Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Miya Masaoka, Joan Jeanrenaud — “For Birds, Planes & Cello”

July 31, 2008

A subtle release for Miya Masaoka’s new label, Solitary B, “For Birds, Planes & Cello” is something of a ‘grower.’ Upon my inital listening session, I could confirm little more than my own piqued interest and the ongoing quality work of Marcos Fernandes, who assisted with the field recording of a San Diego canyon central to this piece.

Throughout the untreated field recording, saturated as it is with the sounds of aircraft and peppered with migratory bird calls, Masaoka calls upon cellist Joan Jeanrenaud to emphasize select frequencies utilizing her extended technique. Curiously, Jeanrenaud is often found mimicking the atmospheric rumblings of jet engines passing overhead, though I would have appreciated a similar instrumental link forged with the birds as well. Whether Masaoka’s choice to identify the cello with the artificial elements of the field recording is a careful and telling commentary, or a simple reflection of the limitations of the instrument, it is difficult to discern.

Nevertheless, choices have been made, and Masaoka wants us to be aware of this… hence Jeanrenaud. Her cello breaks the fourth wall to remind us of the composer’s hand– music is, after all, where we choose to bestow our artistic focus. Within “For Birds, Planes & Cello,” it is the same as picking out shapes in the clouds: “This one looks like a lizard, do you see it as well?”

Impeccable production both in-studio and out feature throughout this disc, though it is the sort best enjoyed at a long and uninterrupted sitting. Listeners expecting some sort of free improv on top of field recordings will do best to avoid; as I’ve explained, that really isn’t the game of this album. Recommended.

What would you miss?

December 10, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a vacation, just tossing around a variety of ideas with my family. In the front-runner position is taking a cruise; it’s pretty laid back, the weather is nice, and having a warm beach to fall asleep on sounds particularly nice.

An interesting sound-related thought occurred to me today, though– what would it sound like? Specifically, what sounds would be missing?

Original photography by DaveX

I realized that I am quite accustomed to paying attention to new sounds when I travel, but the opportunity to spend a significant portion of my life off land made me realize that there is a very real possibility some sounds I regularly hear will be entirely absent.My first thought was that probably wouldn’t hear cars. I’d be on the water, right? Still, I don’t always hear automobiles now. For some of my childhood, I grew up in a rural setting; the sound of a car was uncommon enough to be more cause for concern than to be any sort of normal background noise. Hearing a car usually meant someone was lost, or that family was returning home.

Clearly, the loss of automobile-related sounds wouldn’t be too interesting.

Any cruise ship will obviously be full of people, bringing with them all the associated sound-baggage. From what I understand, birds are well-represented, with pelicans doing their usual bit of beggary.

Wondering if I might find reprieve from an otherwise-omnipresent sound was such a compelling conceit that I was growing disappointed that I was unable to figure out what such a sound could be.

Finally, the answer occurred to me– insects! Unless I’m mistaken, there shouldn’t be a significant insect population on the open waters of the ocean. For at least a couple nights out to sea, the perpetual companionship of insect call will fade from my life.

In my experience, insect sounds are part of the “silence” John Cage experienced in his famous anechoic chamber. Whether I choose to recognize them or not, insects are always present. Scientific estimates of the sheer number of insects are staggering– with an estimate of eight quintillion (1018) individuals in existence at any given time! Surely, there can be no escape from their sound on land… and maybe not even on the ocean.

Regardless, it’s an interesting concept. In the places you’ve been, what sounds did you miss?


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