In 2009, Composer, performer, improviser, recordist and instrument builder Cheryl Leonard travelled to Palmer Station, Antarctica in search of sounds and music. She returned with a wealth of recordings, stories, and materials for building musical instruments. Cheryl shared her work at BASEbot on Feb 21, 2010.
In her own words, Cheryl “creates experimental music using amplified natural objects as instruments.” If you want to get the drift, just imagine improvising a windswept landscape using a penguin bone screwed to driftwood, a contact mic, and a loop of light cotton rope . Or bowed limpet shells. Or evoking a flow of brash ice with resonant stones worn smooth by century after century of nesting penguins.
I encourage you to check out Cheryl’s Antarctic Trip Blog. She’s a fantastic storyteller, and there are a lot of great photos. Being a blog, the first page is the most recent, meaning it’s about the gigs after the trip rather than the trip. So you might start with the First post and work your way forward.
Gordon Hempton requires no introduction for many in the recording world – his recording work speaks for itself, and he’s been at it for a long time. He’s got a book out on natural quiet and his journey of advocacy, co-written with John Grossman. It’s called One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World. More info at onesquareinch.org/book
Gordon discusses the sounds of his back yard, and his journey toward becoming a natural quiet advocate.
@ 7:38 – recording: Coyote duet recording from Gordon’s back yard
@ 10:03 – on John Muir
@ 12:31 – Human noise intrusions into the story of the book coming to be
@ 17:30 – Establishment of One Square Inch (OSI) and effects
@ 20:57 – recording: 24-hours of Dawn Chorus compressed into One Minute
@ 25:22 – John Muir as a sound recordist (in text). History of Muir and Hempton
@ 28:18 – recordings: Waters of the Muir world
@ 30:10 – recordings: Three waterfalls of Yosemite
At about 34 minutes a discussion ensues, topics including John Muir, hydrophones, the human-listening perspective, Ann Kroeber on the sound of space (and contact mics), the acoustics of Gordon’s backyard, binaural equipment, recording as a listening practice.
@ 51:57 – Finding good locations to record in nature. Being still.
@ 2:00:21 – Not being eaten by the wildlife. Noise and legislation. Mark Twain and Mississippi songbirds.
@ 2:07:56 – recording: an amazing Sage Grouse recording.
@ 2:10:23 – recording: Dawn on the Mississippi River – a beautiful tour through the first minutes of the dawn chorus as the birds organize themselves acoustically.
Here’s the setup: Jim is sitting in the center of Dan Dugan’s control panel, with Pro Tools behind him and faders for a quadrophonic monitoring system. On and off, he talks and plays sounds which he’s gathered for the occasion. About twenty people sit, listen and discuss.
We start with sounds from an exhibit installation about hybrid California cultures titled Trading Traditions. Over the course of an hour and a quarter, we hear among other things Foghorns, quad recordings from San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, a Thanksgiving dinner, and evocative insects and frogs.
Later James talks about upcoming projects, including a documentary he’s mixing on the staging of the opera Doctor Atomic. There’s a discussion of the sound of air itself clipping. At around 68 minutes, we go around an mention favorite sounds.
On a technical note: It was a hot evening in San Francisco and we had a fan running during the presentation. Traffic can be heard going by the open doorwas going by, and a band down the street was practicing. This recording documents that soundscape. Where possible I’ve crossfaded from the room mic to a clean recording of the sounds.
Last August, Jonny Farrow, Ned Mooney and Andrea Polli of our New York-based sister organization New York Society for Acoustic Ecology (NYSAE)  were visiting San Francisco. We had a meet up and mind-meld, out of which came an idea: Could BASE produce a two-hour show for Giant Ear))), NYSAE’s monthly radio program on free103point9.org ?
The theme of our show was very clear from the start: we would focus on the sounds of the place where we live, the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We live in an area full of clear soundmarks and vast contrasts juxtaposed. The Bay shores of Alcatraz Island, the swells of the Pacific on Ocean Beach, the wharves and marinas; the grit and tourist-charm of Chinatown, the ice cream carts and taquerias of the Mission, the sound exhibits of the Exploratorium, the windmill fields of Livermore and Pleasanton. Group social sounds of public ceremony, celebration, protest and everyday life. And closer times like a Mah-Jong game, a family dinner, and the last notes of a funeral dirge. The sounds of getting around, footsteps, subways, cable cars and of course – like everywhere – trucks, cars and planes.
