-n 1. a noisy confused place or situation.
While exploring northwest Iowa, I found 2 wind turbines and was able to get in between them to make a recording of them both at the same time. They are two different models and made two very different sounds. Off in the distance is road construction equipment.
The project began by selecting a segment of a field recording that I made in Delhi, India on DB Gupta Rd at Delhi Station. Once selected, I was assigned 2 randomly selected Oblique Strategies. The Oblique Strategies is a methodological intervention developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the mid 1970s. The idea is that cards or selected at random from the deck and the statements on those cards are intended to inspire new approaches to making work.
The two oblique strategies I was randomly assigned where 1: Spectrum analysis and 2: Is the intonation correct? I found these two to be very interesting as both a sound artist and a graphic designer. As a designer, I’m very much interested in what sounds look like whether it be spectrograms, visualizations or listening maps. I’m also very much interested in language. I decided to try and develop a process from the two pieces of inspiration that would create the final composition using only the original recording as source material. In the end, I developed a system that used the spectrum analysis of the original recording to manipulate the intonation of the recording by altering it’s speed during playback. I first recorded a video screen capture of the spectrogram as the sound played. I then read that video into a Max patch and analyzed it in real time, using the values from the analysis to control playback of the original sound. I then routed that sound to Ableton Live for the application of some minimal effects and mastering. The final piece is created with this process and the original field recording is the only audio material used.
It’s too rainy to hike out for any more early morning naturesound recording sessions. Instead, I’m setting up in the bcsc annex garage each morning before sunrise to capture the sounds of the rain and the dawn chorus in this part of the village. I’m definitely not going to say the rain has ruined anything. In fact, it kind of sounds amazing.
The real experience is the hike up the mountain before the sun rises and the hours of listening as the forest wakes up. The added bonus is the naturesound recording for my archive. Sometimes things are going to go sideways but moments like this early morning recording session helps keep everything in perspective.
Each morning I get up before the sun to hike out and record the sounds of the forest as it comes to life. Each morning the performance is different. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience Australia’s Alpine National Park in this way. This is me on the morning of New Year’s Day. My hike around the mountain started at 4:30 am and the place I found to record did not disappoint. It was a great way to start what I feel is going to be a great new year.
The O’Hare Urban Garden is built from recycled and reused material such as structural steel, water proofing membranes, security doors, airport furniture and electrical panels.
Photo by Rick Braidwood
I had a chance to watch a group of Tibetan Monks making a sand mandala in the Drake University library in Des Moines, IA. This recording was made at 4pm on Friday, September 13th just a couple hours before the mandala would be finished and then ultimately destroyed.
The temporary nature of the work and the soundscape created from the process made for an experience that was quite powerful. It reinforced the importance of appreciating the moment. It drew my attention first through the work itself, then the amount of effort going into it, and finally as I appreciate the sound of the process and the detail of the image being created I am suddenly struck by the brief mortality of the thing itself. The internal reflection that followed feels obvious [insert statement about aging and how it requires some coming to terms with my own mortality].
The temporary and fleeting nature of the work has many connections to sound, performance and the nature of listening. The sound exists over time, and only in time. Unlike the moving image, when you freeze frame on a sound, there’s nothing. Time is required for sound to exist therefore there is no stationary. Everything about sound is fleeting, moving. We have memory. Technologically extrapolate that and we have recording devices. These can recall or replay things that have happened but again, time is required to experience them. In all of this is also why I have no issue with recording and documenting the sounds of the process. As an audio bookmark I find much value in how sounds like this help me recall larger themes and thoughts form the experience in which they are recorded. The recording and the memory exists at these two levels – the actual and the triggered.
Bernie Krause writes in his book about this idea that each individual has their own set of totem sounds. These are sounds that a person is somehow deeply connected to for what might be unexplainable reasons.
Based on my ever growing interest in filed recording and assembling audio compositions from these recordings, my totem sounds are those that I discover or continue to return to with renewed fascination, intrigue and an unexplainable attraction.
I’ve always enjoyed building fires. It doesn’t mater if it’s in a backyard fire bowl for chilling after a cookout, a campfire to use for cooking or a spectacle to enjoy as the sun goes down. In Boy Scouts it was one of the things that I could do really well. A regular challenge was to start a fire with wet wood and a single match using only the dry tinder that you packed in. No liquid fire starting fuel allowed (A rule I abide by to this day). I built up some pretty good skills. Recently, I’ve been able to put these skills to good use again through a series of bonfires and campouts around Iowa. It started in Grinnell, IA during my artist residency at Grin City. Each week they have a potluck. Weather permitting and participants so inclined, this regularly transitions to a bonfire. The first one I was there for, I jumped in to help and was quickly handed fire duty. I really like it. I’ve always loved how it looked but it wasn’t until these Grin City bonfires along with a recent camping adventure with Mrs Formalplay that I realized just how much I also love the sound. There were so many textures, so many clicks and hisses, and a subtle roar that still wasn’t enough to mask the birds in the distance.
It’s that thing were you can’t help but stare into the fire. The colors, the light, the warmth and the sound. It all harkens back to something much older than any of our conscious memories. It connects to a world we are now entirely removed from. The energy. The power. The ability to change – positive and negative (and even positive from a negative like natural forest fires). When thinking of totem sounds, I feel a strong connection to fire from my youth as I developed into an adult, partially from the process of earning the Eagle Scout award. I am also filled with a sense of wonder at all of the things that have and still come from fire.
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.
All content ©2014 Alex Braidwood unless otherwise stated.
- mysterious hum
- sonic fiction