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Hudson River fishermen heading out at dawn, Peter Lourie, 1998
Hudson River fishermen heading out at dawn, Peter Lourie, 1998

Last February 2020, I visited the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary Trail in the Hudson River to make some field recordings of the environment surrounding the brackish tidal marsh. The Constitution Marsh is one of five large estuarine environments connected to the Hudson River and provides natural habit to several species of birds, fish, plants, and many vertebrate and invertebrate species. This wetland area is located on the east side of the Hudson, near Cold Spring, and is surrounded by the Hudson Highlands.

The soundscape above was recorded on a small hill overlooking the tidal marsh. It was a very windy day, so I sheltered the microphone between the rocky steps of the trail. The resulting recording captures the sounds of branches and dry leaves rustling in the wind, bird calls, and the sound of the Amtrak train on the distance with its characteristic horn. The marsh provides foraging, nesting, and resting habitat to more than 200 species of birds. However, this New York State Bird Conservation Area is still subject to a large conglomeration of human-made noises like the train and low flying airplanes.

Hiking trail at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary Photo Jessica Andreone.jpg

Inside a hollow tree, 2’14”. Feb 2020, download

The more pervasive sound in the area is the constant sound of airplanes. I tried to record the sound of a passing aircraft through the vibrating trunk of a tree by placing a microphone inside of a hollow tree. The airplane’s sound reverberating on the wooden walls resulted in an eerie drone sound.

Reeds, Water and Wind, 2’08”. Feb 2020, download

Phragmites australis, the common reed, is a non-native marsh plant spreading in many of the Hudson River wetlands. This plant forms fast-growing stands of stems, transforming the diversity of the habitat into a monoculture by crowding out native vegetation. Reeds introduce changes to the local microtopography, increase fire potential, decrease salinity, and outcompete plants. These changes have a ripple effect that ends up degrading the diversity of wetlands and coastal marshes and endangering wildlife. The Constitution Marsh Audubon Center dedicates its conservation efforts to the control and management of reeds in the area by using black geotextile material to flatten and cover patches of the vegetation. This method raises the temperature of the soil, killing the root system of the plant, allowing for the future growth of native vegetation.

Small brook flowing into the tidal marsh, Hudon River, 2’08”. Feb 2020, download

Carlo Patrão
*photos by the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center

Hudson River map

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The February edition of The Wire magazine (issue 432) features the chart Waterfall as Metronome, composed of works inspired by the sight and sound of waterfalls including field recordings, on-site improvisation, sound installations, white noise, ethnographic work, and new-age interpretations of water, flow and the effects of negative ions. While putting together this list, I imagined a speculative history of music where compositions were not driven by metronome’s mechanical account of time, but by the continuous atemporal flow of a waterfall.

Waterfall as Metronome 15

Sarah HenniesGather (Category of manifestation)

Daniel Menche – Raw Fall (The Tapeworm)

Hafdis Bjarnadottir – North (Gruenrekorder)

Bill Fontana – Vertical Water (Whitney Museum)  

Peter Ablinger – Weiss / Weisslich 7b (Peter Ablinger)

Olivia Wyatt – The Pierced Heart and The Machete (Sublime Frequencies) 

Carlos Niño – Delightfulllll / Waterfall (feat. Iasos) (Leaving Records)

Francisco López – Tawhirimatea (No label)  

John Butcher- Close by, a waterfall (Confront)  

Annea LockwoodEnglewood Brook Falls, Palisades (Lovely)

Herman de Vries – Thema 1: bach (Artists Press Bern)

Micheal Pisaro – Still Life with Cicadas, Waterfall and Radu (Gravity Wave)

Ulahi and Eyo:bo – Sing At A Waterfall (Folkways) 

Paul Lloyd WarnerKipahulu Falls (MPI)

Steven FeldFlow like a Waterfall: The Metaphors of Kaluli Musical Theory (Yearbook for Traditional Music)

Voices of the Rainforest: A day in the life of Bosavi (2019), directed and produced by Steven Feld
Peter Ablinger at the Waterfalls of Krimml, Austria, recording Weiss/Weisslich 33, 1999

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Last April 2019, Sounding Out! published the two-part article, “On the poetics of balloon music,” exploring sound, listening, and the atmosphere through the object of the balloon. The first part focuses on late 18th-century balloon travels and the descriptions of silence in the upper air that constituted a staple of Victorian balloon memoirs and literature of the time. Ascending above the noise of the industrialized city, the first balloonists were constructing a sonic identity rooted in the privilege of buoyancy and constructs of the sublime, harmony, and silence that excluded other ways of sounding.

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The sight of boundless space and the quietude of the higher regions of the atmosphere inspired colonial narratives of territorial expansion. Sounds produced outside this imperialist worldview were perceived as invasion, contamination, and noise. By establishing an early connection between the exploration of the atmosphere and a listening ear based on elitism, race, and class the article goes on to analyze some contemporary sound-art practices that use balloons to explore the atmosphere and that take on the challenge of creating a more inclusive relationship with the medium of air.

 

https://soundstudiesblog.com/2019/04/15/on-the-poetics-of-balloon-music-sounding-air-body-and-latex/

Against Levity: Experimental Music and the Latex Balloon

Part 2 of this article features an interview with composer and sound artist Judy Dunaway, who has been developing sculptural sonic performances with balloons for over 25 years. Dunaway’s work with the balloon as a sound producer has been the exclusive focus of several records (e.g., Balloon Music,  Mother of Balloon Music), scores, sound sculptures, solo performances, ensembles, and installations. In this interview, Judy Dunaway talks about how her balloon compositions are in active dialogue with questions relating to feminism, body/mind, ecology, civil rights, memory, and the overall creation of musical expression and lexicon that lives outside a classical heritage.

E2DA1972-C469-4AFA-B824-400EDF5E95DDAs Dunaway points out, the balloon as a musical instrument bypasses dominant hierarchies of music production, leveling the access to experimentation and sonic textures that are restricted by expensive electronic technology. Besides democratizing sound, the latex balloon functions as a resonant chamber, offering an embodied and inclusive mode of listening through the vibration of its membranes. This object duality of sounding and sensing opens up room for what the scholar Steph Ceraso calls a multi-modal listening that plays with the body, affect, behavior, design, space, and aesthetics.

“From my earliest work with balloons as musical instruments, I instinctively knew that I must limit myself to the balloon and my body.  This required that the balloon function not only as a musical appendage by which I may transmit sound, but also one that transmitted vibrations back to me through its sensitive body. (…)” Judy Dunaway, The Balloon Music Manifesto

Sounding Out! articles:

On the poetics of balloon music: Sounding Air, Body and Latex (Part 1)

On the poetics of balloon music: Sound Artist Judy Dunaway (Part 2)

*Brief review of these articles on the polish magazine Glissando: http://glissando.pl/aktualnosci/prasowka-29-04/

Carlo Patrão

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Zepelim, Charles Amirkhanian

This piece was produced for BBT Sun Radio and aired on Rádio Universidade de Coimbra (RUC) on July 6th, 2018. BBT Sun Radio is a radiophonic space dedicated to freeform radio and a celebration of our beloved friends and radio colleagues José Braga, Bruno Simões and João Terêncio. This hour is a travel-log of old and new interviews, radio cut-ups, collages and excursions on themes like deep time, sound, ecology, lucid dreaming, etc. Thanks to André Quaresma and Tiago André for the invitation and for curating this show.

Collage 2

Ruc

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