Main

August 22, 2008

Repairing what is broken.

I have a mild habit of saving broken objects. Mostly pottery, plates, glasses. The pieces usually end up in the garden with the larger ones used to provide shelter for herbs. Recently, I dropped and broke into several pieces a large ocarina that my family had given me as a birthday present some time ago. I am fond of the ocarina and was saddened by its demise. My partner suggested I glue it back together. In the moment, I gave-in to my disappointment and dismissed her suggestion saying that it wouldn’t be the same afterward. It sat on a bookcase for months. A few days ago I decided to glue it back together. No special reason, just an impulse. I glued and rubber-banded it and set it back on the shelf. This morning, while on the back deck, I heard a lovely low airy whistle coming from the house. My son was playing the repaired ocarina. It was indeed different than when it was whole. It had gained an appealing whistle-like buzz similar to ethnic flutes that employ rice paper as resonators. This is due perhaps to the small chinks and cracks that air escapes from now. The ocarina has commenced a second life, offering me another opportunity to enjoy it and benefit from its character.

I was mulling over this experience when it occurred to me that there was another broken relationship waiting to be repaired. Two stoneware vases that I had bought from a local potter several years ago were lying in pieces in my garden. The vases, bottles really, were quite resonant when blown across the opening and I had been using them in my electro-acoustic composition and during free-improv performances. I was fond of the deep mellow sounds they made. A year or so after I acquired them my cat knocked them off a shelf in my studio and they shattered on the cement floor. There didn’t seem to be much hope of repairing them and I let my disappointment get the better of my resolve. I placed them in the garden just outside the door to my studio. They have been there for a couple of years.

This spot of garden happens to be where I pee when I am in the studio late at night and don’t want to go all the way back into the house (or, just because I like to pee outside). Sometimes, while peeing, I direct the stream over the pottery shards. They glisten faintly in the night light. Once, when the moon was full, they glinted with beautiful stars of green and blue and red as my urine washed over them. I thought of how I had a relationship with the bottles though they were broken and no longer resonant. This silly ritual sustains my appreciation and, coupled with the fact that the broken pieces are the first things I see when entering the studio, serves to keep the relationship alive – at least in my subconscious.

After the ocarina event, the bottles called out of memory and demanded reconstitution. I dug into the spot of garden where the bottles had been resting and gathered all the pieces I could find. After washing them I was pleased to find that they were not decayed or stained in any way. The jagged edges were as if newly broken. The glaze still held its luster. I put them in the oven to dry. After piecing them together without glue to discover the best assembly sequence, I found one piece was missing. A quick inspection of the garden was fruitful and I prepared to assemble. The bottles came together fairly easily with the most difficult part being the reconstruction of the shattered mouth of one. Using Polyvinyl Acetate (Elmer’s) glue and rubber bands the bottles were soon standing upright looking for all intents and purposes whole. A few remaining cracks and chinks I filled with softened bees wax. Several drying hours later, I lift each in turn and blow across their mouths to produce the familiar mellow tones – not as resonant and full as before but warm and welcome just the same.

March 15, 2008

More on Rule my life

I was just looking at Rule My Life. The clip that runs in the background, of the bottle caught in the water, was something I had taped quite a few years ago. I had been at Amazon park with my boys for a walk and had stopped at this particular place out of habit. I enjoy the intimacy of this forgotten place. Tucked under a sidewalk, the standing rapid forms at the bottom of a drainage culvert. In spring this place is very active with the water rushing and reeds pushing up through the silt bars that form at the back of the pool. As summer arrives the reeds dominate the pool and the water slows to a dribble. The kind of place that fugitive fauna seek out for cover. The bottle trapped in the flow was so animated. It almost danced. There were moments when it seemed that it would escape the relentless repetition of the backflow but never quite managed to free itself. The bottle stayed in that same flow for a week. I kept coming back to check on it. The thought of the hours the bottle spent bobbing and flipping without anyone to notice, to witness, was pleasing.

February 03, 2008

Journal Entry for "rule my life"

Cycles seem to rule my life. Seasonal, yearly, daily, emotional, psychological, creative, sexual, physical. Cycles within a moment and cycles that play out over years. Cycles of forgetting and remembering, focus and distraction, confidence and doubt. Though these cycles do no exist within closed parameters, they don't necessarily progress through linear experience, arriving at a desired destination. Cycle defines the structure of my life. Spiral defines my life's form.

