The sound artist Steve Roden regularly posts MP3s on his inbetweennoise.blogspot.com website, but his is no ordinary “MP3 blog.” The materials consists almost entirely of thrift-store finds (literal, or of the eBay variety), like old Portuguese love songs and ancient bagpipes. As a spelunker of the minimal and the analog, the threadbare and the dusty, Roden regularly comes upon pre-digital audio that brings context to our understanding of sound, technology, memory, and art — he also posts images and text fragments along these lines.
Earlier this month he shared a clip from a nature-sounds 7″ that dates from the 1970s. It’s a document of some rural Florida ecosystem, all tooting birds and light wind, though of course to the modern listener, the persistent crackle of the vinyl is as much a part of the soundscape as the living, breathing organisms — and toward the end, in a moment reminiscent of Wordsworth, bells intrude (MP3).
Roden pairs the sounds with a text by Thomas Merton (in part: “the ‘rest’ which these men sought was simply the sanity and poise of a being that no longer has to look at itself because it is carried away by the perfection of freedom that is in it”). And he explicates the parallels between his selected recorded sound and written word: “when the ethereal notes of a carillon drift into the picture, the whole thing moves from present to distant, fluctuating between the natural and supernatural.” More details at inbetweennoise.blogspot.com. (And special thanks to Roden for his recent shout-out at thewire.co.uk.)