Photo by Mec Rawlings
There is a kind of simulated experience where the only objective is to navigate step by step around the sounds of an imaginary forrest. This is Faint Signals. It’s like a type of slow-paced video game where you can only move front, back, and side to side, and the only purpose is to navigate around a rough map and hear real sounds recorded long ago. The site describes it like this:
Faint Signals is an invitation to slow down. An opportunity to experience an imagined Yorkshire forest, densely populated with sounds of nature from the British Library’s archive.
Faint Signals is an ambient and slow experience of discovery, exploring the world one step at a time. With thousands of combinations of sounds, your constantly evolving experience will be unique to you.
You are invited to explore the woodland changing through all four seasons as the experience evolves from day to night. Each tile you move across unlocks narrative and data on the landscape, all of which are based on real life environments, with wildlife, weather and other nature sounds reflecting the diversity and complexity of ecosystems in the region. A rich variety of sounds can be unlocked by discovering particles of light lingering in the forest.
I blocked 30 minutes off on my schedule this week for the experience. Is was pretty cool. Thanks to Dan Cohen for sharing the experience in his newsletter.
I’ve probably linked to this site in a previous newsletter, but it’s worth doing again since it also deals with sound and space. This is Diaspora 2487, a sound installation by Luz Maria Sanchez that “records the names of 2,487 of the estimated eight thousand people who have died while trying to cross the US/Mexico border since 1993.” The programming underneath the sounds is randomized to initiate “organic patterns much like migration patterns themselves. Interspersed with varying periods of silence, some names are heard in isolation while others sound like links in a chain, and many overlap.”
Super audio instrument designer Marek Bereza made a free web-based synthesizer for everyone. It’s the Bauble FM. In fact, he made it in December as a Christmas present for everyone. He’s got a thing for the design of such instruments, as I talked about in a previous edition of this newsletter. The same goes for the Bauble as you can see below. Better yet, program a steady groove and let it play in the background as you work.
I’ve taken note in the past few weeks of people drawing parallels between the 1/6 Capitol insurrection and the white supremacist coup of 1898 in Wilmington, NC. That’s appropriate. But I’m sitting most with what the descendants of those insurrectionists will think of their white ancestors. Here’s what I mean.
In 2018, historian and journalist David Zucchino visited the grandson of a ruthless white supremacist who played central role in the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. The white supremacist was Josephus Daniels. Daniels ran the News & Observer, the largest newspaper in North Carolina. But he did more than run it. He crafted the paper into an anti-Black, white supremacist propaganda engine. He called time and time again for the violent destruction of Black leaders, Black people, Black businesses, and Black institutions in Wilmington. White supremacists answered that call on Thursday, November 10, 1898.
But back to the grandson. Over a century after the massacre, and sixty years after Daniels’s death, Zucchino met with that grandson, Frank A. Daniels, Jr. They met downtown Wilmington, NC. Zucchino tells this story in the final pages of Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. Zucchino’s mind must have been some place close to where mine is right now. He wanted to know how the grandson made sense of his grandfather and the role he played in the insurrection/coup/massacre, among other things. The state of North Carolina avoided any formal investigation into this coup for a century. When it finally formed a commission to investigate, its report criticized Daniels’s grandfather for his “racial incitements and demagoguery.” The report was correct. At that meeting downtown Wilmington, Zucchino asked grandson Daniels if he agreed with the report’s conclusions about his grandfather. Daniels told him this:
“I never read it.”
So again: what I’m sitting with is how the descendants of those insurrectionists will think of their white (and otherwise) ancestors.
Reading: Getting ahead a bit by reading Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera.
Writing: Some final edits on a series of articles coming out in Kairos written by a group of graduate students who took my BreakBeat Lit class last year. This has been special: moving together from seminar papers to publication. Kairos only publishes webtexts, a format I’ve honestly never had any experience with before. But having to dig into this new world has certainly got me thinking differently about alternatives to print-based scholarship, like this amazing thing that I don’t exactly know what to call it.
Teaching: Some norm building and early architecture in the first week of the semester in my anti-racist YA Lit course.
Listening: This new stomper “Murphy’s Law” by veteran Irish singer Róisín Murphy. Live version recommended. I hope I’m not too late to grab the 12” vinyl because this needs to be played out when dance floors are a thing once again.