Last week, I took a small group on a field recording expedition. We hiked up a short mountain peak close to where I’ve been staying. As we traveled further up the side of the mountain, the city sounds began to dissipate and blur into a sea of fragmented voices and passing cars. Here we could hear the birds, and the wind blowing through the grass and trees. Here we could see from a tall vantage point all that lies below. Our mission was to record these sounds and plot their locations for an upcoming exhibit mapping the sounds of peace.

city from above. Photo: Nathan Ober

City from above. Photo: Nathan Ober

listening. Photo: Nathan Ober

Listening. Photo: Nathan Ober
listening. Photo: Nathan Ober
Listening. Photo: Nathan Ober

We were looking for some good spots to create multichannel audio recordings. We recorded with the Zoom H6 using its X/Y stereo imaging capsule along with two shure sm57 microphones and two custom built piezo-electric contact microphones.

At our first spot, we sat tethered together with headphones, silently listening to the world in contemplative meditation. We recorded for ten minutes and then moved along to our next destination. As we climbed to the top, we found a large metal tube and decided to attach our contact mics here and create a short performance of banging on the metal structure.

metal tube. Photo: Nathan Ober

Metal tube. Photo: Nathan Ober
performance on a metal tube. Photo: Nathan Ober
Performance on a metal tube. Photo: Nathan Ober

In our last spot, we sat beneath a tree and I attached the contact mics directly to the tree. We were all mesmerized by the sounds that were presented to us by this strange juxtaposition. The tree actually sounded like running water, and each time the wind blew across its branches we were able to hear the branches gently nudging and colliding with each other. The sounds were quite amazing and a pleasant surprise to us all. This was actually the first time I had ever performed such a task. I think from now on, I’ll be listening to trees more often.

mapped location. Photo: Nathan Ober

Mapped location. Photo: Nathan Ober
listening to the tree. Photo: Nathan Ober
Listening to the tree. Photo: Nathan Ober

This experience gave us all some new ideas and perhaps even a few epiphanies. For the next week I’ll be collaborating with Monika Marquez for the upcoming exhibition. We’ll set out to record the sounds of city of Medellín, including nature, urban environments, and the stories of the people of this great city—all within the context of listening to the sounds of peace.

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