Saturday, September 19, 2009

Autumn leaves

Gruenrekorder's Autumn Leaves is a really good survey of current work in environmental soundscape composition and it can all be dowloaded for free from their website.  It ranges from the pastoral to the decidedly anti-pastoral, as exemplified by two of Ari Koivumäki '100 Finnish soundscapes':
  • 'Throwing small pebbles on thin ice': "When I was ten I remember going to the lake with my friends. There we would throw small pebbles on the thin ice, just after the first frosty night." The recording was made at Tesoma lake in Tampere . Ducks are heard in the foreground, ice hockey is being played in the background
  • 'Parolannummi': "The soundscape of Parolannummi garrison is from the winter of 2006 and is mixed with archive sounds of Finnish Proto Sisu lorries, BTR 60 armoured cars that has been reassembled from old Russian Zil and Gaz vehicles, and T 55 and T 72 battle tanks."
Among other recordings of most interest in the context of this blog (i.e. which seem closest to 'landscapes', broadly defined) are Lasse-Marc Riek's 'Storm' and 'Waves' recorded in Boltenhagen, Germany in 2007; Charlie Fox's 'Four Wild Places' in Canada (open prairie, wetlands, rainforest and the transition zone between foothills and mountain); and Robert Curgenven's 'Silent Landscape No. 2' - 'nightfall by a riverside camp near Wollumbin (Mt Warning), walking in dry grass, the sharp call of a single insect emerges...'

How important is to know where such sounds have been recorded?  It depends, but some of the compositions are specifically about their sites, such as Peter Cusack's 'Chernobyl Dawn' and 'Chenobyl Frogs' - beautiful Arcadian soundscapes which belie their source. He writes: 'Since the nuclear catastrophe of April 26 1986, and in complete contrast to human life, nature at Chernobyl is thriving. The evacuation of people has created an undisturbed haven and wildlife has taken full advantage. Animals and birds absent for many decades – wolves, moose, black storks – have moved back and the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now one of Europe’s prime wildlife sites. Radiation seems to have had a negligible effect. The increase in wildlife numbers and variety means that the natural sounds of springtime are particularly impressive. For me the passionate species rich dawn chorus became Chernobyl’s definitive sound.  Chernobyl is also famous for its frogs and nightingales. Nighttime concerts were equally spectacular.'

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