“Wilderness. The word itself is music.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
On first listen, the acoustic fingerprint of the Sonoran Desert --- some 110,000 square miles embedded in the southwest landscape of the United States and northwestern Mexico --- is a place of vivid silence.
But with extended listening comes complex acoustic horizons where distance and volume are no longer relevant.
Artists often imbibe the Sonoran Desert with a mythology of precious beauty, watering down its humbling power and sublime majesty with comfort and caution.
Along the border where the cultural deltas of the United States and Mexico overlap, migrants seeking better lives die by the hundreds every year and only commerce seems capable of overcoming the undertow of otherness. On both sides of the border, cities sprawl, roads are cut through mountains, rivers are sucked dry, pipelines and power lines traverse the landscape, lush vegetation turns to dust.
Over the last decade the Sonoran Desert borderlands have become militarized and populated by drones, walls, checkpoints and weapons of mass detection.
Within the shadow of this mechanized world --- Sonora Ex Machina --- the natural order of things still hold sway --- storms rage, insects sing, wind is given voice and shape by stone, and all living things watch and wait for signs of summer monsoons or winter rains.
Listen closely at this point of bifurcation and you will hear the natural worlds of Mexico and The United States blend into one. Sound knows no borders. Water is life.
For twenty years I've struggled to present this terrain in sonic totality --- both the magnificence and the terror --- through the creation of difficult and sometimes unpopular soundscapes.
Become Desert Ex Machina is an attempt to meld these polarities of nature and machine into a single unifying work --- a sprawling 50+ minute recording culled from two decades of recordings chronicling an imaginary 12 month cycle in The Sonoran Desert via performance and field recordings, natural and mechanized sound.
On this recording you will hear monsoon storms range, Africanized bees swarm, amplified native vegetation, earth and stones lent voice, border walls and fences transformed with cello bows, the broadcast vocalizations of seasonal insects and migrant birds, and found objects manipulated in acoustic response to other more traditional instruments.
Every sound on this work was recorded on location in the Sonoran Desert --- between 1995 and 2014 --- to ensure this landscape's complicated mojo and multidimensional DNA was woven deeply into the tracks.
I hope you enjoy what you hear and encourage you to make the journey to The Sonoran Desert yourself someday to hear the eternal performance.
Stay tuned and thanks for listening,
released December 11, 2013
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