a requiem.

date : 01.06.2012
location : war memorial stone seat, lower trig track, rangatira.
time : 4.00pm
duration : 45.23

notes : collaborative transmission work involving various field recordings collected in the month of may between 19.05.2012  and 30.05.2012 while sitting on war memorial bench sited on the trig track, Rangatira. these sent on 30.05.2012 to british based violinist Sarah Claman, whose response to the recordings in the form of notational transcriptions of birdsong and other environmental noise was then re-transmitted at the site, alongside the original location recordings, at approximately the same hour of the day these latter were collected. 

Sarah says of her interpretation of the recordings : 

"A quick explanation of how I approached this - I started by sitting and listening to the recordings from the memorial bench that you passed me and essentially scribbled on some manuscript paper that I had (using my violin to confirm the pitches of the bird calls). I wrote down some notes - some just a pitch, some with an articulation (for instance long, short, slurred etc) and also some strokes on the staves indicating the general shape of the phrase (including a long line of dots for a crazy bird that just wouldn't stop!!) I also wrote down some words and onomatopoeic aids (i.e ha! hooo! hoooooaww!). Then, I took my scrappy manuscript paper and played something of what I'd written down - using it as an aid for improvisation."
due to the presence of native trees bearing fruit and flowers the birdsong in the immediate locale includes a diversity of species, and present in the recordings were Korimako/Bellbirds, Popokotea/Whiteheads, Pitoitoi/Robins ("the crazy bird that wouldn't stop" - i think because it wanted me to know i was in its territory), the arrival of a family of three Kokako, the odd Tui and Kaka. the wide-winged silent shadow of a circling New Zealand Harrier flew over the canopy a couple of times upsetting various of the small birds and inducing vigorous alarm calls, especially, at one point, a substantial flock of Whiteheads (an occurrence that in the past was interpreted by some Maori as a sign that ghosts were nearby). Sarah's response to this bird was a low drone which also connoted a plane.* the bench in question is a war memorial placed beside the track by the parents of Bobby Jones (aka Robert Morris Jones RNZAF), in memory of their son, who died in the early 1940s when the plane he was delivering from England to the far east crashed in the Himalayas. the memorial, built soon after Bobby's death, was accompanied by the planting of many native trees and is sited at the childhood camping spot of the family. The plaque on the seat reads "Memorial seat and trees to flying officer Robert Morris Jones, R.N.Z.A.F and his comrades, who in the 1939 World War gave all. For them, the bellbirds chime and robins trill a requiem."

apart from its immediately-sited widening of the gap between a recording and its playback via instrumental interpretation, and the seemingly bathetic notion of birds playing memorial tunes for dead airmen being a pointer toward how endemic birdsong might have entered narratives of wartime nationalism, this transmission also makes reference to an historic event recorded 70 years ago this month, on 19.05.1942, by the BBC in the former residence of british cellist Beatrice Harrison, whose duet with Nightingales in her surrey garden on 19.5.1924 is regarded as the first live broadcast ever initiated from an outdoor location: "Each May 19th, the BBC returned to the garden to broadcast the nightingales, even after Beatrice moved house in 1936. On May 19th, 1942, as BBC engineers were recording the bird-song prior to transmission, a faint hum gradually became audible, slowly increasing in volume, as 197 bombers flew overhead on their way to raids in Mannheim. Realising the security risk, the broadcast was halted. But not the recording…"


*note this transmission's inclusion of the inevitable infiltration into all durational field recordings of the constant sound of commercial sightseeing plane flights overhead, one of the few 'non-natural' sounds which can be heard with regularity on Kapiti Island.