What is the role of wilderness in the imagination? Is wilderness still wild if it is walled? In a preserve, who are the captors, and who are the captives? These are only a few of the questions asked by Philip Samartzis and Eric La Casa as they record the soundscape of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
The recording starts with something that sounds like a warthog, along with a trickle, crickets and birds. This will remain the most direct moment of interaction until minute fourteen, as collecting more of the local animal sounds proved maddeningly frustrating. The duo were confined to cars and paths for their own protection, as are the citizens who live in the middle of the preserve, surrounded by an electrified fence. But to see it from the animals’ perspective, it’s also a frustration, like having food behind glass in an automat and no way to reach it.
The wilderness is changed by the proximity of humans, as demonstrated in the intrusion of planes and jeeps. Visitors may go on safari or enjoy cooking in the local restaurants as other creatures salivate over them. Nine minutes in, someone gets to go for a walk ~ but how far? The mosquitos are buzzing and the birds seem agitated. The “wild” becomes a tourist trap as the same time as it becomes less wild ~ yet without the tourism the area would become less protected: a conundrum.
The title can be read in multiple ways. The artists “captured” their sounds; the residents “captured” a space in which to live and shop; the animals are “captured” in that they are restricted from wandering into certain areas; the captors become the captives as their own movements are restricted in turn. The soundscape is rich and engrossing despite being a left turn. Samartzis writes, “sound always seemed to appear from somewhere other than where we were. Always at a distance, concealed from view, and frustratingly elusive.”
Yet when the rain falls, it falls on all, a common drenching. When the sun shines, it shines on all. Creatures on the inside (however “inside” is defined) imagine eating those on the outside, and vice versa. Samartzis and La Casa may not have captured the sounds they intended, but stumbled upon an equally fragile ecosystem, like Jurassic Park only one electrical failure away from entropy. The seeming power of the controllers in the 25th minute leads one to consider other manners of walls: between host and guest, rich and poor, armed and unarmed, and how quickly these walls might crumble in a crisis. *Crash* ~ “Control, control?” (Richard Allen)