In 2014, Arizona State University commissioned five new musical works derived from the field recordings of the Listen(n) project in the American South West deserts. This concert premiered on October 17th 2014 at the ASU Art Museum during the inaugural Listen(n) Symposium. The Listen(n) concert program features leading composers who are specialists in the field of acoustic ecology. The program is available to tour nationally and internationally. If you would like to request a concert or sound examples, please use the contact page on this website.
Concert Program Notes:
Garth Paine: Becoming Desert (2014)
Becoming Desert draws on the experience of sitting or lying down silent in the desert for several hours at a
time to make sound recordings. The field recordings I made in four deserts of the American Southwest are
the basis of this work. When listening to the desert sounds through headphones at the time of recording,
one is aware of a kind of hyper-real sonic environment. The amplified soundfield in the headphones is
surreal in its presence and accuracy and multiplies my direct experience of listening many times. The
relationship between the amplified headphone mix and the actual unmediated experienced sound world is
constantly in mind as a pointer to the fact that the recording is an artificial artifact being generated at the
time of listening and that there is a strange and uncanny marriage between the act of recording and the
unmediated act of listening. This dichotomy is further complicated by the removal of the body from the
recording – no movement and no breathing – in order for the recording to foreground the natural
environment rather than the recordist’s presence within in it. The question arises how or whether the
recordist should be absent or present in the recording and how the recorded artifact relates to the natural
soundscape. Becoming Desert alludes to this conflict and invites the listener to participate in my sonic
encounters with Southwest deserts through an immersive surround sound experience.
Ros Bandt: Raptor (2014)
Raptor is an investigation of the flight of the Acquilla Chrysaetos, the Golden eagle taking us over the
Joshua Tree Biosphere where it was recorded, to Beaver Creek. The granulated eagle calls are stretched to
represent the psycho perceptual orientation of the eagle, solitary, looking down over the land. The
harmonic drones of the bowed tarhu within this sound field position the eagle’s eye, creating a moving
point through which we can share the dynamic movements through these spaces as it rides and tips the
relationship between the planes of the dihedral angles intrinsic to its flight. The slow strength, power and
control of these magnificent birds can defy our aerodynamic understanding as they sculpt the biosphere.
Length 15 minutes. Thanks to Jim Atkins.
Douglas Quin: Contested Landscapes: Singularities, Granularities and Sonorities (2014)
Contested Landscapes: Singularities, Granularities and Sonorities is a mediation and reflection on Garth
Paine’s early morning thoughts in the Mojave Desert about the acoustic ecologies of place and space and
the idea of being “present in the landscape.” The notion of presence represents a dialectic of sorts: a
condition of being a part of and apart from nature. I sought my own virtual presence in Garth’s commentary
on agency, noise, and “intervention,” within the mediated reckoning of landscape and soundscape through
the various recordings in the Listenn database.
The composition is realized in 5.1 surround sound using both stereo and ambisonics recordings. I found my
listening to the field recordings in the database colored and informed by the visceral memory and
associations of recording at Beaver Creek with Garth in March, 2014: our conversations, the early morning
chill, the smell of the dew and sage, the singularity of sonic events and periodic constellations of planes,
traffic, wind, insects and birds and the heightened acuity and anticipation that comes with focused attention.
I was reminded of the timbral and textural changes in the soundscape that are revealed over time through
passages of the day. I also found myself reaching for sounds and how, certain sounds in their familiarity,
become strangely unfamiliar when scrutinized. Excerpts of Garth’s comments which he described as, “the
manifestation of the entire Listenn project” are woven into selections from the database. The latter are both
represented, as recorded, and treated using a variety of DSP and filters—applied to explore intrinsic and
extrinsic granularities and resonances within the sounds and soundscapes.
Leah Barclay: Ground Interference (2014)
Ground Interference draws on short recordings from each location I visited in spring 2014 with a particular
focus on Joshua Tree National Park, Jornada Biosphere Reserve, Mojave Desert, and Death Valley
National Park. These fragile desert environments are inhabited by thousands of species all part of a delicate
ecosystem that is in a state of flux induced by changing climates. The transfixing acoustic ecologies of the
southwest deserts demand a stillness that encourages a deeper environmental awareness and engagement.
In many instances during our field trip we struggled to find locations without human interference. The
distant hum of highway traffic and relentless airplanes under the flight path from LAX were expected, yet
we also encountered unexpected sounds interfering with the acoustic ecologies of the land. These range from an
obscure reverberating vending machine in Death Valley National Park to rattling power lines in the
Jornada Biosphere Reserve that were so loud I could feel the vibrations through my feet. This made me
consider the effects of anthropogenic sound on these fragile ecosystems, particularly the local species that
are so reliant on sound to communicate and survive in their natural habitat.
From a bioacoustics perspectives, it is interesting to note how little we know about the auditory capabilities
of some species and the detrimental effects of our often oblivious sonic interferences with these landscapes.
This composition draws on recordings that subtly highlight local species such as birds and insects, but also
attempts to capture the sonic characteristics of the landscapes and the way in which other species might
experience anthropogenic sound. Ground Interference opens with the sound of my foot steps at dawn on a
desolate salt lake in Mojave Desert and gradually traverses an abstract exploration of the ecosystems we
Ricardo dal Farra: Listening (2014)
Listening to life. Walking around our mind, understanding where we are living.
Micro and macro movements, real and virtual steps. Sound spaces, one after the other, like in a soundwalk,
like in real life. “What is reality?” It was heard recently.
Is it my present? Or what it was?
Sound, time, space, energy, matter, information…
Listening to complexity, to simplicity.
Listening to life… now.