When I record for long periods of time on crowded forests in the nighttime, quickly I start to feel inpatient; I remain as still as possible not to interfere with the incidental sounds and for the same reason I don’t turn on any light so it is usually very quiet and dark out there. Sometimes there is also a long, tricky and scrappy path in the way back.
I usually work with recording takes of 45 minutes or longer. This means this is the amount of time I have to wait until I am able to finally (if I want) press stop.
Sometimes, when I am waiting for the recording to hit 45 minutes when it is really dark and they are threatening animal species around, I get scared; the combination of funded and unfunded fears overwhelms me but also adds a twisted exciting aspect to the situation.
The fear gives to an inpatient wait a special turn. We are not just there recording but we are also there confronting certain fears and turning to a more primal state of alert and awareness of our quiet surroundings.
On this regard, Mark Aizenberg and Maria Neimark Geffen from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania recently discovered that fear can actually increase or decrease the ability to discriminate among sounds depending on context. So when we are scared we either have a stronger sense of a universal-sounding object, or have a stronger sense of the many sounding objects occurring individually.
01 Track (45′43″)
In regard of my experience while recording the sounds for this composition I complied a series of quotes that were quite helpful to me.
‚Ears work all the time and only relax as long as they have latched onto a harmless background noise. So if you put people in silence, their ears will listen out harder and harder until they find something else to pick up. If there is nothing there…most people’s sense of hearing will intensify until it becomes so sensitive, it starts picking up internal nervous information.‘
– Julian Cowan Hill
‚I do not like the place I am coming from. I do not like the place I am going to. Why do I watch …With impatience?‘
– Berthold Brecht from ‚Changing the Wheel‘.
‚Waiting reflects our helplessness, our inability to control the pace as well as the course of events‘
Recorded in the night of the 24th of September and the morning of the 25th near Calarcá, Quindío, and on the night of the 29th and the morning of the 30th near Caicedonia, Valle. Sounds were captured in peripheral areas of the country side whose vegetation and fauna resembles that of the jungle and tropical forest. Thanks to Alba Gonzales, Delio Arcila and Diebold Arias for their collaboration. Cover photo: Lina Velandia
Field Recording Series by Gruenrekorder
Gruenrekorder / Germany / 2014 / GrDl 142 / LC 09488
David Vélez | The wait @ ACL 2014: Top Ten Field Recording & Soundscape
In order to capture these sounds, Vélez spent time crouching in the darkness of the Columbian forest, hoping to encounter pristine sound sources, yet fearing the approach of an unknown predator. For the artist, listening became an exercise in survival, but the home listener has the luxury of listening in the comfort of a sealed environment. To recapture a sense of primal fear, try bringing this into the wilderness, letting it play for a while, and then shutting it off. (Richard Allen)
Richard Allen | a closer listen
“The wait” refers to time spent waiting in the darkness of the Columbian forest, making field recordings and wondering if one is going to be eaten by a jaguar, bitten by a pit viper, squeezed by an anaconda, brushed by a poison dart frog, kidnapped by guerrillas or otherwise injured or killed. An insurance waiver is probably required; it’s not all butterflies and monkeys, despite what the cover of the tourist guide might advertise. Fortunately, David Vélez was born in Bogotá, and he’s already survived a wild trip in the Amazon with Simon Whetham. In one sense, one might postulate that Vélez has become addicted to fear; in a more likely scenario, one might view him as one determined to face his fears. Face them he does in this collage of four recordings, two made at night and two in the morning.
Vélez quotes two Pennsylvania researchers who claim that fear can either decrease or enhance our awareness, depending on context. (Disclaimer: the most dangerous thing in Pennsylvania is a cheesesteak, which is why we don’t hear many Pennsylvania field recordings.) When one is afraid, one begins to focus on certain sounds and listen for others: the definition of a closer listen. Our lives don’t depend on giving the sounds we receive a closer listen, but Vélez’ life did ~ or at least it might have. Seared into the collective memory of field recording artists everywhere are the final cries of Timothy Treadwell (Grizzly Man): from an aesthetic standpoint, possibly the worst field recording ever. No one wants to end up like that, no matter how valuable the sounds one captures in one’s final moments.
The context of the home listener is completely different: benign and often bland. A very common (yet pleasurable) experience is to lie on a couch, reading a book while listening to a field recording. This practice may irk certain artists (“Hey, I risked my life for that!”), but it’s relatively universal. This is where The wait makes its greatest impact. In previous installation pieces, Vélez broke things and/or dragged them across the floor. (“Read to that!“) But in this purer field piece, he captures sounds that are so rich, and mixed so loudly, that one simply must stop everything else and take notice. Even on the most basic intuitive level, one instantly realizes that this is an excellent rain recording, crisp and long ~ not just a passing shower, but a seemingly unending deluge that begins in the opening minute and doesn’t let up for quite a while. This is the sort of rain one plays for friends, saying, “You’ve got to hear this rain!” And due to the extra sounds of creatures in the forest, one also realizes that this is not the sort of storm most of us will ever hear; it’s site-specific, the opposite of generic. In this instance, a field recording becomes a sound to share like a song. The more one listens, the more one hears, like a visitor to the forest. The big difference: one listens without fear. In such a placid context, the wait no longer involves finishing up and getting the hell out of there. Instead, it’s the wait to hear that amazing bird once more; and thanks to the courage of Vélez, we can.