I'm fascinated with sound, both as a way to experience place and cultivate deep listening. Below are samples of recordings made on various expeditions and encounters that I use to create larger sound installations and immersive meditations. I call them Sound Portraits because listening is like a soft gaze into what you cannot always see.
Sound portrait: The lost song
On assignment in Jordan, I wondered a bit too far one day and got lost in the desert of Wadi Rum. Forward, backward, and sideways all seemed to lead to the same unknown place. I walked until I came across a young woman and her daughter, hanging laundry outside their tent. I had happened upon the tent of the highest Bedouin leader, and this is the song he played for me, his unexpected desert guest. (The instrument used is a one-stringed Rababa, valued for its voice-like qualities.)
Sound portrait: Women of the Falls
In the strangely beautiful Venezuelan jungle lies the Orinoco River–a sacred river, depended on for livelihood by the indigenous Pemon indians, and a river that also seems to hold space for the entirety of everything that surrounds it. Including spirits. This song is an offering to the Orinoco, voiced by the medicine women of the Pemon. Medicine songs invoke natural and/or magical powers.
I met the women of Pemon while on an expedition to retrace photojournalist Ruth Robertson’s 1949 discovery of Angel Falls, which established it as the highest waterfall in the world.
Sound portrait: Sleeping with wolves
Imagine yourself camped in a tent on the far edges of nature, home to the rare white wolf.
Sound portrait: Sound of the unseen
People who work close to the land are the keepers of its spirit. On a small island in Greece, Maria, an 71-year-old shepherdess, starts each day at sunrise and closes it with the round-up and feeding of the family's sheep in the evening. This has been her life since she was a girl. She knows each animal in her flock by the sound of its bell.
Sound portrait: Where time becomes prayer
The Mehrangarth Fort stands 410 feet above the city of Jodhpur. I am lured not only by the verticality of the ascent, but by a voice–young, unrestrained, full, with a hint of something contagious. It is hard to separate the place from the voice, they dance in time, evoking the ancient, like a prayer.
"Buildings do not react tour gaze, but they do return our sound back to our ears."
-- Juhani Pallasmaa "The Eyes of the Skin"