During the course of a year (and its seasonal cycle) I spiral through efforts at physical activity and periods of inactivity. I run in the heat of summer and huddle near the space heater in my studio during the rainy season. At the beginning of each phase of activity I feel confident that I will break the spiral and continue running on into and throughout the rainy season. I encourage myself by thinking of how in shape I will be in a year's time if I discipline myself.

For several weeks, maybe a few months I will run on a fairly regular schedule. Just a couple miles at a time. No need to overdo it. I feel my body responding and am happy that I have some stamina. Twice, I ran local road races and felt good about my times. I've even lost a few pounds in the process. Then, a day comes when I don't go running for some reason and a certain feeling comes over me. I realize that I have lost my focus and that mundane concerns have squeezed out the time I had made available for running.

This may be a response to the shortening day or some instinctual need to hunker down in preparation for winter. After a few efforts to continue the routine I eventually go back to inactivity and focus on domestic concerns. Sometime after holiday, usually in late January, I will feel compelled to exercise. This year I have been downhill skiing. I am glad that I am fit enough to enjoy a full day without being sore the next. Spring rolls around and I make a few tentative runs in the rain. I don't like wet shoes. I feel confident that this year I will break the spiral and continue running through summer and on into the rainy season.

December 29, 2007

Notes on Swallow Pond

I reviewed some tape I had shot at a local wetland spot from 2005. Decided to edit it together. The result is the video below. Here are some notes from my journal at the time:

At Swallow Pond, while eating lunch, a couple drove up and parked in an adjacent lot. They let a small terrier out of their pick-up. After lifting its leg, it took off straight for the pond and the waterfowl there. The dog flew through the shallow water sending the geese honking into panicked flight. My first reaction was to call out something about leash laws and disturbing wildlife. Instead, sort of by force of habit, I lifted my camera and taped the little dynamo hurtling around the preserve.

My anger was side-lined and I gained a few moments to reflect in a less knee-jerk fashion to the dog's marauding. Perhaps the geese were used to this kind of harassment from foxes and maybe wolves up north? Even though the geese were disturbed, they seemed to get over it quickly - the ducks on the far bank hadn't even moved. The dog's enjoyment was supremely evident. Was it really interested in catching a bird? And, how is its right to such behavior less defendable than the geese's right to undisturbed refuge? Perhaps this idea of refuge is purely a guilty human concept to help assuage the pain of being responsible for the lack of wetlands in the first place.

The moment became richer and full of content. Offering an opportunity to act in a less rash, idealistic manner, to step back and acknowlegde the complexity of the simple moment. Maybe it is better to observe and hold back judgement when I am out gathering material.

May 27, 2007

More Wetlands writing for upcoming show at DIVA Eugene OR

I thought I would post these poems in support of my coming exhibit at DIVA Center Eugene. The title of the show is Distant Progress. It will show for the month of July. I will install a video of the same name and hang selected frame still sequences that I have extracted from the video. The still sequences will be printed on translucent vinyl and mounted on clear acrylic panels. I may then mount them as light boxes. I haven't decided on the final format. I will do a screening at the Second Friday Film Forum (7/13 7pm) at DIVA to support the exhibit with live accompanied screenings of other video works with flute, guitar and voice over using looping techniques.

 

1.

Seeming barren,

it's saturated with life.

Calm surfaces broken by violence,

violence ignored by melody.

A heron bayonets a small bird or rodent;

geese erupt in take-off;

grey clouds towel a growling jet.

Above all an arc

of meadowlark song

and color.

 

2.

Wetlands are deceptive.

I turn in expectant response

to witness unexpected events.

Sounds pull me to scenes

my eyes overlook.

Sitting still for a long time

is overwhelming.

 

3.

Eating lunch,

swallow pond.

A pickup parks in adjacent lot

discharging a stout terrier

that takes off for the marsh.

It tears through shallow water.

Honking geese sent into flight.

I want to call out

about leashes

and laws.

 

My hand

finds the camera,

the lens the dynamo.

Anger side-lined, knee jerk stalled,

I shoot the dog.

