Soundscape: the sum total of sound in an environment, made up of geophony, biophony, and anthrophony.  (more on soundscapes here)

 

THE SOUNDSCAPE CATALOGUE           new sounds twice weekly   

All recordings and photos by Patrick Harlin

FOR ORCHESTRA and SOUNDSCAPES


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As the former President of the United States, what do you do after losing a re-election campaign? If you're Teddy Roosevelt, you head to South America to explore the last major remaining tributary to the Amazon river. River of Doubt for soundscapes and orchestra combines pre-recorded soundscapes, birdcall transcriptions, and a historic expedition into a 25-minute orchestral experience.


PREVIEW


BACKGROUND

In 1913/14 President Theodore Roosevelt and a figure of equal energy and importance, Brazilian General Cândido Rondon, decided to co-lead an expedition exploring the last major uncharted tributary of the Amazon River, the RIVER OF DOUBT (Rio Da Dúvida). At that time, South America was the least explored/mapped continent (outside of Antarctica). It began as the adventure that Roosevelt wanted and ended up as one he hadn’t bargained for; members quit in droves, some died, one was killed, and the killer was left for dead.

EXPEDITION PHOTO

According to historian and author Candice Mallard, after suffering a serious injury and infection the former president considered suicide so that the remainder of the team, with their meager supplies and precarious health, might make it out alive. Rondon and Roosevelt were up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Roosevelt recovery canoe



The expedition sprawled over 1000 miles. Some days, members moved less than a mile through the nearly impenetrable jungle.


EXPEDITION MAP



In the end–

Roosevelt and the remaining members made it out. The former president was a ghost of his former self, some fifty pounds lighter having sustained injuries that ultimately shortened his life.






100 years after this expedition

My wife and I traveled to the Amazon basin to record soundscapes of ecosystems in peril. Our indigenous guides took us on dugout canoes deep into this biodiverse ecosystem, the lungs of the world, to record sounds as they might have sounded for the last several hundred years.


Audrey Kelley in the Amazon.

Patrick recording





River of Doubt

is ideally performed with these soundscapes, immersing the audience in these sonic landscapes. At points, the orchestra becomes the soundscape, drawing parallels between the sounds we hear in the natural world and those we hear in the concert hall.


LISTEN

Movement I: "River of Doubt"

Is an entry into the unknown, a decision that offers no option of turning back. It begins with soundscapes, and near the end, the woodwind instruments and percussion take on different birdcalls found in the Amazon, creating a soundscape that plays outside the confines of the orchestral music

Movement II: "Cloud Forest"

Aurally depicts the grandeur and continually evolving landscapes of the Amazon

Movement III: "Rondon"

Is an examination of the excitement of exploration through the boundless energy and influence of the indigenous advocate and explorer Cândido Rondon.

Expedition member and naturalist George Cherrie wrote of the night soundscape, “Let there be the least break of harmony of sound, and instantly there succeeds a deathlike silence, while all living things wait in dread for the inevitable shriek that follows the night prowler’s stealthy spring.” I agree with George Cherrie, it is not the sounds but rather the sudden cessation of sound that causes alarm, whether it is the alarm of a predator lurking or a climate in crisis.

WATCH+LISTEN



As the Great Salt Lake hits a 170-year record low water level, and 99% of Utah is in a historic drought, Utah got some much needed rain. Listen to the accompanying rolling thunder up Mill Creek Canyon, one of the seven major canyons on the Wasatch mountain range.







After 17 years underground, the Brood-X cicadas have emerged in the tens of millions in Ann Arbor. Once above ground, the cicadas shed their exoskeleton, dry out their wings, and fill them with a fluid to add structural integrity. You can see a recently shed exoskeleton in the video below

In much of the forest, the ground appears to be moving. Here is what any branch in the immediate vicinity looks like at the moment. In the video, because the cicadas have just emerged, it is relatively quiet.


Just a day or two later, you can hear the cicada chorus, accompanying the massive above-ground orgy to close out their 17 year life cycle. It is impressive in the volume of bugs and the volume of sound they create.


Listen to the chorus of Brood-X

Not much can cut through the chorus of millions of cicadas. For comparison you can hear the forest just a few days earlier.