Sound and text by David Velez.
Photos by Lina Velandia.
‘El Coyote’ is a sonic, visual and written essay based on my experience in the touristic complex of Bijao in Panama on January of 2013.
In Bijao the tension between the ecosystem and the intrusive architecture was evident from the moment I arrived: this environmental contrast and the subjacent anthropological and biological implications expressed in the formal aspects of the area became the focus of my artistic interest.
These recordings are not about an ideal virgin natural environment, but about an available quotidian environment with presence of men, machines and architecture on a predominantly natural habitat. If wild life recordings are considered neo-romantic, I’d consider these recordings neo-realistic.
On a more specific approach ‘El coyote’ is about the way the animals adapt their acoustic behavior to the sounds of machines when they become part of their their environment. About how the questions and reflections of my interest are projected and reflected in this environment and the resonance I managed to establish with it.
I asked photographer Lina Velandia to capture images as I wanted this essay to be both sonic and visual. The images reflect the acousmatic character of environmental recordings when birds, insects and amphibians inhabit the area. The photos also serve as some sort of contrasting element to the sounds: while in the sound piece the animals are in the foreground and the machines in the background, in the images we see no animals but we can only see the intrusive presence of men depicted in the construction machinery and in the aridity of certain spots found in Bijao.
During the recordings of these sounds, some reflections in regard of the phonographic composition came to my mind so I am using them to complement the essay.
-The sound material was composed with long fragments of recordings without layer processing. Some equalization was done at certain parts to explore the possibility of making them more realistic-
On working with a subject
The most important aspect about working with a subject is that it prompts the need for creative and research methods. It establishes rules that for some reason always make the creative artistic work more interesting and formally productive for me.
On the listening experience
Listening is what creates a real sense of environment because it connects us with a multitude of events simultaneously in a 360 degree ratio. Sight in the other hand is more punctual and unidirectional where totality is established as the sum of the moments that we needed to reckon every single event that builds a landscape. Visual images deal with landscapes, sound images deal with environments. The illusion of depth and reverberation seems to imprint the passing of time better that the illusion of perspective and this is probably why sound is a defining and structural element in every piece of work I do.
On sound pollution
The sound pollution issue is one of the aspects of the listening experience that interest me the most in a creative and research aspect. Sound pollution and pollution in general is the catastrophic result of human progress. Catastrophic in the sense that environments are drastically and quickly changing. I am not a news journalist or an environmental activist I just experience the quotidian world and use this experience as raw stock for my work.
On recording the sensible listening experience
After an initial crisis with working with recordings, a few years later I will find that the useless and futile nature of capturing sounds is just of metaphor to the unfathomable nature of our ephemeral existence. Whenever we want to grab and retain time it will slip though our fingers like water. And that emptiness is all the time we can grab and retain.
On why I record
One summer night of 2009 I couldn’t sleep so got up from bed and went to the living room. It was late so everything was quiet. Anyway I still managed to listen to a distant crescent drone approaching. The experience with this drone lead me to think about the end of time. Four years later I understand that the end of time was a metaphor to the end of me. To the catastrophe of my death and the death of all the things around me, a subject of particularly strong concern for me since my early adolescence.
On the listeners’ experience
One of the really interesting aspects of the listening experience of a sound art piece is the way the listeners experience things after the piece is finished. This can relate to the way the phonographic artist experiences things after he finishes recording.
On the role of phonographic based sound art
The formalism in phonographic based composition is one of the facts why it remains such an elitist art form. Most of its audience is composed by sound artists, and this endogamic structure has kept the practice isolated in a self containing bubble. To work with a thematic subject could be a useful tool in order to make the line of work more accessible to a more general and massive audience gaining legitimacy within the art community. Phonography and concrete composition need a proper critic agenda ran by people who don’t necessarily have to be artists or composers. Field recording based sound art needs to claim a public spot in order to avoid the introspective and cryptic character that tends to exhibits in today’s cultural agenda.
On narratives in sound composition
When composing or performing the artist deals with two different narrative coordinates: 1- The one established by the illusion of depth linking punctual locations on the environment (like overlapping layers to compose a single plane) and 2- the coordinate established by the illusion of change that links punctual events on a timeline (like connecting points to form a single vector).
I was recordings frogs on a Golf field at 1:30 Am when a Coyote passed near by me. He looked at me and then disappeared into the shadows. This was a reminder of my human condition and the potential danger that nature presents to us which is why we invented architecture. Sound pollution in some way is an intrinsic aura that I can’t escape from and this has to reflect on the ideal and naive discourse about noise in the highly developed countries when considered the sound pollution issue in the lessen developed countries.
[David Velez, photo by Lina Velandia]