Soon tired it sits in shallows panting.

The geese recover quickly,

ducks aren't phased on far bank –

a familiar far north scene?

just wolves and foxes.

Observation is richer than judgement

when gathering.

May 19, 2007

8/2/06 Podunk at new swimming hole

Podunk at swimming hole (8/2/06)

 

There are three bends in the creek along Johnston’s lower pasture.

The first is actually a meander scar now after the creek cut through the neck of the meander about 5 years ago. The old point bar is growing over with pioneer trees and shrubs while the cut bank has become a convenient place to deposit debris from yard work. The old creek bed is marshy now with a tiny pond at its former deepest spot. This bend still flows at high water. As a boy, this was my favorite fishing spot. Once, I caught a fish in the eddies there at the head of the pool while an old timer plunked gloomily at the foot.  He was sitting on the sand cigarette in hand with his pole resting in the crotch of a forked branch he had cut from a tree and stuck in the muck. My fishing style was a bit more energetic. I worked the flow at the head of the pool with my worm casting up into the current and bouncing the bait along the bottom and guiding it into the eddies that marked the deeper part of the pool. I would do this repeatedly until I got a strike. The old timer had watched me in a lazy sort of way. It didn’t take much time for me to get a hit and to pull in a healthy keeper brown trout. I noticed the plunker shaking his head and turning away as he took a deep drag on his cigarette. We never said a word to each other. Later I often thought it would have been interesting to talk to him.

 

The second bend was also a good fishing spot, deep and slow. But there were always downed trees at the head of the pool that would constantly snag my line discouraging my attempts. This pool was and is still the site of a large exposed vein of clay. We would spend time there in hot weather carving out slabs of the grey silky clay rubbing it on our bodies. After letting it dry in the sun and washing off our skin would feel satiny smooth. My high school girlfriend and I used to sneak away to the point bank and lie naked in the sun taking leisurely pleasure in our bodies. Once, having fallen asleep after sex, we woke to the sound of a tractor and saw a neighbor farmer cutting alfalfa on the opposite bank. He waved to us.

 

The third bend, which connects Johnston’s lower pasture with Podunk’s smallest, has a high, steep cut bank of clay impregnated with gravel and large stones. This is a tough obstacle for even the spring floods to carve and has not changed much in twenty years. Because the water can’t push the bend further into the pasture, it carves down and excavates a long deep trench –  over 7 feet deep in some spots during summer. This is now the favorite swimming hole at Podunk and we have ladders leading down to the thin shore of the cut bank side of the bend. Over the years, the tailings of this excavation have moved 50 or so yards downstream and filled in a previous favorite swimming hole. 

 

This extinct swimming hole was directly behind the chicken coop and the sauna across the bottom pasture with the three poplar giants. The old Finnish farmer who sold the property to my father had built a cement pier out into the creek at an angle to allow pumping of water to his outbuildings. Over the years the flow of water around the pier created a deep hole on the downstream side. Our first swim of the season was usually around first of  May but I recall swimming in April.  I learned to swim in that hole when I was seven or eight. It was the casting-off point for perilous spring runs down the swollen stream in my father’s old 4-man Navy raft and the heat of many a sauna was dowsed by a plunge into the pool accessed, if necessary, by a hole chopped in covering ice.

 

My brother and I often caught crawfish there and kept them in holding pools along the far bank.  We would cross back over to the Podunk side and bombard the pools with stones, pretending the crawfish were soldiers in a coastal attack. I always felt bad about this behavior afterward. I knew something was wrong about it, cruel, but at the same time it was pleasurable. Contradictorily, I was often dismayed that visiting friends would want to put captive creek dwellers in jars to take home. I knew the poor things would die and I couldn’t stand the thought.

 

We had friends from down the street who would go swimming there with us. Two red headed sisters a few years apart. Edie was a teen and was often aloof and superior acting. Dylan was younger and a bit of a tomboy. The first time they visited us they brought their pony. We fed it green apples and I wondered at the green foam that formed around its mouth as it chomped. With these sisters, my siblings and I spent our summers as a kind of rural “Our Gang”. Between us we worked through many childhood and adolescent trials and tribulations.

