one-minute vacation
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cambodia ( 2000 )

Field recordings made in Cambodia.

Approximately 10 hours available.

angkor wat band 1.6 MB While visiting Angkor Wat, we were summoned by ringing gongs to a contempory Buddhist temple on its periphery. We found a rehearsal underway at a music school on the temple grounds, monks coming and going and eager to sit on the rehearsal hall steps to practice their English. The metalophones are remniscent of the gamelan orchestras of Indonesia.
anniversary memorial 2 MB On the third anniversary of their father's death, two adult children in the old French colonial city of Battambang paid for a memorial service in his memory. We came across this ritual taking place in the family's storefront business.
Banteay Srei band 2.4 MB Remote, tiny Banteay Srei is a favorite of visitors to the Angkor temple complex. For a long time inaccessible due to the risk of landmines, the 'temple of women' is perhaps the most intricately carved and intimate of the temples. A resident band entertains tourists; most bandmembers are victims of mines who are missing limbs or blind. They most definitely rock. (Here's a bandmember listening to this recording.)
Bayon afternoon 1.7 MB In the seven hundred year old crumbling towers of the Bayon, in the Angkor Thom temple complex, devotees still visit in the afternoon to tend candles, offer alms, and recite prayers. Neither these women nor the resident bats seemed to mind my lingering to admire the sunlight slanting through incense smoke.
causeway kazoo 1.4 MB At dusk Angkor Wat closes to visitors, and the grand causeway sees a leisurely exodus of tourists and those making a living off them. In this recording, a young monk in a brilliant yellow robe plays a leaf-kazoo for the stream of the departing in hopes of alms...
cicada chorus 2 MB Our first nights in Cambodia we mistook the cicada chorus for some sort of electronic security system: we couldn't otherwise explain to ourselves the piercing metalic whine that came up at sunset. The insect choir captured in this recording reached a sound level that made conversation difficult.
cyclo ride home 1.8 MB One traditional option for getting around Phnom Pehn: the cylco, a three-wheeled bicycle taxi. Nerve wracking at its leisurely pace in heavy traffic, but guaranteed to give you a taste of the city. Here's part of a ride we took back towards our hotel, breath held.
enchanted dusk 2.4 MB Phantasmagoric sunset near the main entrance to Angkor Wat, justly famous centerpiece of the Angkor complex. Cicadas and children done with a day of guiding and hawking; an inevitable motorcycle on the ring road; perhaps the echoes of a traditional ensemble rehearsing nearby, and the fruit bats wheeling in the gloaming...
hall of echoes 1.9 MB Just within one gopura (tower) of sprawling Angkor, the Hall of Echoes resonates when you find just the right spot on the wall to thumb with a closed fist... When the wall is well-pounded, the deep frequencies take most of a minute to die away entirely.
hawkers 1.2 MB As ubiquitous as mosquitos and motorcycles, patient rows of souvenier hawkers barricade every tourist site and demand their fair share of hard currency. One young hopeful sells ten postcards for a dollar: the dollar being standard currency in Cambodia. The perpetual question: how much, and when, and if, to buy.
killing fields stupa 1.4 MB Famous for the movie that took their name, the 'killing fields' are perhaps the first thing that one associates with the Khmer Rouge. The Choeung Ek fields just outside Phnom Pehn now look (one supposes) much as they did before they became a place of execution: green and innocuous. Only an inspection of a few terse monuments reveals that an estimated 17,000 people were executed here. This recording captures the odd resonance inside one grim but effective summation of horror: a glass tower filled with carefully categorized skulls: 'female, 15-25; male, 15-25; female...'. We found it a bit surreal that every visitor to the fields is heavily touted to go as well to the nearby shooting ranges, where assault rifles (and more) may be rented by the round. The rumor mill insisted that for a price, the adventure traveler could try a bazooka on an unlucky cow.
the killing tree 1.4 MB At Choeung Ek killing fields (see above), one tree is described simply as 'killing tree': so called because against its trunk, babies and children had their heads methodically smashed. Nothing to hear here, underneath its normal leaves. Move along.
marbles 2.5 MB Children playing marbles on a wide, torn-up street not far from Tonle Sap (river): above on both sides, drab apartment blocks teaming with life. Men smoking in undershirts, women doing the dishes, plants being watered, cats being pet. Many streets are un- or only partly paved, and in places trash collected in heaps; but the city carries on.
museum bats 2 MB The productive bats of the National Musuem, which according to the Moon Handbook generate a ton of guano a month, which is sold as fertilizer. The museum collection held our interest for an afternoon, but the fragments of freizes and dislocated statury couldn't compete with that left intact at Angkor. Still, better to see it jumbled here ~ than in Europe.
party band 1.6 MB Battambang private party: an affair for the well-heeled in Battambang. From what we made out, it was to celebrate the completion a building nearby (apparently half-complete). We didn't linger, but no one minded my lurking while I captured a few tunes.
phantasmagoric Battambang 2 MB Battambang boasts the rapidly-fading remnant charm of a French riverfront colony. A few blocks back from the river, a few grisly modern hotels and markets give out almost at once to crowded housing and dirt lanes. Down one towards sunset, we paused to listen to this maddeningly abstruse P.A. broadcast: a Morton Feldman ritual, a rehearsal by novice musicians? I will never know. A few hundred feet later, we passed a pink-lit bordello, advertised by listless towel-clad twelve year olds (I would guess) perched on the porch.
restoration work 1.7 MB Restoration work at Angkor: a team meticulously reproduces the original stonework of a lesser temple, in hopes of shoring up one of its crumbling towers. Hammers in unconcious polyrhythm.
storefront lecture 2 MB A storefront lecture: but on what topic? Political harrangue, sermon, or language lesson? My cryptic scribbled note says simply 'storefront ritual,' and my otherwise detailed travel journal is silent on the matter — I was in a hurry to record my impressions of later that day, when I recorded a twenty-minute track listed above as 'phantasmagoric Battambang.' In any event English lessons were to be had everywhere: I felt bemused, as I did years before passing a building full of schoolchildren in Vietnam reciting the English alphabet.
sunset band 2 MB From nearby Phnom Bakheng, atop a small hill, the towers of Angkor gleam at sunset: and as the tourists mill, cameras snapping, a band plays a twenty minute tune, punctuated occasionally by the roar of an elephant carrying the adventurous (or plump) up the hill... note that the piercing high-pitched drone-squeal is provided by cicadas greeting the dusk.
Ta Prohm birds 2 MB A better recordist than I would know the name of these birds, which we heard in the forests around Angkor regularly. Here, at heart-stoppingly romantic Ta Prohm, two call slowly out of phase with one another, pausing only for a flock of racous... what? Not ravens. I think they were white. Ta Prohm has been (controversially) left as it was found' largely overgrown with banyan trees: which make every visit, especially early in the morning when you have it to yourself, feel like a wondrous discovery.
tomb raider tanks 1.9 MB A tank rolling the streets of Siem Reip, staging ground for tourists exploring the nearby ruins of Angkor. A coup, we wondered? No — a prop requisitioned for the filming of the Tomb Raider movie. Simulated violence in a country so betrayed by it.