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Sand-Y :: da-Y #04 - da birds

june 05, 2005.

[Here's a satellite picture of the island, made by the Aster satellite on july 26, 2001.

ameland - satelliet


Notice Ameland's proud phallic shape - not unbefitting a former whale-hunting base, I guess - which on such a photograph, for some reason seems to be more evident than it is on a drawn maps. Maybe it's because there's no lettering? :-) ] ...

ridibundus
canus
argentatus

Upon, around and above the breeding ground for sea gulls, just behind the dike to the south of Hollum - on the south-western side of the island - all day there's thousands of sea gulls crammed close together (a colony, several colonies?), whose crying and piercing shrieks ceaselessly weave into this undulating field of 'noise', which is among the most impressive of 'nature sounds' that I ever witnessed 'live' ... black-headed gulls (larus ridibundus, in Dutch: kokmeeuw), common gulls (larus canus, in Dutch: stormmeeuw) and herring gulls (larus argentatus, in Dutch: zilvermeeuw) ... all shouting together ... birds, birds, birds ... a birds' paradise ...

I walked up there with Peter on thursday, with a couple of battery-powered sound toys: we had decided to try to and join the colony in their 'unplugged sessions'. And so we did, at two different spots, both times setting up behind one of Dit Eiland's large green umbrellas, to protect the microphone from the fierce wind blowing in straight from the sea. Our first session we did on top of the dike, amidst the sheep. The most curious of the herd did dare to join in at several occasions, with a soulful bleat or two. For our second session we got closer to the birds, settling on the stones at the foot of the inner dike, near the small rivulet separating dike and breeding grounds. (Of course one is not allowed to - and should not - enter the breeding grounds themselves: if one did, they wouldn't remain breeding grounds for very long, obviously).

Apart from providing a rather curious sight for sheep and the handful of tourists and bird watchers that came biking by, as improvisations, as sonic battles, though, I'm afraid, our sessions weren't much of a success ... The gulls' dense and ceaseless crying allows for great listening, all by itself; any addition simply seems superfluous. (Listen to the second half of our fifth ZandOog Podcast ...)

breeding ground


Yes, the birds easily outdid our own efforts on crackle boxes, recorder, vocals and casio keyboard ... (maybe some next time we should shriek and shout ! ...) The best, actually, was the third and last of our sessions, in which Peter managed to direct the birds by standing up, and then opening the large green umbrella. Which to the gulls must have seemed like the wings of an enemy, some gigantic bird of prey, opening up. For they immediately quieted down, and flocked into the sky .... only to settle back upon their breeding ground and shout again, as soon as he folded the umbrella ... out .... and up .... and in ... and down .... et cetera ... like a clockwork.

the birds

Sitting there on that dike, overlooking the sea in the fierce wind blowing in, while watching these thousands of birds, and hearing the terrifying sound they manage to produce together, it is difficult not to be reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's classic from the early 1960's ... "The Birds" ... which, moreover, indeed is a very interesting sound work. Try to hear/see it (again), if you can. Apart from a short passage where Melanie plays a simple tune on the piano, some minutes of a capella singing by the school kids in class heard from outside of the school by Melanie (who is smoking a cigarette and then sees the birds gathering in the playground, ready to attack), and a whiff of music escaping from the car radio towards the end of the film, when Mitch is tuning into the news, there is no music at all used anywhere in it. The heart of the sound track consists in, of course, the sounds of birds (the flapping of wings, their crying ...) which is a mixture of recorded bird sounds and electronic 'imitations & distortions' of these (the electronic sound production and composition for the film were done by Remi Gassmann and Oskar Sala).
In 1982 Elisabeth Weis published her "The Silent Scream", an interesting monograph on the use and importance of sound in Hitchcock's work. "[... T]here are aural cross-references of all sorts," she writes in the chapter dedicated to 'The Birds'. "[T]he birds sound like machines because of the electronic origins of their sounds, the human beings sound like birds (especially when the children shriek during attacks), and [sometimes] the machines sound like birds or people." [p. 145]
Birds, birds, birds ...

Hitch 'n' Sala

[ added june 9th, 2005 : Michael Peters sent me a short quicktime movie, in which Oskar Sala (1910-2002) tells about his work on the sound-track for "The Birds", using his amazing Mixtur-Trautonium (see picture) ... It was Remi Gassmann that pointed out the instrument's potential to Hitchcock. "Dear Mr. Hitchcock," he writes in a letter dated april 18, 1962. "The recent matter I asked to have brought to your attention [ ... ] concerns a new and, in many respects, very startling development in the creation and application of sound for film sound-tracks. [...] For the first time, we have at our disposal, through electronic generation, what has aptly been called "the totality of the acoustical." Familiar sounds - from common noise to music and esoteric effects - as well as an almost limitless supply of completely unfamiliar sounds, can now be electronically produced, controlled, and utilized for film purposes. The result is much like a new dimension in film productions [...]" ]

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stationed soother

june 03, 2005.