For some reason, as the younger sister Dylan matured showing signs of breasts and a woman’s figure, we decided she was a slut – whatever that meant for kids our age.  One day in particular, spurred on by my sister and Edie, we were teasing Dylan while at the swimming hole. Whenever she dunked under we would chant – “Dylan is a striptease dancer and she-ee-ee knows it.”  She would stay under long enough for us to chant and then suddenly surface demanding to know what we were saying. We wouldn’t tell her. She would dunk again, we would chant. This went on for some time. I had a feeling she knew what we were saying, that she liked the attention.

 

We usually changed into our swimsuits at the Frog Inn, our playhouse up by the garage. Not too long after the chanting incident I was bold enough to peek in on the girls while they were changing. Dylan was standing in front of my peephole. She was pulling up her swimsuit bottoms. I was amazed to see wisps of red hair growing in her crotch. Suddenly, she seemed very different from me - no longer a peer, as if she had crossed over into an unknown territory. After that incident I didn’t participate in teasing her. Our friendship with the sisters started to wane around that time and soon we stopped hanging out at all.

 

The swimming hole gradually filled in as the pier deteriorated and the flow of the creek changed. There is a natural gas pipeline that passes through the property and crosses the creek at that point. Over the years it has been re-buried lower as the creek kept uncovering it. The subsequent construction activity further filled the old swimming hole. The continued excavation by floodwaters of the third bend just upstream finally erased all traces of the old swimming hole. It is now shallow creek bed that has a slight rise in the middle. During summer and times of low water the flow splits around this slight rise and wispy golden canary grass grows there amongst the rocks.

 

May 18, 2007

More, more older writing...Mt. Pisgah swimming hole

Mt. Pisgah swimming hole (6/28/06)

 

At swimming hole on Coast Fork of Willamette base of Mt. Pisgah vultures and osprey cruising up and down river way. I notice that the osprey don’t bother the vultures as I’ve seen them dive bomb eagles in their vicinity. Different places in the food chain. A group/school of minnows gather in the extreme shallows, very skittish, they dart out to deeper water then back in. They move en masse like a flock of starlings or sanderlings. Patterns repeated across elemental environments. Feathers, scales, wind, currents. The sunlight permeates both realms. As a vulture glides down stream its shadow caresses the pebbly riverbed and spooks the school of minnows as it passes over them. They race out to deeper water. Water-birds fleeing a phantom sky-fish. An energetic relationship ‘cross elements created, sustained and stimulated by solar radiation.

More older writing...I remember going fishing.

I remember going fishing. (7/2/06)

 

I remember going fishing with my dogs as a boy. Bright, hot days in late spring. There were always (and still are) many hawks around Podunk, mostly red-tales. At times, the hawks would circle one above the other, up to six at a time I recall. One hawk in the middle was usually the focus of swoops and aerobatics by the other hawks in the column. I intuited that this was mating behavior, though I don’t know if it was the correct time of year. Once I saw two hawks rise to the top of a column and come together violently and then plummet, wings flashing, for a hundred feet or so, coming apart dramatically a few yards above the ground. The presence of the hawks usually made my dogs nervous, causing them to stop and glance up every so often. During the aerial displays, Heidi and Sam were especially agitated, whining and fussing looking up at the birds. Perhaps they had had encounters with hawks that I didn’t know about. I felt at the time that they were responding empathetically to the tension of the moment. Somehow they knew the terrible importance of this display and were intimidated, wanting to be away from the arena.

 

I remember, as well. (7/5/06)

I remember, as well, being taught by my ichthyologist friend that I should approach pools in the stream with the sun in front of me. He explained that the trout in the pool were very smart, very wary, and if they saw my shadow pass over the pool they would know something was up. I often crouched low to the ground as I came up to a favorite spot so that the fish wouldn’t see me. I imagined the trout’s line of sight radiating out from its position in the creek, penetrating both air and water. If I stayed below it I might go unnoticed. My friend taught me also, to sneak up stream, dislodge a clump of sod and place it in the stream securing it with a large rock. As the dirt washed from the sod’s roots, a cloud of silt would wash down stream. If I could cast my bait into the cloud, the trout would believe it washed in off the bank and be more likely to strike. The times that I was disciplined enough to apply all these techniques often yielded a fish or two. When I had landed the fish and held it I was often afraid of its strength, like holding a disembodied struggling muscle.

