My time in Japan was very much so an aural experience, which is where the idea of creating a song came from. A large theme was the concept of quiet, namely, its differentiation between silence. Quiet can contain ambience, whereas silence is known as an absolute; the Webster Dictionary definition of silence is the “complete absence of sound,” but who is to say what that is? Is what I regarded as silence in Japan actually a “complete absence of sound,” or an ambience from the unique landscape that I associate with nature, so much so as to not consider it a sound, but the absence? I felt like I heard silence for the first time in Japan, however, I feel my interpretation of silence should be considered within the definition as the most “complete absence of sound” I have ever experienced, rather than an absolute silence.
It is within this song that I hoped to portray my ideas of silence, ambience, and quiet using the binary of natural/manufactured to approach disaster. There are three “natural” tracks in the song that I recorded in Japan: a recording of waves on Naoshima Island, Natori members from Sendai singing, and the soft burble of a hot spring in Hakone where I visited an onsen (traditional Japanese bath house.) To create the more disastrous points in the song, I used recordings of Japanese winds I collected while walking through our activities with earphones and ran them through an old cassette deck I connected to both an amplifier and a basic analog synth controller. In modulating the drive, reverb and compression on the controller and the gain on the amplifier itself, I found through trial and error that I was able to distort what I regarded as silence in Japan into static-heavy feedback tracks. I wanted to use sound editing software to edit the song, so I reversed the process and digitized the tapes I recorded to then layer over the original three voice recording tracks. To tie in my own self-awareness as a visitor for a very brief time in Japan, I recorded an analog tape of myself playing the violin and digitized it as well, to show my own perspective in the project. Essentially, I created my own disaster from the natural.
This sound engineering experiment is wrapped up in an intentional confusion I want to convey—what is a natural sound and what is a man-made sound, and undifferentiated, how do these disasters layer over each other? Myopically, how can silence be manufactured through sound technology, and how is it represented in different natural landscapes?