
If we had to introduce Suraj by just saying one thing it would be that, unlike the rest of us, who take pictures while experiencing anything new, this youngster records it on his humble and basic recording device Zoom H6. "Picture is a visual representation and pretty straightforward, but sound, I believe, works in a subconscious manner," says the Rourkela-born. To illustrate this point, he asks us to imagine a picture of a cup being placed on a table. But when we have to imagine the sound, several questions pop into our head — is the cup made of steel or glass? Is the table made of wood? Is there a saucer involved? That's the power of interpretation and imagination that sounds offer. Point well made, Suraj!
He was the Sync Sound Recordist and Sound Editor for the indie movie A Dog and His Man, which received a standing ovation at the International Film Festival of India, Goa
This sound recordist has also worked for various commercial ad films and professionally, he works as a Sound Designer for an EdTech platform in Bengaluru. But it was in his hometown of Rourkela, a day when it was relentlessly raining, that he recorded the mating call of the Indian bullfrog. "They were croaking and suddenly, there was a change in their tone. It was so much more rhythmic. And that was the precious sound I recorded while standing under an umbrella for over half an hour," says the keen listener. He even participated in the International Dawn Chorus Day 2020's The Ambient Isolation Project for which sound engineers were encouraged to record sounds that they heard around them. "It was the lockdown period and I could record the authentic sounds of Bengaluru," he says happily. His recording ended up being a part of a 30-minute record of sounds from around the world!
"All I want to say is that we collectively need to pay attention to the sounds around us because it affects us subconsciously," says Suraj and concludes.
At the studio | (Pic: Suraj Samal)
How can we listen more?
- By shutting our eyes and paying attention to the sounds around us
- Understanding the most common-day sounds and where they come from
- Knowing that it affects us mentally, like idle chatter while working is frustrating
- Tuning in and out of what is important and not important, respectively
For more on him check out instagram.com/suraj_samal_