Signals abound that it’s vacation time. Email and voicemail have diminished. TV’s on perpetual repeats, with the exception of the news, which the past few days has been catastrophic, and will continue to be so in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunamis. (The New York Times has a list of charities here.) Need a break yourself? Visit the quietamerican.org site’s One-Minute Vacation page (here). Just about every Monday, site creator Aaron Ximm posts a new 60-second clip from a different contributor, an unedited eavesdrop somewhere in the world. Often as not the locales are exotic, but it’s amazing how the clarity of a Minidisc recording can make the most familiar sound seem exotic, or at least mysterious.
The past two months have been particularly rich ones for One-Minute Vacations, and those nine tracks (five in November, four in December) seem, thanks to shared sound elements, to suggest specific sequences, were you to listen to them as a suite. It’s the audio equivalent of one those package tours your grandparents take (“Seven European cities in six nights!”), but with more leg room… and more head room:
In an Italian church (the Nov. 22 entry, credited to Etienne Noiseau), murmured voices and the creaking of pews make for a shadowy texture above an electric guitar line, only to be lost in the ringing of call-to-mass bells. … On an atoll called Makundu (Dec. 20, Adriano Zanni), the bounce of a volleyball is pure percussion, no more or less than the wind against the microphone. … More wind in the San Francisco Mission District (Nov. 15, Jay Thomas), and the familiar sound of a structure bending like old bones (well, familiar especially to those haunted by Stephen Vitiello’s recording of the World Trade Center swaying), with a car serving the same coda-like role of the bells in Italy. … Those cars come to the foreground in Achen, Germany, until the recorder moves into a stairwell (Nov. 8, Michiel d Boer). … Having taken shelter, it’s just rain and thunder (Nov. 1, Steb M. Fitzroy), which is more than enough, though a distant plane lends a long, centering tone. … The plane comes into the foreground in London (Nov. 29, James aka Catskin Royale) — two planes, in fact; the flying machines date from WWII, but the sound was recorded earlier in the month. … Trade one flying machine for another with a rapturous bit of birdsong (Dec. 6, John Hartog); Messaien would be jealous. … More birds, but far less idyllic, as cars run overhead like restless ghosts (Dec. 13, Grant Finlay). … And then comes, according to the brief description on the quietamerican site, some 15,000 superballs bouncing in a Denver warehouse, as loud as the other entries are quiet — a curatorial equivalent of fireworks, since it’s One-Minute Vacation’s closing entry for 2004 (Dec. 27, Todd Novosad).