There’s a lot of wind here in Iowa. The Iowa drivers license even has a wind turbine featured prominently in the background image. Wind has the power to produce energy which means it has the power to create. As the very recent extreme weather events in Oklahoma show, it also has the power to destroy. Moving air causing moving objects creates a horrible path of destruction that one can’t even begin to imagine unless you’ve been through it.
Wind can be very strong. This morning, the wind flipped over the pen that was recently made on the farm to hold some young turkeys. Joe Lacina, co-director of Grin City Collective, and I were able to get it turned upright but it wasn’t easy. The wind continued to fight us the entire time. We eventually got it right-side-up and reinforced how it is anchored to the ground and created vents in the roof tarp so that the wind had somewhere to go in the hopes that the structure would become less sail-like. This demonstrated that wind can emphasize weakness of both design and structure.On the edge of the farm, there’s a metal shed that houses a small workshop with some loose corrugated roof panels that flap and bend when the winds are strong enough. The nails holding the panels in place are loose and the sheets of rusted metal lift and crash making a series of loud scraping, clapping, high-pitched grinding sounds in concert with the strength of the wind. I posted some sounds of this captured with contact mics in this earlier post.
Wind is not the friend of microphones. Mics record sounds by picking up vibrations, or changes in air pressure. If the air is moving, then it simply becomes a large amount of pressure hitting the microphone’s condenser. Wind on its own doesn’t make any sound. Bernie Krause describes this quite well in his book. We don’t hear the wind. Instead, we hear the results of the wind on something else. This might be grass, leaves, metal sheet roofing, natural resonance champers that make howling sounds or the wind’s affects on the condenser in a mic. The farm has been extremely windy during the day which at first was interfering with recording the birds and poultry stock that are here. It was, however, creating a few great sounds on its own. To record these sounds, I created two monaural contact mics that I could attach to different metal surfaces with magnets mounted inside the project housing. This made it possible to record the results of the wind, the vibrations of the metal sheet roofing, without recording the effects of the wind on a condenser mic.
The wind has become a defining feature of the landscape here during the residency. While getting settled into my studio space, I found that there were 2 old wind chimes crudely constructed from a series of steal pipes of varying lengths, some thin chain to suspend the elements and some basic acrylic shapes to act as both wind-responder and percussion implement. There’s something very elegant and logical about the construction of an instrument that performs the wind. It’s a responsive system that begins with an element of control through the defined material of the pipes, the lengths of which determine the pitch performed. However the structure of the performance is determined by the wind. Calm or active, the results reflect conditions occurring in the environment. It is not removed, or closed off. It is not working to separate itself from a larger natural structure. It is not too refined or all that imposing. It of course can be quite chaotic if the wind is intense or highly variable but on the whole, I find this interjection of a dynamic instrument waiting to be performed by nature quite harmonious with the space that I am encountering here during this residency.