You’ll find all minor and major, odd and experimental tinkering here. This page is more like the story-end of the sounds. What prompted them, how they evolved, what other sounds seem possible to my rudimentary ears. Think of Robert Heinlein’s fascinating protagonist from Stranger in a Strange Land…remember he says “I am only an egg”? That’s the way to think of these sounds. I am only an egg attempting to hear the universe. Carl Sagan, the writer and astronomer, said that “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Lovely. So, before there were words, there was sound:

Parvathi Breathes These are a series of sounds I began making in both Yogyakarta and Singapore, after listening to two sound excerpts that blew my mind. The first was the sound of the the radio waves caused by the Van Allen belts around the earth, which sounds like whale song. You can hear it here.

The second was something Bernie Krause recorded when they headed out to document geophony and biophony and that can be heard here. My 28-year old violin was recently repaired (the bridge, post and strings were replaced) and the cigar-box ukulele, which I hear is no longer being imported, are now both ready to sing, bellow, wail etc. The next set of experiments will, I hope, incorporate sounds from both these instruments, as well as other found sounds.

1. On the Point of the Needle A paen to Yogyakarta surely, even if it has bits of cicadas from the reserve in Singapore? Probable, possible. There are kinks in this one but it was a vivid experience collecting the sounds for it. I remember the entrance / doorway at Candi Ijo where I stood with the laptop to record the text in the latter half of the soundscape. I remember the cold, damp walls inside Candi Sari (I think?) where I recorded Situmorang’s poem. What a place to read Situmorang! The first experiment. The line (on the point of the needle) is from Raja Rao. “On the point of the needle was my love born”. A penetrating, piercing love is how I assume he intended that to be understood.

2. The Poems of Kris Budiman read at Sumur Bandung ruins Four hikers got lost in the woods, a winding trail full of bramble and skinny trees leading from the back-end of ruins near Candi Ijo towards Sumur Bandung. After two rounds, returning always to the same circle of trees standing in solemn silence as though they were stones at Stone Henge, or meditating monks in the woods, the path to Sumur Bandung was found. A storm started. Huddled under plastic bags and raincoats, the hikers waited for the storm to pass. Afterwards, the poems of Kris Budiman (one of the hikers and the one leading this Brutu journey) were read out by each of the hikers. A paen again, a ceremony, a prayer. One of the hikers read the final poem inside the well / pit of the temple, about 7 feet deep. Pits make good sounds, so long as the sky is up above and visible. Like a pipe, a reed.

3. I have always loved you Recorded inside Candi Ijo’s main sanctum, right next to the solid andesite (was it andesite?) sculpture of the Lingam-Yoni balanced on a Naga – Vasuki or Ananta-Sesha in Patala, I imagine. Below the Naga, is Kuruma, the Turtle. We knew we had two voices, we knew we had a very basic text, we knew we had the clarinet and sruthi box. That is all we knew. It turned into a kind of love dialogue, two women looking at each other, declaring love (to who?) in two languages, hoping to be understood.

4. Sugriva at the New Hill Working text from the novel. I can’t say much about this one. But the mating call of the simians still haunt me when I hear them.

5. Fragments of a War: I like archives of radio broadcasts, especially in times of war. Secret broadcasts, public ones designed to rouse sympathy, patriotism etc. There’s something urgent about them and they become surreal when they’re removed from their context. This one combines archival radio broadcasts during the Vietnam War (from the U.S. forces in Vietnam, as well as the Communist forces from the northern part of the country), as well as excerpts of interviews with survivors of the Khmer Rouge era that our NGO undertook at various times. Still experimenting with this idea and it might evolve into a series of sorts, bringing together oral testimonies we recorded from 2009 – 2012. How to tell this story, which the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has artificially reduced into a very specific time frame (1975-1979, the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge) and has then gone on to further reduce into phases of evacuation and phases of crimes, turning the entire experience of survivors into some odd fractured, almost nonsensical narrative?

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