I would kill the fish quickly, as per my friend’s instructions, so it would not suffer. Grabbing its upper jaw and bending its head back, quickly and sharply, till I felt its neck break. There would be a spasm of differing duration depending on the size of the fish, then stillness. After the killing, the fish would be wonderfully supple and loose in its body. I had a disturbing sense that the fish felt more alive when dead. Soon though, after having been in my creel, the trout would become stiff and dull, its eyes milky, its scales having lost their iridescence. I was usually content with having caught one or two fish and would return home without lingering. My father was usually glad to see the fish and I would cook them up for our lunch. I would fry them whole and my father would show me how to pull the skeleton out of the cooked fish head and all. He loved to have potatoes with the fish and dill, both usually from the garden. He always made a point of sucking the head and eating the eyes saying it was delicious. Catching and cooking fish for him was one of the few things I did as a child that seemed to please him.

Older writing appropriate for InterTidal

Here's an older piece of writing that seems to be related to the impetus behind InterTidal. It has a wetland theme and therefore is also applicable to other works in the Wetlands series (Distance, Distant Progress, DistantTRIO). I am going to post some other older writings as well.

 

Fairly Drunk (3/10/06)

 

Home here is different

Home home is all the past new

all the old new that I can turn

in my hand and smile at

all the new that felt like

no one else could feel

like I felt for the first time

all the now that filled me

and made me rise up

to things without guarantees

full of expectation and

fullness, full of want and

folly, all things for the first

time and fresh, new and

remembered, was it then

I remember or now that

I cherish?

 

Home here is different

here is the ring ‘round the moon

and balsam in the air

scent only fiber given up

to smoke.

I’m used to oak and hard wood

sour, here is soft wood sensual

and nocturnal rainbows

several kinds of clouds in

the sky at once and sun too!

frosted hillsides like corn-ball

Christmas trees.

 

Here is the last few pools and

barrens where Brandts can land

chevron-less gaggles behind

fully prefabbed neighborhoods

clean, gated repetition, replicated

domiciles of dreams and American-ness.

 

Here I’ve seen herons with bayonettes

raptors plummet against

regimented facades of trim and

pastel exterior paint, zoom to

maximum reduces the distance

between subject and encroaching sprawl.

The jogger brings the pre-fab,

the biker the expressway

the heron brings the inevitable to

the rodent as I try to find the new that was new when new

was new thousands of miles away

and years ago.

March 07, 2007

Odell Lake (2/24/07)

Hell beat out of me by a snowboard.
After first ever lesson took to slopes with my boys biting off
more than I could chew. Green trails are easiest, trial by fire.
First of many falls getting off the lift, attendants disgusted.
Started down trying to remember all the instructor instructed.
Very fast, scary fast, could only cut in one direction.
Forced myself to cut back-to-slope and fell hard slamming head,
fell hard slamming head, fell hard, tried again and cut
‘round to face slope building speed, fell hard slamming face,
crawled to side and thought about concussion. Eventually made
a few shaky, stiff armed S-turns strength in legs giving out.

At end of day, Hell beat out of me by a snowboard,
I entered our lakeside vacation cabin – Purgatory.
Not enough snow to ski, sledding offering more punishment,
over-heating stove offering back some of the Hell I’d left on the slope.
Not-too-achy the morning after progressed to
too-stiff-to-move, day long head ache. Disgruntled spouse,
noisy kids, unfriendly friends, feet swollen and itchy.
Benadryl, Celexa, Pinot Noir – nap time, time for a change of scenery.

I suited up and walked into snowy evening
along the drifted beach, blanketed docks, frozen marina.
All was grey or white and even the white was grey.
Milton Avery muted greyscale forms in distance, not sure if
I was seeing open water against the opposite bank or
the opposite bank against distant mountains.
The defining/dis-orienting attribute a diagonal veil, frozen/dynamic,
animated by constant Southerly wind. Westerly was Hell oozing back in
the only color in the sky, dirty yellow orb gone blue and grey.