Gare du Nord soother

This afternoon I fished a soother from the track of line five of the Parisian metro, at the Gare du Nord; on the Place d'Italie bound platform; with my 'fishing rod' ... "Good thinking, you bringing along your rod!" I hear you wink ... or you might suspect that by now this guy has reached the point where, having nothing better to do, he actually goes out hunting for lost soothers? ... Oh, maybe he does, maybe he doesn't ... Fact is: he knew that soother would be there. And as he was passing through the Gare du Nord station on his afternoon's 'business', well, sure that he took his rod!

I had seen it lying before, there on that track. On the early evening of thursday may 19th, just a little over two weeks ago.

That thursday two weeks ago I had to pass through the Gare du Nord, because at the station of Cergy-Préfecture, just minutes before six, someone threw himself before the train bound for Paris Saint Lazare. Young guy, I was told. Carried a walking stick. He and his stick jumped in front of the train entering the station.
-- "En raison d'un accident grave de voyageur le trafic est interrompu sur la ligne A entre ..." -- That's how such 'incidents' are announced through the parisian subway speaker system ...
Seconds after this happened, at Cergy-Perfecture, I came down the escalator from the station hall, and stepped onto the platform. I remember feeling that it was oddly quiet there. And noticed the train not having entered the station fully. Most of it was in, but not all. And there were these passengers' heads, and hands holding bags, hands holding news papers, impatiently peeping out of coach doors and glancing along the platform ... "I suddenly heard this horrible, cracking, sound ... Never heard something like it before in my life," a woman told me. "Someone else on the platform was screaming; along with the high loud shrieking of the trains' brakes. Then it became very quiet. Nothing but a humming in my ears ... which just went on and on and on ... there was nothing but this low humming sound ... and it seemed to last forever."
Also an elderly gentleman carrying a green shopping bag hurriedly whispered several things in my direction, shaking his head. I nodded mine, though I did not understand a word of what he was saying. Someone jotted down the cell phone number of a lady on a piece of paper, who kept pointing at the void between platform and train. Then an SNCF agent appeared, slowly walking down - taking his time & slightly pimp gaiting - towards the end of the platform. Several of the train's coaches were still inside the tunnel. The man carried an enormous flashlight. He was swinging that torch of his, clicking it on and off every now and then. A passenger led him towards a certain spot, where he then entered the train ... After a minute or so he re-appeared, stuck his head out of the other end of the coach. He seemed pretty excited now, big-eyed, adrenalynic, and pointed his light downwards and shouting. "Oui, je l'ai trouvé! Il est là...!" For me at the time it was only then that I realised what all the fuzz was about ...

Suddenly policemen came running, the fire brigade, and all of us being urged back up the escalators ... one can only guess how they all together went about down there after the platform had been cleared ... following procedures ...
But there were no more trains for Paris. Obviously. So we got a bus taking us to the station of Pontoise. That's where I got a train to the Gare du Nord; which in turn made me spot the soother on the track of line 5. Of course I did not jump on the track to pick it up. But while getting onto line 5, I did think about going back for it with my rod later that same evening. I didn't, though, go back to pick up the soother that night. In view of the event I almost witnessed, it just felt too weird, to go and pick something, anything off a metro track ... [When I changed trains at Bastille, I noticed on the information screens that the trains from Cergy were up and running again: "RER A - Incident terminé à 19h25," it read ... now think about this ... it's how long it takes ... ]

Next day I had to catch my train to Amsterdam, on to Ameland ... and I just might have forgotten all about it ... were it not that there actually was this 'pang' of guilt, this sense of having neglected a duty ...

But then today I fulfilled it. Feels good!

[Say there's a train passing on the average every 4 minutes; between 6h00 and 1h00, that makes, say, 300 trains a day; 15 days ... summing up to four thousand and five hundred metro trains that passed over that soother between the time I spotted it, and the time I picked it up ... all that time - and how long between that and the time it originally landed there? - it did not move an inch ... like an urban fucking landmark it was ;.#@ ! @#.;;; -- ,.#; ... stationed there ... shouldn't I start planting them soothers, rather than pick them up ... !?]

[ Earlier related SB entries: 9x9 :: Phound Stufphs ]

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