Eco-Acoustic Recordings / Research

My interest in field recordings stems, first and foremost, from a love of the outdoors, a life spent in pursuit of wild places untouched by human civilization.   Difficult to find.   I did NOLS, became an Eagle scout, and tramped across numerous wild places in search of the sound of "silence."    

But I found that silence does not actually exist.   Rather, once you remove yourself from the familiar industrial hums, the sounds of nature swell in one's ears like a non-pitched, multi-phonic, arrhythmic and yet gently pulsing symphony.   The sounds already surrounding us are music, if we can adjust our mindset sufficiently.   

Being a child of the city, I often use technology to mediate the experience.   Putting up a microphone, recording the sound of the air, the water, sonic disruptions -- now I can truly hear.   The familiar background hum is put under a microscope and the smallest details become meditations of humanity, nature, technology, and the wondrous symphony that surrounds us, if only we had ears to hear.   Etc, etc.

Once I've found a sound worth keeping, I may layer it, filter it, or use it as inspiration for something which, on the surface, seems unrelated.   An approach that is of particular interest is called a "translational" approach.   Meaning, you use a spectrograph of a natural sound, impose it on a staff of music paper, and, voila, you've written a piece.   Or you find the natural rhythms in the environment and add your own bits to it.  

In 2013, I spent several weeks traveling in Alaska, working as assistant to Dr. Matthew Burtner's EcoSono Institute, helping folks record sounds out in nature.   We used hypdrophones to record the sound of 10,000 year old air escaping from glaciers (glaciers melting), the tundra's crazy crunch under our feet, massive wildlife, and more.   While staying in a cabin out in the Chugach Mountains, our cabin shook mightily -- an earthquake.   We laughed and drank more whiskey.

One of my field recording experiments involved walking across the tundra in time with a metronome.   The crunching sound underfoot was acoustically rich.   I walked in time with 24 different metronomes, each a bit off from each other.   Some I walked at 120 bpm, except walking in 5/8 time.   And so forth.  For some of the takes I tapped sticks or splashed through a creek.  Whatever I was doing, I did it in strict time with the metronome.  

When I took all these recordings and lined them up later, I had an acoustically rich polyrhythmic sound collage of myself stomping around the Alaskan tundra.   I subsequently turned this into an 8-channel work which premiered at Mills College.   A stereo mix-down of the piece, entitled "Cabin Mix," was included on my "Diamond Eyepatch" cassette release.