one-minute vacation
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burma ( 2000 - 2001 )

Field recordings made in Burma (Myanmar).

Source sound for Tesselation 1: Moments in Burma.

Approximately 20 hours available.

5am dog chorus 1.5 MB Awoken in the frigid Christmas predawn by dogfights. Everywhere in Asia, packs of mongrels wander the streets, shy of humans who all too often abuse them. With skin falling from open sores and wounds and missing ears, they are a pitiful reminder that life can be very harsh.
bats 1.4 MB In the dark interior of the abandoned temples of Bagan, bats hide from the sunlight and dust until evening. Their sharp stink is unforgettable.
bus clatter 1.4 MB The bane of a traveler: the overnight bus. Past midnight the potholes loom like chasms. Oncoming traffic runs with brights or nothing. The loose windows clatter and the TV finally falls silent.
cable car 1.4 MB In a pleasant park in downtown Rangoon (Yangon), we paid a few cents to cross the arm of a lake. On benches and nesteld under oaks, lovers canoodled in a bit of public privacy.
dusk walk 2 MB We trekked for several days in the undeveloped hills of the Shan state, home to dozens of unique cultures, each with their own language and traditions. We spent this dusk as a guest in the home of a medicine man, U Chi, from whom we purchased several herbal compounds. One for the digestion. All mildly intoxicating.
horse cart 1.4 MB The dry plain of Bagan is home to several thousand Buddhist temples and stupas, and rivals Angkor Wat as an archeological site. Arriving by river ferry from Mandalay late in the afternoon, we hunted for a hotel in a horse cart taxi.
marionette rock 1.9 MB The night we arrived in Rangoon (Yangon) a street fair took over several blocks along the river. One of the sideshow tents was packed with children watching a marionette band, rocking out in mime to an eager pit band just off in the wings. Here we learend that the Burmese don't applaud.
midnight vendors 1.9 MB All-night restaurants dot the highways of Asia. Which one you stop at is a whim of the driver; perhaps they like the food at this one, get a kickback at that one, or have family at a third. This one northeast of Rangoon was populated, even at midnight, by vendors hawking tea, snacks and cigarettes.
Myo with mallets 1.4 MB Myo was the house musician the night we visited the grand old colonial Strand by the river in Rangoon. The instrument she plays here resembled an ornate marimba and sounds more like the bamboo xylophones of Vietnam.
Myo plucks 1.4 MB Myo also playes this plucked, zither-like harp instrument. Perhaps someone can tell me the names of these instruments, or the tunes she plays. I've always been uneasy about sharing the work of other musicians, but I hope she wouldn't mind.
nat pwé 2 MB Nats are the ancestor spirits of the old animist Burmese religion that predated Buddhism and thrives still. Similar to the loa of voudoun, different nats have different spheres of influence and symbiology, and are invited to posess (often transvestite) devotees during rituals invovling musical rites and intoxication. We were fortunate enough to be welcomed at a pwé (dramatized ritual) for Ko Gyi Gyo ('big brother Gyo') in Yngshwe, on Inle lake.
paya bells 900 KB Outside many of the payas we visited were rows of ancient iron bells. Splintering mallets always leaned nearby, for devotees and eager children to strike the bells.
pitstop 1.3 MB A mysterious bit of ambiance outside an afternoon pitstop along the highway. I couldn't quite figure the recording out -- it was distorting like a tape, but clearly skips like an LP. Given the amount of voracious recycling in (import starved) Burma, I decided it was a tape of a skipping LP. A personal favorite.
rice grinder 1.4 MB This room-sized Rube Goldberg rice grinder made such a wonderful noise, we circled round on our bikes to check it out. Inch-thick rubber belts crisscrossed in the rice-flour filled air, wobbling and swaying in relentless syncopation. The thing swings like Elvin Jones, man.
silk looms 2 MB Boat tours of vast, still Inle Lake in the Shan state are deservedly popular. You're lucky if you can prevail on your boatman to stop at only a few mid-lake tourist industries: showcase enterprises where, surprise, the salespeople speak English. One such stop, a several story building perched on stilts on the lake, was filled with women hand-looming silk.
stalagtite 2.3 MB In the hills outside Pindaya a cave complex houses tens of thousands of images of the Buddha. In a cavern farther into the hill, a resonant stalagtite has gone black from curious hands. A 10' length of bamboo with an end gone soft leans nearby to strike it with.
sugarcane juicer 2 MB The Burmese are great snackers. The streets are lined, especially in the afternoon and early evening, with vendors selling dozens of delectables. On many corners hand-turned iron grinders pulp sugarcane to extract juice. Their wheels are hung with pells, to attract a steady custom.
sule paya PA 2 MB The central roundabout in downtown Rangoon (Yangon) surrounds Sule Paya (a paya is a Buddhist place of worship). After passing it at night we would be followed for blocks by the chanting of invisible monks emanating on a ring of loudspeakers.
takeoff 1.4 MB Wandering by bike into the less visited reaches of the Bagan plain, we found a cement irrigation cistern hissing and gurgling. I stuck my head inside to record, and many minutes later an airplane took off from a small nearby airport.
tape chaos 1.4 MB Music is everywhere in Burma, but top notch tape recorders are not. Personally I find the results charming.
yngshwe oxcart 1.9 MB A wooden wheeled oxcart passes in a cacaphony of bells, hooves, and creaks. The cart was leaving a roving market near Yngshwe; the market is held in a different town every day on a five day cycle.