one-minute vacation
maritime suite moorish idol s3 moments in burma annapurna: memories in sound plumbing and irrigation of south asia rockets of the mekong kagbeni variations dusk machines guantanamo express turns in the south embertide compilations

vox americana ( 1999 )
echolocations volume 1

CDR available, $108 or barter.

Composed from field recordings made in Vietnam.

A trip to Vietnam for the headphone tourist.

three trains 20.4 MB Three trains: a tryptich and coda. Market day in the hill town of Ba Cah near the Chinese border (a radio in the background). Two train sounds, one from the ride north, one from the ride south. The hiss that overlays the clack of the tracks is the brakes engaging. Inspirations: a tryptich by Boccioni (here courtesy of fictional Geocities member Ashlea Ensro), Philip Larkin's Whitsun Weddings, Reich's Different Trains.
malaria 14.7 MB Delirium, fever, submersion. The irreality of drifting in Ha Long Bay; a day on the water becomes a puzzle in indigo, periwinkle, cobalt, grey, gray, green and diesel. At some point every traveler succumbs to fever. Wind chimes dislocated from a Hanoi storefront. Swimming in the Bay. Motorcycles lend their horns to the fog. I'm not sure what these Danes are saying, but for me, in repetition, it becomes "we are outlaws of the inner ear." Yes.
circumlocution 10.1 MB Brownian motion, or, a stochastic dérive. Brownian motion is the constant unpredictable motion of motes under the influence of energetic (if invisible) particles. A stroll with no destination in an unfamiliar city can be an exercise in serendipity. Guy Debord defined dérive as intentional drifting along the contours of psychological geography (particuarly in an urban environment). A private hotel room is a profound privilege.
in passing 12.1 MB Les enfants en passant. A walking meditation in the terraced hills surrounding Sa Pa, just south of the China border. Across the vast valley, the highest peak in southeast Asia suggests itself behind mercurial clouds. Infrequent houses below. Barefoot children and motorcycles (often with engines turned off) are the only other traffic. The careful listener may hear the sound of our camera once or twice, and determine the source of the hunting horns.
dukka 26.5 MB The unquiet mind. Source recorded at Thien Mu Monastary on the Perfume River in Hue, the oldest surviving Buddhist monastary in Vietnam. The quiet grounds were a welcome change from the predatory desperation of Hue. I was told the city residents are still punished financially for Hue's independent course during the War. Thien Mu houses as a relic the blue Austin that Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon, where he immolated himself on June 2, 1963, to protest repression under the US-backed regime of President Diem. Dukka is a term from Buddhist philosophy often translated as "suffering," but a more accurate rendering would be"unsatisfactory-ness."
stuck 8 MB An unseasonably strong storm rendered the famous beaches of Nha Trang all but uninhabitable. When flooding closed the airport, we decided it would be prudent to return to Saigon a day earlier than planned. After securing train tickets, we spent a day running errands and sightseeing in plastic ponchos. When our train arrived late we boarded, only to fidget all night in the station. Non-Vietnamese speakers (such as the few dozen drunken French, with whom I bartered poor conjugations for fine chocolate) only learned in the morning that the tracks were seriously flooded. Bits of my butchered French, the laughter it provoked, the rain on my poncho, the click clack of checking email; the taxi I waited in while my wife cashed her last traveler's check.
lethe 14 MB Rowed, remembered, forgotten. The Tam Coc caves are a few hours south of Hanoi. Karst hills like those of Ha Long rise from paddies and slow rivers. For five dollars a local couple will row you through the impossible landscape - literally through, for the hills hide caverns. The boats are shallow, woven with bamboo strips and waterproofed with tar. On the way back, the ducks laugh when you purchase linen from the wife while the husband slowly rows. The caves are filled with unbroken formations.
usa 12.2 MB A walk in the night. Source recorded over two nights in Hoi An, a fishing village that survived the war. It makes toursist itineraries as a relief from tourist-starved Hue and hedonistic Nha Trang; and as a source of cheap overnight tailoring (e.g., fitted suit in wool and silk for US$40). Beyond the groomed town center, bamboo and thatch houses ring marshland. One night I listened to the river then walked into the pitch black to find the frogs. Twice I was asked the perennial question during this solitary wander: "where are you from?" By street kids on their way home at 9pm from pedalling clay pipes (one is played as they pass). By a drunk and angry young man outside a pool hall catering to western tourists and their music.
nimbus 20.7 MB Gray dawn on China Beach. Nimbus, n. from Latin, a rainstorm, a rain cloud, the cloudshape which envelops the gods when they appear on earth (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913). Webster's New Collegiate adds, "a cloud from from which rain is falling." / The organ drone is the result of convolution, the mathematical marrying of two sounds - in this case musicians tuning, and early morning waves not far from China Beach. The rain fell in Hanoi. The chiming bells were worn by water buffalo in the Sa Pa hills.
hush 14.3 MB Vox americana. A canon of voices from the tourist experience of Vietnam. I envy speakers of tonal languages. French sounds more musical than English to my ear; I am deaf to the music of English. To answer the question: I do speak English. Unfortunately I don't speak Vietnamese. I speak enough French to get around.

online-only bonus tracks

gurgle 1.9 MB A montage of scraps I assembled while moving audio from minidisc to harddisk, which is the Herculean labor of this project. The rhythmic bits are mutated from the gurgling of a sink in our hotel in Nha Trang. The flute was from a musician's rehearsal in Hoi An. The gong-like sound is actually the bell I recorded at the entrance to Thien Mu. I climbed inside it to record, to the great amusement of the teenagers who found me when they saw my boots.
bell and bang 1.6 MB The bells of water buffalo herded by; the cluck of a diesel engine in a rock quarry in the distance; a snippet of conversation between my wife and a passing Hmong saleswoman.