Non-Event Festival, The Waterworks Museum, Boston MA, 19 - 30 April, 2023
Whip-poor-will is part of a series called Ephemerospheres: the spheres of temporary, fragile, non-human sound that occur outside of, or on the fringes of, human perception. Sound worlds on the edges of our perception or attention, that come and go in the course of weeks or hours.
Whip-poor-will starts, as its source, with several ephemeral sound spheres of early summer in New England: the endangered little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), who echolocates at 110 dB while foraging insects; several amphibians who are only heard for a few weeks in spring and summer, including the wood frog and spring peeper; and the Whip-poor-will, who sings only at night, but so continuously that the cessation of their onomatopoeic song makes your ears prick up.
The sounds emanate from several self-built speakers hidden among the roots of the Allis engine at the Waterworks Museum, rising from beneath the waterline of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and up through the grating around the engine.
Nature sound recording is often called an act of capture, invoking assumed histories of colonization and resource abuse - historispheres that are sometimes invisible but not ephemeral. They endure and infect the spheres of the real, of ecologies and societies, of how we speak and how we understand, or resist understanding.
But “capture” is misleading: sound cannot be forced to hold still. Recording is an act of writing; a sound recording device is writing a story (in magnetism or math) of what the microphone hears, a story that it can read back aloud through a speaker. Making sounds by hand that parallel these stories (with instruments, objects, voice) can be an act of drawing; so Whip-poor-will also includes some of these sound drawings to accompany the story, all of them written and re-written through digital means, then spoken aloud through self-made loudspeakers. The speakers used in this installation are the same ones I originally made for my Wave Field Synthesis array, but with flexible application in mind.