Monday, December 27, 2010

Seashore, Venice Beach

There is a good short article by Will Montgomery in The Wire this month about Japanese sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda.  '"The most important thing for my field work is the possibility of describing the experience of landscape," he reports.  "I want to know how to fix the experience of landscape.  It is a different method from using photography to fix it.  We can see the outline of objects clearly in photographs.  But when recording, things are not so clear and it is difficult to distinguish what vibrations travel in the place.  It's like a moving sculpture.  I find many possibilities to connect with perception and recognition.  So I cannot focus only on the aspect of sound or music in my field recordings.  Even if it is not popular as an artwork, I am always pursuing fixing the scenery in my recording work."'

Tsunoda's interest in the experience of landscape has led to some interesting experiments in trying to document objectively a subjective soundscape, like this one described last year on the erstwords blog.  'I am currently making recordings like this: I go to a certain place and choose an object that is interesting to me. I fix a stethoscope with a small built-in air mike onto my temples. The stethoscope captures vibrations of my muscles and blood flows. Because of the nature of the air mike, environmental noises are recorded, too. If the wind blows, some wind sounds are recorded when it passes over my head. The recorded sound is like the sound that is heard when I cover my ears with my fingers. What is this? At this point, I cannot explain this well since my intuition is preceding over my understanding. ... There is no relation among temples, air mike and brain waves. Our brain waves do not stir the air. The position of the air mike can be set anywhere near the ears, but I feel that our temples are the best and only place for that. Is this approach just built on impulse? But I am thinking of developing this idea further...'

Over the years Tsunoda has charted the way sounds vibrate and mutate within different environments, working both in the landscape and the studio.  On his 2005 album Ridge of Undulation, field recordings alternate with the sounds built from layered sine waves and vibrating plates.  Nick Hennies' review on the Hapna site explains that 'through careful editing, Tsunoda can make field recordings sound artificial (e.g. the lock-groove loops within “Seashore, Venice Beach” that are achieved apparently only through volume editing). Thus, he conflates any “essential” difference between the “natural” and the constructed. At the same time, his prepared sonic environments are so closely monitored and manipulated that they approximate and extend effects heard within the field recordings. For example, “An Aluminum plate with low frequencies 1” follows directly after the Venice Beach track and sounds like the wind coming in off the ocean at that location, perhaps as heard from under the tide itself.'

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