Guy Fleisher makes music so subtle most people won't even realize it's there. He creates ambient tracks and soundscapes out of field recordings from places like eucalyptus forests, market squares, lake districts and dance studios. Guy spends days researching and recording each of his short clips - but strangely enough, nothing makes him happier than being told his music went completely undetected.
Sounds you can practically see
Check out Guy Fleisher's Artlist profile, and you'll find dozens of ambient tracks just ready to be spliced over film. The magic of what Guy does lies in the versatility - filmmakers can use his recordings to add context to a wide variety of settings, regardless of location, so although Guy's skills are niche, they're in very high demand.
Guy can't quite pinpoint the moment he became interested in sound, but he's always felt it's the most all-encompassing art form out there. "I can relate any kind of art medium back to sound," Guy says, speaking from his apartment in the city of Porto, Portugal. "It's more than immersive. Sometimes I can actually see it."
Born and raised in a moshav just outside Tel Aviv, Guy grew up playing metal and punk rock and went on to study music production at Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. That's where he became interested in the avant-garde side of music. He spent his early twenties working as a sound engineer and playing and recording drums in multiple bands. But everything changed in 2017 when he got accepted into Goldsmiths, a left-field art school based in London. The school is well-known for its radical output and unorthodox teaching methods, and there Guy was able to explore his parameters as a sound artist and break down barriers within the art form.
"I just started obsessing over making field recordings, sampling everything. It's a rabbit hole."
"Throughout my studies, I did a lot of research into the perception of sound," Guy says. "And that included a lot of cognitive psychology studies which sort of seeped into my work." This is why Guy is so delighted when viewers don't even register his music in films - it means he's created an atmosphere and shared information directly with their subconscious.
"The perception of sound as music is voluntary," Guy says. "So I explored pitch and rhythm perception, and stretched that into ethnomusicology and how we perceive music that is not formalized western music." Guy's research drew him further into the world of sound design and ambiance, and he attended one workshop by environmentalist and composer R. Murray Shaffer which continues to influence him today. "I just started obsessing over making field recordings, sampling everything. It's a rabbit hole."
“[Partnering with Artlist] really expanded me as an artist because I'd have to find the middle ground between what they're looking for and what interests me."
Guy's sound art has been showcased all around the world. He spent the last 2 years in Africa, working on art projects and exhibitions with local human rights activists along with his photographer partner. This is where his passion for field recordings unfolded, as he had access to some of the world's most stimulating, colorful and exotic environments. Guy had no plan when he began recording his trips into the jungles and deserts of Africa. He simply enjoyed documenting what he could hear, just as photographers document what they can see. Guy didn't expect anything to come from it, but when he posted one of his field recordings on Facebook in 2019, he received a message from an old friend who works at Artlist.
"He asked if I want to make some sound effects of environmental ambiance and soundscapes," Guy says. "It completely blew me away because I was just recording these sounds for my own research." Just like that, Guy's soundscapes had found a home. His partnership with Artlist pushed him further into the world of field recordings - before, he was just doing it for himself, but now, he works to a brief. "It really expanded me as an artist because I'd have to find the middle ground between what they're looking for and what interests me."
Ambiance sounds of Portugal, including churches, train stations, forest, farmlands
and bus ride SFX, all recorded in 3D stereo technique
An excellent example of his process is the track titled Porto Lapa Church. Artlist sent him a brief, and he wandered around Porto trying to find sounds that fit the bill. "I stumbled across this monumental church, which had very unique and specific acoustic properties." Guy later found out the church had burned to the ground, and the interior had been replaced with concrete, specifically to create a unique ambiance inside. It was as if the place was made for him to find. After finalizing the brief with Artlist, Guy set up his Zoom recorders all around the church and waited for a quiet time, free of mass or preachers, to record the ambiance. The result is the day-to-day hushed chatter and muffled footsteps of the local population.
"My music is mainly used in videos by creators," Guy says. "Like 80% of the products that I create end up as audiovisual." Guy aims to include information in his audio packs so subtly that the viewer understands the context without realizing how they came to that understanding.
The binaural recording method particularly interests Guy. This method replicates how we hear sound in real life, captured using multiple microphones pointed in different directions to create a 3D sound experience. Listen to a binaural recording of a jazz band through your headphones, and you'll experience the saxophone coming from one direction and the drums from another, just as you would in real life.
"There's a bunch of different ways of capturing binaural recordings and a bunch of techniques," Guy says. "I've tried many, but I find the best way is to use multiple microphones." In order to record the ambiance of someone doing the dishes in a kitchen, for example, Guy will place multiple microphones around the space and splice them together in post-production using Ableton Live. Some projects are more challenging than others - like when he had to capture the sound of wind for his binaural desert recording pack. "Recording wind is a pain in the ass," he says. "So for that, I used 5 different microphones - 2 for the binaural technique and 2 to capture the directional sound of the wind."
Binaural desert sounds, including bushes, flies, birds and canyon ambiance sound effects
You'd think Guy would want people to notice how much time he puts into each recording, but he loves making his hard work sound natural. "It's more magical this way," Guy says. "You need to know how to work with the equipment and the cognitive psychology aspects and the philosophical aspects and how that relates back to psychoacoustics." He laughs at himself. "I'm a huge geek. I geek out on these things."
Guy says his partnership with Artlist has enlarged and expanded his practice and helped him formalize his art. "It's very satisfying for the professional side of what I do to be acknowledged and that I found a partner for something so out there." And it means the world to Guy as an artist that his ultra-niche passion has found a home.
If you'd like to use Guy Fleisher's field recordings in your project, check out his page on Artlist.
Alice Austin is a freelance writer from London. She writes for Mixmag, Beatportal, Huck, Dummy, Electronic Beats, Red Bulletin and more. She likes to explore youth and sub-culture through the lens of music, a vocation that has led her around the world. You can contact and/or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.