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  • Writer's pictureJuan Pablo Culasso

Brazil Portraits

For me, after so many years of recording soundscapes, they remain a mystery.

My experience as a sound recordist until 2010 was limited to recording bird sounds. A unidirectional microphone like the Sennheiser ME67 and a Marantz PMD671 were my company in the field: listen to the bird's song, locate it, point the microphone, press Rec, wait a couple of minutes, or whatever the bird wanted to sing, a short voice note at the end of the recording and press the Stop key.

In 2010 or 2011, on one of the many nights I spend my time reading, I came across a recording technique to capture something called soundscape.

A soundscape is nothing more than a set of sounds emitted by living beings (biophony), by the sounds of the elements (geophony) and by human beings (anthropophony). Going into details I understood that a soundscape recording is made special by the presence of biophony and geophony, avoiding anthropophony as much as possible.

The equation became more complicated with each paragraph of my reading; it was necessary to use at least two microphones. In addition, to obtain a representative soundscape of the place, it was necessary to record at least thirty minutes without interruptions. It was an immense challenge to understand the large number of possibilities that presented themselves. To capture a soundscape, there are an infinite number of techniques that, in principle, are used to record orchestras, theater plays and cinema.

In the album Retratos del Brasil I use a microphone configuration known as SASS, which stands for Stereo Ambient Sampling System. This configuration consists of two omnidirectional microphones at a divergent angle and an acoustic barrier between them. Yes, I know, it sounds weird. But when you listen to the album you will understand the magnitude of the sound recorded with this special technique developed more than 80 years ago.

The soundscape is increasingly difficult to be recorded in its ideal ensemble, biophony plus geophony. The strong destruction of forests and jungles, added to the fact that in a little more than five years there will be 8 billion human beings on the planet, the anthropophony factor increasingly invades this delicate balance.

Although I have been recording soundscapes for 8 years now, they never cease to surprise me; each sunrise, sunset or night is like a blank sheet of paper on which nature will write its music.

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