In J.G. Ballard's story 'The Sound Sweep', extraneous ultrasonic noise can be swept up, leaving only the most beautiful vibrations of earlier sounds, like those emanating from the fragments of a thirteenth century church pediment. Kirkegaard's amplification of the hidden sounds in resonant spaces like Chernobyl seems predicated on the idea that they hold a sonic memory of past events. He has recently been working at Belchite, a village destroyed by Franco in the Spanish Civil War, making a book and CD in collaboration with Lydia Lunch. (I note in passing that Lydia Lunch is one of many post-punk musicians involved in one way or another with environmental sound art - Chris Watson and Jem Finer, for example, have been discussed here previously).
The Wire magazine had a feature on Kirkegaard earlier this year and their website includes 'images from Nagaras, a series of eight photographs shot on an expedition into the deserts of Oman in December 2008. The work explores a sonic phenomenon which only occurs in a few deserts around the world: The Singing Sands. The photographs aim to capture momentary visual fragments of the millions of sand grains which, in joint movement, emit such "marvelous" sounds. The seemingly chaotic patterns generated on the desert dunes during the sands' sonic emissions offer a visualization of sound in the making, through movement in matter.'
Here are some other examples on Kirkegaard's website that use recordings made out in the landscape:
- Tide (2006) - '16-channel sound installation located at the tidal sea shore of the Danish west coast, Vadehavet. The sounds are processed water sounds recorded in the area'.
- Iron Wind (2006) - 'recordings of iron fences stretching along the Cologne Rhine river in Germany. The movement of water, wind and passing ships make the iron fences vibrate and thereby to emit subtle tones. Attaching highly sensitive contact microphones (accelerometers) on the iron Jacob Kirkegaard recorded the hundreds of meters of fences throughout a period of four years. Unfolding the resonating body of the fences is the immense force of the Rhine river acoustically brought to life.'
- Sphere (2007) - 'a collection of VLF (very low frequency) recordings of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). It was captured during travels in Iceland in the year of 2004. Kirkegaard used electromagnetic antennas in order to pick up the electric and magnetic oscillations of the solar winds.'