The sound portion of Languages of the Land was derived from audio field recordings made in natural settings. I talked to people at Salter Grove as they were fishing, playing with their children, or just relaxing at the park. I recorded groups of community members trading photographs and memories of Warwick Downs, summer cabins, swimming, sledding, and sharing a first kiss. In private homes, I interviewed individuals who contributed insights they had gained from documented history, collective oral traditions and memories of personal experiences. Beyond the specifics of who, what, and when, most people communicated their feelings about this obviously special place. One person did so through his own poems.
From many hours of recordings, I selected approximately one-hundred sound bites that vary in length from a few seconds to a few minutes. I sorted them by theme and then arranged them somewhat chronologically. My intention was to remain in the background and allow people to tell their stories and convey their sentiments. Most of the ambient sounds you hear during this sixty-five minute piece were recorded along with the voices; some were recorded separately and then mixed-in on separate tracks; a few (e.g., shotguns, roller coaster and “Earth Angel”) were imported.
Field recording has long been a mainstay for collecting information in my discipline, folklore. From the early twentieth-century wax (or Edison) cylinder recordings of cowboy songs made by John Lomax and African-American hoodoo practitioners made by Harry Middleton Hyatt through the magnetic tape recorders that dominated the latter part of the century to the current digital revolution, both the quality of sound reproduction and the portability of the hardware have improved greatly. What hasn’t changed is the dynamic immediacy of on-site recording, which preserves not only text and music, but also the texture, as well as some of the context, of interviews, performances and events. While recordings made in situ will never be as pristine as those obtained in the controlled environment of a studio, they capture the compelling ambiance of the surroundings. Given the intent of Languages of the Land, I accepted the annoying distortion caused by wind and the intrusion of low-flying airplanes to retain the voices of birds, peepers and lapping waves, for they, too, tell stories in their own language.
Human voices: Dawn Acosta and Shanti, Henry A. L. Brown, Billy Bun, Pete Chapla, Marge Degnan, Rosetta Desrosiers, Kim Greenberg, Ed Greer, Paul Merluzzo, Edgar Nava, Bill Ruggieri, Jonathan Stephens, Jennifer Wild, Samnang Yong
The sound recordings were made by Michael Bell with a Sharp mini disc portable recorder (MD-MT90) and an external Sony electret condenser stereo microphone (ECM-DS70P) with a windscreen and telescoping hand-held boom (homemade from a radio antenna, a mountain bike hand grip stuffed with pipe insulation, and a mic clip). Sound editing was by Cyril Place. After converting all of the interviews recorded on mini discs to Audio Interchange File Format (.aif files), he used Bias Peak to edit the selected clips, then completed a multitrack assembly using Bias Deck.