To realize this idea, we called on members of our community to send us their sounds. And we scoured our own libraries for favorite material.
About 45 minutes of our show (from 0:03:34 to 0:53:23) was performed by Jeremiah Moore and Aaron Ximm live on-the-air on Pirate Cat Radio . Thanks to DJ Yuri G for having us on – check out his show Psionic Dehiscence.
In keeping with the “Imagined” part of our concept, in several places we played composed works in their entirety. At 1:18:38 “Sweeper” by Jeremiah Moore, at 1:35:24 “Maritime Suite: Port” and at 1:46:37 “Maritime Suite: Starboard” both by Aaron Ximm.
And so, it’s with great pleasure that I present our program.
Chris Watson [chriswatson.net] – Three perspectives on windmills near Livermore, CA
Claire Schoen [claireschoenmedia.com] – Two episodes of her radio series Earthtones, on Elephant Seals of Point Año Nuevo and on the Wave Organ
Dan Dugan [dandugan.com] – “May 22, 5:29 AM, West Road of Alcatraz Island. Roost of herons and egrets. Also Western gull, white-crowned sparrow, others.”
David Silberberg [d4doc.com] -Berkeley Traffic, UC Berkeley Campus ambience, Cordonices Creek Berkeley CA.
James Goode – “Belt_Railroad_Tarp” is a field recording made on June 22nd, 2008 near the entrance to Heron’s Head Park. A black and yellow San Francisco Belt Railway diesel locomotive, covered in plastic tarpaulin ripped to shreds in some places, sat idle amongst chest-high weeds and pillaged tracks. I placed a stereo microphone in a
Jeremiah Moore [jeremiahmoore.com] – Various field recordings; composed work “Sweeper” exploring harmonic structure of mechanical street sweeper
Jim McKee [earwaxproductions.com] – Recordings of Doyle Drive, Aquatic Park, Green Street Mortuary Band, and Tuvan sound check at Grace Cathedral
Joseph Lawrence – Saratoga Rain “Recorded a couple days before Christmas in Saratoga right after a lot of rain had fallen…the sound of water falling about 10 feet through a typical sheet metal drain pipe and hitting the angle at the bottom, flowing out onto the ground. Plus a little bit of light rain in the background.”
Robert Beahrs – Chinatown to the Embarcadero soundwalk “I recorded this soundwalk on May 5th, 2008 with binaural microphones, ducking into shops here and there while generally walking down California Street. Listen for the juxtaposition of musical worlds, languages, street sounds, as well as the California line cable car that passes by me. It is chronological, and, besides a few splices, unprocessed.”
An hour-long lecture in two parts from field recordist Chris Watson. Part One defines a personal ontology for recordings, dividing sounds into (sometimes metaphorical) ‘atmospheres,’ ‘habitats,’ and ‘featured species,’ and describes several favorite techniques Chris has used to make those different kinds of recordings. Part Two features an in-depth account of recent work with four-channel surround sound hydrophone recording, both in the open water and buried in shallow sand or mud. Both sections are richly illustrated with favorite old and new and unreleased recordings, in both stereo and four-channel surround. (The presentation was recorded in Stereo, via a single point stereo mic in the room.
A video and multichannel sound installation about the forgotten history of Chinese shrimp fishing around San Francisco Bay. A project by Rene Yung in collaboration with Jeremiah Moore (Sound) and Chihiro Wimbush (Video). Semi-abstract filmed images from the Grace Quan sailings (short video about) to former Chinese shrimping camp sites and fishing grounds are projected […]
Listen Toward the Ground (Albuquerque) for ISEA2012 – Video Documentation from Jeremiah Moore on Vimeo. This video documents sound artwork "Listen Toward the Ground" by Jeremiah Moore, which was exhibited at 516Arts as part of ISEA2012 Machine Wilderness. Listen Toward the Ground is a site-specific composed soundscape work, designed for listening to while walking. Using […]
Save the Tank In the gray dirt hills of northwestern Colorado lies a world-class acoustic space known as the Tank, where musicians have been recording and listening since the 1970s. It’s now in danger of being sold for scrap. Myself and a team of sound artists and musicians are raising funds via Kickstarter to save […]