Short Night Pass by Angus Carlyle
Here are two recordings that feature insects. They are both low resolution MP3s– a consequence of my posting to this site via a SoftBank mobile phone – and are unprocessed – a consequence of this being the very earliest days of the project with great uncertainty as to how exactly our research will unfold towards the exhibitions, the CD and the DVD.
In the first recording, we catch the acoustic equivalent of a glimpse of a nocturnal hedgerow, with different insects filling up different niches in the sound ecology. Behind them – or in front, since the I am not sure that the recording exhibits clearly any perspectival depth – we can hear a taxing aircraft engine and then the crisp but yielding pressure on soil that is scattered with the smallest of stones. And then, the unmistakable energy of a jet engine muscles in. This builds rapidly in intensity, capturing neighbouring space like an aggressive draughts player. In the last moments, the down draft sends air hissing down to the microphone, shaking on its way the dried out leaves in the tall hedge. And then, as the plane drops below one of the concrete walls the separate Runway B, it makes one more lunge at the acoustic prize until we are back with the softer taxi-ing engines Although I’ve cut it very short here and a lot of the detail – especially the rumbling lower frequencies – have been removed in its compression into the lowliest of MP3 formats, there is something here, I believe. This something is one of the things I’ve tried to capture in my soundwork so far. The surprising decisive moment that is also a kind of threshold that can be heard – to my ears, at least – as a kind of beauty. Even when I was recording a mechanical digger tearing apart a small apartment block as part of the on-going Olympic reconstruction work for my contribution to the Sound Proof show at E:vent, I felt that what I was presenting had a sinister splendour.
The second recording has nothing pretty about it. It is a horrible stew of whines, drones, surges. There is no detail here, things are smudged and rubbed and muddled in a mess of idling engines and taxi-ing engines, in sound bouncing off the tarmac apron of the concrete blast walls, through the transparent reinforced screen (a concession wrested by the Shimamuras to allow sunlight onto their crops) and through a metal grid. A clutter of reverberation, reflection and refraction compounding a jumble of sound sources. Again, we’ve lost some of the detail in this MP3 and again there is a lot less audible lower end. This is the kind of recording which I would delete immediately. No: it’s the kind of recording I would never press the red button on having heard anything like it through the record standby.
These two recordings, at this early stage, locate a dilemma for the visual and for the sonic components of this project. The huge jets dropping down over the Shimamura house are a horrible sight and a horrible sound. And yet, these jets have a grim majesty about them, a technical-mechanical sublime gone sour and grim: like munitions, weapons, bunkers, car crashes (the territory marked out by Marinetti, Warhol, Ballard, Simon North and many others). More than this, the over-flight is a singularity, however often repeated over however short a time. After three and a half days here, I am beginning to sense that the second recording suggests the way to speak the truth of this site. In its ugliness, it can’t be addressed for any kind of sublime, grim or sour. Instead it speaks of the keynote of this soundscape from 6 in the morning til well beyond 11 at night.