Featuring recordings from Italy, Iceland and Portugal, Affects and aesthetic speculations is an invitation to consider the listener within the sonic environment. How is one affected by the sounds one hears? How do human sounds affect the biosphere? Do listeners acclimate or attempt to dominate?
The Doks of Cagliari is the opening subject, awash in the sounds of traffic and sea: two competing sources whose juxtaposition is jarring. One wishes to tune one out, but cannot; the motorcycles are particularly aggressive, the planes even louder. Nature is losing this sonic battle. One worries about the emotional health of the seabirds, but also the impact on the human residents. In the closing minutes, the din recedes, though the sonic field is dominated by a human contribution: a knocking buoy. Even when we are not around, we are annoying.
“Quintinio Sella,” recorded aside an Italian canal, treads a similar path, although this time the sound increases to a near-drone, the aural byproducts of industry building toward potentially painful levels. “Furnace” provides a change of pace and place. After attending the “Invisible places. Sound, Urbanism, and sense of place” conference, Nicola Di Croce steps out on his own, testing the ideas across thermal vents, volcanos and shores. As the human element is reduced, listeners may make a connection between the droning sounds of nature and those of factories. Each produces a similar visceral reaction, although the first is akin to awe and the second overwhelming without the wonder.
“Carbonera” furthers the conversation, centering on the “abandoned islands” of a lagoon located near an airport. As few humans would wish to live near an airport ~ not only due to congestion, but the sounds of takeoffs, landings and sonic booms ~ one wonders if the avian occupants have had a similar conversation, accepting the sound in exchange for the relative privacy. Should we force creatures to make such decisions? Are there any pristine sonic environments within their flight zones, and if so, are they sustainable?
One such area is Iceland, circled by the Ring Road (Route 1). Three-quarters of the nation’s human population lives in the Reykjavik area, leaving most of the center and much of the outer border to nature. Tourism and development are threatening even these natural environments, but for now at least the population is aware, concerned and active. Di Croce’s travels around the road expose the rich biosphere. Returning to Venice, the artist ends with a shocking parallel: a singing beggar by his home. As often as we ignore the cries of those around us, even more do we ignore the cries of other living creatures, as we continue to tread heavily upon the earth. (Richard Allen)
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