Outside-In: Þóranna Björnsdóttir

by 5:4

The latest contribution to the Outside-In field recording compilation is from Icelandic composer and sound-artist Þóranna Björnsdóttir. Þóranna has written the following introduction to her recording:

In November 2017, I embarked on a journey to South Africa to participate in the 5th Annual Sonic Mmabolela workshop/residency. Conceived and directed by Francisco López, Sonic Mmabolela is a two-week programme for professional and semi-professional sound artists and composers with previous experience in the area of sound experimentation and sound recordings. It takes place at Mmabolela Reserve, in the Limpopo province of South Africa, right at the border with Botswana. It involves field work, studio work and theoretical/discussion presentations. The residency has a special focus on creative approaches to working with environmental sound recordings, as well as to the role of listening, through an extensive exploration of natural sound environments. It does not have a technical character but is instead conceived and directed towards (i) the questioning of canonical conceptions of so-called ‘field recordings’, and (ii) the development and realisation of projects of sonic creation by the participant artists/composers with the recordings gathered, and through the experience of dedicated listening in natural environments.

The stay at Limpopo and the field listening were a transformational experience for me. The impact of the sounds coming from the diverse fauna in the area stimulated all my senses, creating senses of well being, stress, fear and awe – connecting and transcending various mental associations and emotions.

At dawn on the 18 November 2017, while waiting to collect recording gear from another location, I attached my small Roland R-09HR to a windmill pumping water which was standing at the location where I was waiting. I became fascinated by the metal-scraping rusty music and rhythm this windmill was making, and the ambience it created in combination with the sounds of the fauna around. We are in the midst of a membrane between night and day. I sense, and wonder, about my being. I hear the birds sing, the wind howl, flies buzzing, insects swarming, noise, persistent, squall, dense, rhythmic, drilling. I glide vertical, swinging horizontal, deep, mighty. My perception without restrictions. Impressive surroundings surrounding my awareness, seizing intuition, strengthening hope.

Many of the recordings featured in Outside-In have demonstrated interesting contrasts, and, as indicated in her text, Þóranna’s is no exception. The juxtaposition of the windmill within the natural environment leads to a lovely collision of natural and artificial sound sources. The organic noises of nature surround the more penetrating, hard-edged wooden/metallic clanking of the mill, the diffuse chaos of the former balanced by the focused irregular rhythms of the latter. Our attention is continually pulled between the two, though it’s more tantalising in the surrounding ambiance: different creature noises keep unexpectedly materialising, often disappearing again before we’ve had much of a chance to register them. There are also a number of occasions when the gentle wafts of wind create the strange semblance of a deep, wobbly bassline. At the opposite end of the spectrum, at various points in the recording one becomes aware (or re-aware) of a very high-pitched textural ambiance all around, of varying intensity, the awareness of which greatly expands our perceived scale of the soundscape. This is one of the things i love most about field recordings, the way our perspective and focus continually shifts between fore-, middle- and background sounds as well as low-, medium- and high-frequency regions. It’s a wonderfully vivid recording.

All of the recordings featured in Outside-In are available to download or stream; there’s no charge for downloading, but you’re free to make a payment if you wish, and all proceeds made will be shared among the contributors.

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for this project, please see the Call for Recordings information below.

Call for Recordings

If you have a recording you would like to be considered for Outside-In, the guidelines are very simple:

  • approximately 5-15 minutes’ duration – long enough to allow some decent immersion;
  • no obvious editing – recordings can be discreetly edited but should generally sound like a single recording, with no sudden cuts;
  • no indoor or underwater recordings – all in the open air;
  • no speech or overt human noises, apart from perhaps in the distance or as a part of the ambiance/surroundings;
  • the recording doesn’t need to be made using high-end equipment, but should be good enough to be enjoyed transparently, without attention drawn to its shortcomings.

Please note: the idea is that the recordings were made before the lockdown, but if you would like to make one that reflects the current, quieter state of the world – without breaking any local rules on going outside in the process! – then that’s absolutely fine.

To send your recording, please use the 5:4 Contact form and in the “Your Message” section please include the following:

  • a download link to your recording (via WeTransfer, or equivalent), which should preferably be in compressed lossless format (e.g. FLAC – no lossy recordings!);
  • information about the place, time and situation in which the recording took place – as much or as little detail as you would like to share;
  • a Google Maps link to the exact/approximate location where the recording was made.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Click here to respond and leave a commentx