Out of this a form emerged, moving against
the veil’s diagonalism, cutting North, cutting South, deliberate
powerful S-curves against the airy slope of the wind.
Vulture-like but not a vulture, huge, scruffy, splayed wingtip feathers.
Turning East along the lake outlet it disappeared over conifers
I noticed a prominent, thick, utilitarian, hooked beak and crescent talons.
Hoping to catch another glimpse, I stumped along the beach road,
back to wind, cold face, wanting to return to the cabin but compelled to walk further.
I thought, “I should have my camera”.  I thought, “I’m lazy, unmotivated, apathetic”.
My chin jerked upward by a scream and I positively identified a juvenile
as it winged along the shore Southward and landed
a canopy perch just out of clear view.

Then, two others, larger, white headed and tailed burst out
of their screams and into view.  Synchronized soaring, followed quickly
by the juvenile, the three an equalized chevron cutting
into the third dimension, exposing the conceit of the veil,
challenging the supremacy of winter, confidently patrolling the lake above
open water the shore ice a temporary inconvenience.
I thought, “Eagles migrate to more temperate winter grounds don’t they?”
“Do they really fish here throughout the year?”
I couldn’t get my mind around that possibility, dulled by ache,
self-doubt – Purgatory. I had come out because I knew
there was something there to transport me, lift me.
For some reason the Eagles hadn’t done it,
my mood remained a cold dull meat sandwiched by frozen earth and shy.



My eyes came into focus on the surface of the lake
just at the point where the stillness of the ice becomes
the stillness of open water becomes a perceptible flow over
a grounded log lying perpendicular to the mouth of the outlet.
The motion of the water, clearer, more real than the drifting veil of snow,
cleared my mind and steeled my attention. A piece of ice
bumped up against and tipped over the log. Others followed
and pulled my gaze downstream where a fleet of emancipated
water-prisons rode ripples into the forest. My face smiled,
my head turned, my eyes followed the bobbing regatta.
I did this over and over.

And then, heaving a sigh, I looked out across
the mouth of the outlet following the line of waiting
ice chunks queued up for deliverance. A line that became a crowd,
a mob, bumping shoulders, rubbing edges, some lifting up out of,
others sinking down into the slushy water. A riot of pushing
and shoving of jockeying for position, a riot
in super slo-mo. Here the veil rippled its hem and dusted
the jam with snow, simultaneously falling down and
swirling forward to the shore melding into the face of the forest.

Heaving a sigh the wind faltered, the veil fell back,
the ice jam relaxed and eased its push shoreward slipping
back creating more elbow room between chunks, it expanded
just enough to allow a few pieces to break away and slip over
the log and join the jostle downstream. And then…

            I am lifted, my scalp tingling, my ears pulled back, I am charged

by the sharp, noiseless report of clear-sight, of witnessing,

of deep, deep intimacy, of humor and sorrow.

In the midst of my brief heavenly thrumming a tiny movement
on the surface of the outlet stream caught my eye. There was an
Ouzel perched on a rock its tail flicking excitedly. And against all
that was humanly sensible, the little bird dived into the current,
disappearing in its black possibilities. My mind tried to understand,
to grasp this event, it carved desperately, tried to find its place,
to catch an edge, some control, but the slope was too steep
and I slammed face first into humility.
 

 

 

 

February 03, 2007

HomeWords

The following is a list of words (with help from Barry Lopez' Home Ground) that I associate with my home. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State. This is a beautiful rolling countryside that was shaped by glacial forces. I am still deeply connected with the region and my time there continues to influence my creative output. These are all words that I use when describing or talking about my home region. They are intimately embedded in the geography of the land and of my memories. There is a bit of a poem at the end about a particular kind of ice I have not seen anywhere else. 

