Voodoo ceremony in Haiti. VA, recorded by MAURICE BITTER
(Olympic 1974)

Most of the works reviewed on The Field Reporter are either phonographic works­ based on incidental sounds, phonographic
works based on the sounds of nature, works with a musique concrete approach and electroacoustic compositions.

“Voodoo ceremony in Haiti” is a release like it hasn’t been reviewed on The Field Reporter before and I think this is important: to understand that phonography is not only a tool to create music and art, but also to document our experiences in the more strict sense of the word.

Maurice Bitter is a writer and recordist with an extensive bibliography and discography; his sound work is focused on social and cultural aspects of different groups around the world. “Voodoo ceremony in Haiti” uses recordings captured in the island La tortue in Haiti during actual voodoo ceremonies.

Maurice Bitter and his social and anthropological studies found in sound a great medium to imprint all the aspects related to this cultures through their ceremonies and other aspects of their life. What is very interesting here is that the sensible experience that the listener has though the recordings of the Voodoo ceremony is probably more vivid and real, than any filming or writing about it. Sound seems to connect with our emotions in a way that only sound can. Images and text don’t seem to have the physical character that music has although the works of artists like Richard Garet successfully explores the possibility of images (with the help of sound) to have strong physical repercussions in the spectator.

“Voodoo ceremony in Haiti” is not a distant alien view to this ceremony, but it is the ceremony itself. The listener is in a similar position to the participants as music, one of the key elements emotional in these ceremonies, is there. The anthropological documentation acquire a complete new sense when sound recordings are made, it becomes vital and vivid, the experience is interior and physical. Beyond any cultural and social aspects, this is music expected and performed to induce people to deep emotional states in order to face and get in touch with metaphysical forces. This is music purposed to affect the body through the physical act of dance, leading the consciousness to states beyond any reason and comprehension.

I hope one day I can dance to this record like I did when I was a little kid and my dad brought it home from the record store and played it on the turntable; actually this is the first record I have memory of and this strong first experience with music (and phonography) is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

In the meantime I am glad to pay a more than well deserved tribute to phonographist Maurice Bitter and his extensive discography that hopefully encourage phonographists and sound artists in general to have a broader understanding of the implications and possibilities of  recording sounds.

– uncredited writer

Maurice Bitter discography
Olympic discography