The Esoteric Soundscapes Project; Part One

In an attempt to document my liking for field recordings and found sound, and as a way to write more about released field work by some of my favourite artists, I've decided to introduce this monthly featurette to the Scrapyard Forecast. It will consist of a recording done by myself out in the field somewhere in the Greater Vancouver Area accompanied by pictures and audio. To conclude each post I will juxtapose a track by another artist who's recording shares at least one similar characteristic to my own. Therefore, my piece acts as sort of a gateway into their sound world. This is also a way for me to hunt out and explore the untouched corners of Vancouver's tucked away neighbourhoods and back alleys and will enable me to document all the amazing sounds that this city has to offer; sounds that seem to easily fall into the background of most people's conscious minds... and I'm bound to find some scrapyard gems along the way.

The Esoteric Soundscapes Project: Undulating Current 25.02.09

At the intersection of Quebec Street and Union there is an electrical power grid that takes up half a square city block. These grids are always an epicenter for sonic activity, as the current flows, so does the drone. Unfortunately it's impossible to get really close to the equipment because most of these places are securely sealed off from the public for obvious reasons. I definitely wouldn't want to get too close to all that wattage. Sometimes though, you can get close enough so that the sound spewing from the grid overpowers all the other sounds in the area. This is also known as 'perpetual drone bliss.'

As I was circling the premises I discovered a fenced off room in an adjacent alleyway. The beast of electrical machinery found within churned out a thick wall of electric buzz that was so soothing and meditative, I had no choice but to capture it and expose it to ears of the people (That's you). Because it was captured in the early afternoon in a somewhat busy area you can make out the sounds of passing cars, ambulances in the distance, footsteps, honking horns, squawking seagulls, and my occasional exhale. All of these sounds seemed to oddly blend together weaving in and out of the mix as the electrons buzzed onward. I eventually discovered a technique of slowly raising and lowering the recording device to create a subtle oscillating swell, giving the recording an added organic quality, clocking in at just over 10 minutes in length.

As the first accompanying piece I decided to use a recording by the Japanese Sound Artist Toshiya Tsunoda, who has been releasing his field recordings, sound collages and sine wave experiments since the mid nineties. The second track of his 2005 release entitled 'Ridge of Undulation' called Seashore, Venice Beach_31Jul01 is a fine example of the man's work. Although our sources of sound are dissimilar (his being crashing waves and mine being electric buzz), the Tsunoda piece perfectly exemplifies the use of the fluctuational swell as a compositional element in field recording. As to whether or not Tsunoda achieved this through physically moving the microphone I cannot say for sure. The piece is about 3 and a half minutes long.

Seashore, Venice Beach_31Jul01

I would really like to have audio streams rather than downloads for these particular posts, so that people who are vaguely interested don't have to go through the cumbersome download process, but I can't seem to get it working for my blog. Would someone who has had success in this please help me out? I would really appreciate it. Hopefully by next months dose this will all be straightened out. As for now, those that are interested download it!


nick said...

thanks for this and all your other great posts!

Mark E. Rich said...

dude, try divshare for streaming.


make an account and post a single track into their player, copy the blog embed code into the html part of your posting..and yr set.

some have complained of divshare having spyware, but it hasn't hassled me at all.

i also use muzicon...


the only problem with them is the small file size. anything over 7 minutes usually won't work. no spyware with them.

there is also imeem, but i haven't really tried that yet...


j said...

i heartily endorse this project, as it is a fine idea, and i can't wait to hear the current in yr neighborhood. The best 'perpetual drone bliss' i ever heard was beneath the 'Praline Connection' sign on Frenchmen St. in New Orleans, which was a burned out old Neon Sign, with electricity flowing, with nowhere to go. It was like standing inside a Jacob's Ladder, hair standing on end! If there was anybody reading this, in that neighborhood, that would be a fine field assignment! Keep up the good work, i love yr site.