HomeWords 

Hanging valley, terminal moraine, drumlin, oxbow, slough, ripple, eddy, rapid, falls, pool, hole, bend, sluice, gulf, gorge, glen, creek, pond, lake, inlet, swamp, hollow, ledge, pothole, pasture, hedgerow, woods, trail, field dump, bottomland, riparian, oak, maple, beech, ash, poplar, willow, spruce, hemlock), hill, ridge, point, rim, dog-leg, run (monkey, rabbit), keyhole, brook (Lick), flashflood, snag, patch, stand, wetland, ditch, swimming hole (Halseyville, gentleman’s lunch, Potter’s falls, double secret, triple secret), spring, woodlot, fork, bog, cut, cutback and point bar, cut-off, oxbow, neck, meander, swale, meander scar, whitewater, flatwater, bank, till, drift, glacial erratic, grade, runoff, seep, sill, bowl, artesian, cone of the falls, shelf, “…eroding a cutoff across the neck of a meander, it leaves behind…a meander scar.” William DeBuys,  nick point, nook, outcrop, plunge pool, quarry, race, scarpfoot spring, scree, talus, shore, stream, woodland, grove, windbreak, ditch, gully, cutback, hairpin, wetland, dale, tree tip pit, till (glacial), back forty, lower forty, acre, beaver dam, beaver pond, log jam, beaver trail, deer trail, bedrock, berm, blow down, chute, falls and plunge pool, spathe and spadex, cut bank and point bar, sticks, boonies, east bum fuck, boondocks, Podunk, root wad and tree tip pit, gulch, levee, sandstone, shale, slate, granite, schist, gneiss, quartz, basalt,

blue-green-red-brown-black ice, the ice that forms when the falls freezes before it reaches the plunge pool, the ice that flows over the cone at the base of the falls, that meanders, and bends with tiny cutbacks and point bars, ice jams and breakthroughs, flash floods, oxbows, fast freezing and damming, backing up, flooding forming new micro flows that repeat the process in infinite variation a microcosmic re-iteration of creation as the cone grows higher and wider reaching for the nick point through confounding mist in the dead of winter.

January 30, 2007

Do we know what we hear when we see?

I screened a work the other night at a local Video Slam (excellent venue) and got very good feedback from the audience - many of whom were video/film artists. The work is "Putting By" an improvisatory piece I taped while doing some canning in my kitchen. The late afternoon light through the SW facing window was especially compelling and the sounds and sites of the kitchen became my material. I preserved the chronological order of takes and edited from 60mins to 15 mins of tape. I was particularly interested in the sync sound as there was much to hear including background conversations that ended up providing a kind of subtext to the piece.

I spent a good deal of time working on sweetening the sound while maintaining its original character. There was a prominant 60 cycle hum that proved difficult to mask. While working in my studio I took a break and went in the house to make some tea. While I was busy with the range the refrigerator kicked in and I noticed the familiar 60 cycle hum (which I had thought was the video camera). I realised the hum was as much a part of the video as the steam from the cookers was. I left it in the mix. When I completed the audio mix I was quite satisfied with the resulting balance between video and audio - an opportunity to see and hear on a deeper level.

At the screening I brought the sound up to a comfortable but emphasized level. Afterward, during the question and answer period, there were no mentions of the sounds. Many astute observations regarding the visual but not a single mention of the sound. I was quite surprised. The situation led me to wonder about an audience's ability to hear without hearing. Perhaps, with Hollywood styled sound design, audiences are conditioned to not hear what they are hearing. Just recently Kelley Baker spoke  in Eugene about sound design and repeated the industry maxim that "if the audience notices the soundtrack it is no good, if they don't it has done its job.". I wonder about that statement. Kind of related to the confounding statement "you really can't teach composition" that I got from my composition teachers in academia - "Um, so why are we here?". 

More on this coming... 

 

 

January 03, 2007

Wetlands are calling.

I have been feeling a pull to visit the wetlands lately (West Eugene Wetlands). Rain has been plentiful and the temperature mild. This time of year brings dense clouds and a blue-ish gray pallor that feels like an enormous comforter has settled over the landscape. The life in the marsh is surprising and uplifting. Chevrons of geese (Canada and Brandts) appear on the horizon as shivering, morphing DNA strands.

The wetlands stimulate me. When I go there I quickly gain a meditative, intuitive alertness that leads to satisfying taping. They are living proof of the depth of simple moments, the intricacy of plainess. Carpeted in brown grass, flat and windswept, seemingly nothing more than a place to drain and develop. But to stand in one spot and remain alert can be quite overwhelming. I don't know what to tape first; the kiting koestrel, water-landing ducks, bayonetting herons, grazing nutria, oblivious joggers.  I never have an agenda. I simply go and take what is offered to me. I always leave full but wanting more, wishing I could somehow capture the purple, brown and ochre nuances of wintery evening light.