Workshop with Mitakayal, 2016
(photo above : Yavu preparing a new boompole)
Sounds recorded by the participants, editing by Y.D.
October 21-23, 2016.
Mitakayal is a project by Laling Yumin and Wagi Qmisan.
Skaru group of Atayal people in Hsinchu County, Taiwan.
Preparation : packing my own equipment (and forgetting my boompole, taking my two kids to the mountains for doing a workshop is not the easiest part of this project), preparing some sounds for sharing, some portable recorders and headphones for the participants.
Leaving home and driving, arriving at Mitakal : suddenly, the change of environment, from the hills of Taipei to mid-altitude mountains of Hsinchu has an immediate effect on me : reappropriate the senses, change the perspective, adapt to another timeframe.
We start by a listening session. I often believe it is better to open the ears indoor. I usually bring my old pair of loudspeakers (who traveled everywhere in Taiwan from Matsu to Pingtung, from Qimei to Yilan) so I know what kind of auditory experience I can provide. Ethnographical documents such as the vanished indigenous people of Terra del Fuego, fragments of sound environments from Antarctica, my own recordings of the fauna of Taiwan (amphibians, mammals, birds, underwater creatures), those are tools for reconnecting the ears to the imagination, offering a new field of perception.
Then the technical explanations : the tools are simple, portable recorders, protections against the wind for the sensitive built-in microphones, and the mandatory headphones that allows to check in real-time what is being recorded. These items help to concentrate the attention on sound and bring another type of body experience, a mediated interface between the ears, the hand and the environment.
The first work of a field recordist is to listen to the world through these devices : the microphone acts like a telescope or a microscope, it allows to discover the sounds from another perspective and even allows to explore the sonic phenomena that are usually hard or impossible to detect. The headphone isolate from the direct sounds, it projects the audition towards outside. It’s a bit like if the hands were holding the ears.
We try the equipment indoor, then go out, in the night. The absence of daylight helps forgetting a bit about vision. Insects, night birds and some muntjack and flying squirrels are singing all along. And the wind, and the water are singing too, it is a tapestry of sound.
The participants are very quick. They jump and dive into this listening experience. They were ready for it, because they have an intense relationship to their environment, their knowledge of the forest, of the mountain is coming from their practice of hunting, gathering, observing. They immediately embrace the devices for listening to the sounds, and start collecting them.
Later during the night, the collective discussing is partly a sharing, partly a re-processing of this experience.
The path is open, they know what is possible, they can develop their own sound project.
The next day, they spend a bit of time alone. Some will try to make a sound trap by settling the recorder at the entrance of a pangolin’s burrow, some will record cicadas and bird songs, some will catch the delicate popping sound of some seeds drying in the sun. The last hours are spent introducing about sound editing, using software for cutting, arranging, mixing the recorded sounds.
The workshop was very short, but extremely satisfying : I have the feeling that not only the participants could swallow and digest what I wanted to share, but also immediately imagine some ways to implement the field recording practice.
Also, they even made a new boompole for me, with bamboo.