Buiti Binafin may be a field recording, but it’s also an attempt to drive home a deeper message: that Earth’s natural soundscapes are disappearing by the minute, and the world’s chroniclers may need to step up their pace. At the same time, it’s a message to the whole of humanity: there’s something worth saving here, and while it’s nice to have pleasant recordings of the outdoors, it would be even better to have the outdoors. This is not a new message (Silent Spring, The Lorax), but it has gained added traction in the modern era.
Frédéric Nogray travelled throughout Honduras to procure these recordings. The press release states, “we know it since Claude Lévy-Strauss hammered it into us: tropics are sad, and each time we come, we pare down their territory”. But this is not altogether true. Some visitors tear down trees, and others plant them. Some disrupt natural environments, while others seek to preserve them. A tropic is neither sad nor happy; it just is (or isn’t). And so while listening to Buiti Binafin, one might treasure the sounds of birds in the trees or wonder if they are about to become extinct; one might accept the human intrusions or rail against them. But one will probably never think, “oh, what a shame that the river is drying or the weather systems have been disrupted”, because no matter what we do, there will always be rivers somewhere, and rain. As sonically thrilling as the opening thunderstorm may be, it’s not this soundscape’s most unique facet: the recording of indigenous avian species, twittering throughout the bulk of the hour-long track. In its latter quadrant, the piece shifts to night: insects appear, nightbirds emerge, the former cries recede.
When eight minutes remain, a loud vehicle enters, swiftly folding into the sounds of crashing water. While normally such an appearance would shatter the reverie, it’s the most active sound since the thunderstorm, and as such, it draws the attention in a pleasant way. The locals seem frightened, but the recording grows more interesting. One of the (unidentified) birds even sounds like a synthesizer. Hearing such a sound, one wonders what a flock of such birds might sound like if used in the manner of a cat piano (although we do not condone such behavior). In the end, the listener is left to ponder the sounds, to enjoy them, or both. Nogray’s intentions are laudable, but whether the album makes one want to save habitats or simply visit them will vary according to the audience. (Richard Allen)